The Taboo of Relapse
It was 2pm on a Tuesday, and there I was – crying, naked on my bathroom floor. I’d been there for hours, trapped in my own mind. The day had started off simply enough with me getting out of bed and getting ready to work when the inevitable, “Feed me breakfast!” battle cry rumbled loudly from my stomach.
On any other day, this would seem normal, but that week things hadn’t been going well. I’d been under a lot of stress I was experiencing symptoms related to IBS and I wasn’t happy with the reflection staring back at me in the mirror. Despite my attempts to overcome my negative thoughts, they kept getting the better of me.
And so, on that particular Tuesday, instead of eating breakfast I made myself physically sick.
I’ve been recovered from anorexia & bulimia for nearly six years now, which I consider to be one of my biggest and bravest achievements. But that girl, crying naked on the bathroom floor? It wasn’t me at the start of my eating disorder… it was me, about a month ago.
* * * * * * *
The R-word. The word that must never be mentioned. The word that happens to many eating disorder survivors but you hope and pray never happens to you.
Eating disorder sufferers are well acquainted with the external stigma that surround their condition, which makes the experience of having a mental illness even more difficult than it already is. However, among the community of sufferers, there’s also an internal stigma associated with relapse. Perhaps it’s because recovery is often envisioned as a magical one-way destination; once you arrive there, there’s no turning back.
However, that’s not the case for many who have recovered. Relapse feels like such a dirty word, and that’s partly because of the misconception that a “relapse” means that you’re back at square one.
But it doesn’t have to be.
Long ago, after the first time I relapsed, I decided to personally redefine it. Instead of considering it as a relapse, I referred to it as “a setback.” This simple act of changing my own dialogue and modifying how I viewed my mental health made such a huge difference. Instead of relapse being a scary monster that would surely consume me, it was just one bad day. There’s always tomorrow.
And what happened to that version of myself, crying on the bathroom floor? She knew that a bad day didn’t have to equal a bad life, and that a relapse didn’t have to shoot her right back to where she started. It was just a moment, and it didn’t invalidate her progress.
So when I was ready, I peeled myself up off the floor. I took a shower and I ate lunch. I looked at myself in the mirror and I knew that although I was wrestling with my demons that day, that there was hope for them to be silenced again tomorrow. I knew that loving my body fearlessly didn’t mean sunshine and lollipops and rainbows 100% of the time. I knew that there would be storms and grey days and moments of pain. But that was okay.
Because I am a survivor. I am a warrior.
And you are too.
Image credit: www.healthyplace.com
Anastasia Amour is an eating disorder survivor, psychology enthusiast and body image educator on a mission to help women of all backgrounds learn to love their bodies fearlessly. Through her #FearlessBodyConfidence campaign, Anastasia encourages women to embrace their flaws, vulnerabilities and all as part of what makes them unique and beautiful; equipping her followers with the tools to walk through their bad days with as much strength as they do their good days.