I was officially diagnosed with an eating disorder eight years ago, and all that began more than ten years ago. That diagnosis of Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) has never left me. I’ve definitely had periods of time without eating disorder behaviours being present, without all the intrusive, demanding thoughts and without the long list of physical symptoms. It’s just that… well, it keeps coming back.
I’d like to say I’ve recovered, but given that this disorder keeps coming back to bite me on the butt each year – I definitely haven’t recovered. Pile large amounts of stress on me, even small, bite-sized (pardon the pun) pieces of stress and, it seems, I go running back to disordered behaviours. As much as I like to think that I’ve learnt how to cope with stress in healthy ways – clearly, I haven’t.
I’ve been aware of thoughts and behaviours creeping in over the last few weeks. I tried to ignore it to begin with, push them away, focus on reality and rationality. It’s just, those niggling, little thoughts don’t go away. Once they’re there they grow bigger and bigger until they’re too large to ignore. Then it’s okay if you have a smaller breakfast. It’s okay because you’re still eating. It’s alright to skip afternoon tea, even though you’re hungry. It’s not a big deal, you want to lose weight anyway.
Relapse Prevention Tip #1,547: It’s never okay to skip meals.
I sat on my bed today being tortured by the irrational ED thoughts and realised something – Eating disorder can kill. They do kill. People die. I know it happens to other people, and I’m fully aware of that, but it’s never really sunk in that this illness has the potential to kill me. I cried.
As I get older the physical symptoms kick in much more rapidly. Behaviours that used to have little to no physical effects now leave me weak, exhausted and with a myriad of symptoms. I don’t know if the next relapse will be the one that kills me. It means that I can’t afford not to fight. I tend to sit back and let the relapse run it’s course, with this faith that, eventually, it will all be okay.
I’m not going to sit and watch this time, or blindly believe that it will “all be okay”. Eating disorder don’t work like that. Ever. I have to force down every meal that my body needs, drink enough water to stay adequately hydrated and not abuse my poor body with ridiculous amounts of caffeine, diet pills or appetite suppressants. Doing all of that might prevent a relapse. Being able to do those things doesn’t mean that I won’t struggle with thoughts and behaviours, but it does mean I’ll have a very good chance of avoiding a full blown, inpatient-treatment-needed relapse.