Is it really a relapse if you didn’t recover to begin with?

I’ve been contemplating this question this afternoon. Wondering if, in the ten years since my eating disorder started, I’ve ever actually recovered. I know there are people who witnessed my struggle in the early years who would consider me to be recovered and have all that chaos behind me.

Honestly though, I don’t think I’ve ever recovered. I do tend to manage extended periods without engaging in ED behaviours. Although these “extended periods” aren’t ever more than a year. I know recovery from an eating disorder isn’t linear, that there are bumps in the road, and many ups and downs along the way.

I do wonder if I’ll ever recover. If I’ll ever be free of the eating disorder. The early years of having an eating disorder were painful and chaotic. I had symptoms typical of a restrictive type of eating disorder, but they were never particularly serious. Recent years are a different story. I’ve had symptoms that scare the crap out of me, and make my treating team concerned. My body doesn’t tolerate ED behaviours very well anymore. I suppose that ten years of abusing your body does that?

I’m struggling with the eating disorder again. I’ve moved from unhelpful, illogical, and inaccurate thinking to actively engaging in behaviours. I was thinking that this was yet another relapse, but then I paused. Is it really a relapse if I’ve never recovered? It’s an increase in symptoms. A worrying increase in symptoms, but a relapse? That seems a bit dramatic, and definitely over the top.

I suppose the words used to describe it don’t really matter. Refusing to call it a relapse may be an attempt on my part to minimise the seriousness of the situation. I like to think that I’ll be fine, that it will all work out, that there’s nothing to worry about. Ignorance is bliss, right?

I know that I can’t hide in that denial for long. My treating team won’t allow it, well, except for my community mental health team. I don’t think they’d see ED behaviours as a problem, let alone dangerous, until someone’s nearly dead. My psychologist, on the other hand, becomes concerned as soon as my thinking goes off track. Then there’s my GP, she’s not a lady you want to mess with! She understands just how dangerous eating disorders can be and doesn’t waste time taking steps to ensure my physical wellbeing.

I’ve told my psychologist that I’ll try to fight this, or something along those lines. I can’t remember very well because my head was so loud, and maybe, just maybe, restricting is impairing my thinking. It was explained to me that it was that, or she calls my GP with her concerns.

So that’s where I’m at. I have a couple of weeks to myself, and in that time need to get myself back on track. I know it’s not too late to turn this around, but I don’t know how I’m going to increase my intake to an adequate level. However, tomorrow is a new day and may bring with it something that makes taking care of myself a little easier.


4 thoughts on “Is it really a relapse if you didn’t recover to begin with?

    • Hmmm, interesting. I think, maybe, with PTSD that you can develop skills to cope with it. I don’t think the trauma is ever forgotten, but the intensity and intrusiveness of the PTSD symptoms will lessen with time (and therapy).

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