I hit a relapse about six months ago, triggered by stress and my own neglect of self-care. Now that I’ve been on an up-slope for a couple months, I think it’s time to record my experience and offer some hope to those who find themselves struggling.
As there are many parts to discuss, I am going to break this up into a series of posts. This one is a synopsis of the overall progression of the relapse. I will have another about the recovery, and supplemental posts about specific experiences over the course of all this. We’ll call this one”Ana’s Awakening.” Ana is the name I give my eating disorder. That’s exactly what it felt like: the monster in my head that I was pretty sure I had slayed was waking up.
Ana was especially active around the beginning of December (finals week), then I fluctuated between normal and disordered behavior for about a month or so (over winter break). Because of these fluctuations, it was unclear whether or not the relapse had an effect on my weight.
Fast forward to mid-January: the lowest point (but also the turing point). If we’re graphing this as we might do in calculus, this would be the “minimum” point on the y-axis of a curve.
I had just gotten back to campus but Ana had a tight grip on me. This would only last a few days, but of course I couldn’t possibly know that in the moment. It felt like my life was ending. Like I was stuck in a deep pit of despair (to borrow from The Princess Bride).
I was terrified–I don’t think my ED had felt that powerful even before I started recovery. The scary part was that even when I desperately wanted to eat, I became nauseated at even the smallest morsel of food.
*The one thing I was able to stomach for some reason was dark chocolate-covered almonds…they may have saved my life.
I went to the campus rec center to run off my anxieties, which morphed into a panic attack in the bathroom. I had successfully avoided the scale for over a year, but that night I felt so hopeless and desperate that I couldn’t see how things could be much worse, so I weighed myself. I had definitely lost weight.
*Cue the rush of emotions and overwhelming feelings of guilt and loss of control and impending doom and ohmygoshIamdying.*
Once I had calmed down (I wish I could remember how, but this was the worst panic attack I had ever experienced so I think it blocked part of my memory–is that possible?), I realized that my impulse to step on that scale was an ironic act of virtue.
It was then that I realized how serious this relapse actually was and that it was time to start taking recovery seriously again.