Some days life is all sunshine and smiles, there’s a spring in your step and the air that you breathe is sweet to the taste. On days like these, you’re able to find happiness at the quickest of glances; Grass sparkles as if it were a sea of dewy emeralds scattered beneath you, flowers seem to bloom right in front of your eyes and the trees dance majestically in the wind. On days like these, you barely remember being sad, your struggles with mental health are but a small cloud drifting off into the distance and there’s a warmth that fills you up to the brim.
If only all of our days were as magical as this. But lets be realistic (even if only a little), there will be times when we feel slightly ‘off’ as if there’s something just out of reach, just out of our eye line. For some of us, these days happen more frequently, maybe it’s depression, anxiety or something else and when it hits, it seems to stretch out for a longer period of time compared to those sun filled dreams.
So on those darker days, when the clouds are sweeping across, creeping up on us and blurring our vision, we may struggle to keep our thoughts in order, logic seems to desert us and it’s all too easy to lose sight of the smiles and laughter, it’s also easier to slip into self destruction mode which, in turn, leads to relapses.
Queue the inhale of breath as Lucy prepares to share the latest instalment of the recovery journey,
Now this is what I struggle to define, ‘a relapse’.
what would we class as a relapse? Days after days of self hate and destruction? causing ourselves harm and upset? Or maybe it’s a day or two where you lose track for a moment? I suppose it’s different for everyone.
If you had asked me a few years ago what I classed as a relapse, I would say that they were whenever I engaged in a form of self harm or disordered eating for any period of time, but now I’m not so sure.
Last week I had a range of emotions flitting around my mind and during this time I was not drawn to binge, purge or self harm. Not one part of me planned to over eat or to ‘get rid of the food’ once eaten. If I had experienced the feeling of being overwhelmed or stressed a few years ago, I would have rushed to the nearest shop and well… We know what happens after that. But now? I have better ways of dealing with uncomfortable experiences.
However, at one point last week I was caught off guard. I prepared my food with love, I ate my food with care and then for reasons that I haven’t yet fully dissected, I panicked and I purged. (honesty is the best way chaps). What I’m not doing, is looking back on this event telling myself that I screwed up, I’m not viewing it as a relapse. I guess I just see it as a natural part of recovery, there will be days that prove challenging and situations that are overwhelming. More often than not I can overcome them with new found coping mechanisms, but occasionally I forget to slow down, to think. I struggle at times to rationalise my thoughts which means it becomes a lot harder to change the outcome or to pick apart the feelings that are brewing and the only way I can cope is to revert back to those behaviours. The behaviours that used to soothe me, my quickest way to escape and when I don’t take a step back it’s easy to believe that they will make me feel better. Is there any point in becoming angry? becoming resentful towards myself? No because then that leaves me at risk of a full blown relapse.
So I choose to accept what has happened, I continue to love myself, forgive myself and make sure that I eat dinner! Not one part of me longed to be back in the grips of my eating disorder, I didn’t feel the need to continue, but if I did I know that I should seek out the necessary help.
I am in no way saying that it’s okay to fall back into self harm or disordered eating ‘every once in a while’ and if you are finding yourself doing these things then please reach out to someone for support.
What I am trying to say is that if you slip and panic yourself into thinking: ‘it’s a relapse, I’m a failure’, you then risk that all or nothing mindset returning ‘what’s the point? I’ve done it now I might as well carry on.’ This is not true! You are in no way a failure, you just need to take a step back and address the current emotions or situations that you’re facing. Reassure yourself that it’s okay, that you’re strong (even if you’re feeling your weakest, just look how far you’ve come). Whether it’s depression, an eating disorder, anxiety or another mental illness, you have overcome every single bad day that the world has thrown at you, your track record for surviving is 100%, you are incredible.
The good days will return, you will once again feel the dewy grass between your toes and the glittering sunlight against your skin. Your relapses (big or small, whatever you may call them) do not define you and they do not define your recovery or your journey.
So be gentle, be patient, be kind.
let’s avoid focusing on the cloudy skies because we can then avoid the thunder storm.