Today I went to my N office to have our session and talk about some recent slips I have been having. Well, the lights were off, doors were locked, and it appeared there was no one there. I tried to open the door, but it wouldn't budge, so I figured maybe my N was at a meeting so I sat outside on this bench thing. 30 minutes later, no one came, so I left. Well I went back to the dining hall for lunch at 3 pm (her office is there) and low and behold, she was in a session with someone. So now my brain is going off about how stupid I am. She may have been there but not realized the door was locked and I didn't even knock. What if she thinks I skipped? And I need this appt desperately because I leave for home Friday and will be going 2.5 weeks without an appt. I always struggle at home and need to lay out a concrete plan. And need to schedule on appt for when I return. Now I don't know if/when that will happen and I feel like a failure....ugh...I just hate this feeling. Sent an e-mail but those responses aren't instant so now its the waiting game to see if I am an idiot.
Okay, rant over. Onto todays topic. The biggest difference between a slip and a relapse....you can pull yourself out of a slip, but by the time a full blown relapse is occuring...treatment may be needed.
A slip is a one day or one week occurence. Usually something just knocks you off your horse, you engage in some of your behaviors, but (in most cases) you still hold onto the feeling that what you are doing is wrong (something I don't experience in relapse). But you tell your team and you fight hard to get back on track. It's rough, but possible.
I know...it's a little shady and the difference between relapse and slip isn't even the same for everybody, but let me give you an example here.
I had a huge week-long slip over Thanksgiving break. I gave in repeatedly to urges to only eat safe foods, skimp portions, and exercise. It was for the whole entire break. But I told on myself, I reached out for help, and when I got back to campus I tried to get back on track. But I had to first get out of the mentality that I was a failure stuck in relapse. No, not true. I was a person with an ED who was struggling and who was strong enough and capable enough to get back on track.
I am still getting back on track and its still a daily battle, but I am working and things are getting better, because I stopped the slip from becoming a relapse. But really what is crucial with this is the mentality you are in. It's so easy to let a slip allow ED to tell you you are a failure. That others are disappointed That you should give up. But all this is is the guilt that speeds the ball down the relapse mountain.
You have to remind yourself you are human. Not just human, but a human who has an ED. That's not your fault. It's an illness like someone who has a cold. If someone has a cold, their cough goes away, and then after a little while they start coughing again we don't tell them to give up. We don't tell them they are doomed to have their cough become pneumonia, we just have them start taking medicine again. We don't tell them they are failures just because their cough is back.
Why are our slips different? We may be walking great in recovery, something happens, and we slip. It doesn't make us horrible people or failures. It just makes us someone whose cough came back. And so what do we need to do? Take our "medicine" again. That's the only way to get back on the road to health and freedom.
Back on the Road to Freedom
So how do we get out of the slip? Well I can only share from what I am doing now and what's worked for me, but here are my steps....my "prescription."
- Tell the team: this is crucial for me. I have to let my team know I am slipping. It takes away the power of secrecy from my team and let's me feel accountable to someone. It also let's ED know that if he makes me act out I will tell, and many times this keeps me from acting out again.
- Reach out: I also let my friends in recovery know I am struggling. Something that helps me here is having an accountability partner who will check in on me at random times in the day to make sure I haven't acted out and also who are there for me when I feel the urge to act out again. I can't break promises either, so many times I enter promises/pacts with others that I won't act out. Then, when I get the urge to continue to slip I just remember my promise and it helps me stop.
- Back to the basics: Once I have support set up I go back to the basics. Back to planning out every day of meals. Scheduling them. And sitting with my food till its done 100%. I basically build inpatient like standards of my meals. I plan it out the night before and refuse to change my plan the next day. Then I sit with my plate till it is done and if need be buy supplements I have to do if I don't finish. This is a big motivation to finish because I HATE supplements.
- Use others at meals: Something else that helps me is to use others to hold me accountable at meals. When I used to live at home I would have my parents (as much as I hated it) check my plate before and after meal. This was my old nutritionist idea and as much as I hate to admit it, it helped so much to get me out of slips. I knew my parents would tell them if I didn't finish and would check me in the hospital if I didn't or make me drink supplements. It really helped.
- Structure it out: I also go back to structure so I feel control. Not just with planning meals, but trying to plan the day so I don't have a lot of down time. At first this can be half hours at a time. It sounds crazy but it helps.
- Check in: When getting back on track I also send check-in to team at end of the day where I am honest about how I did. It helps them give me ideas of how to get back on track and let's them support me in more ways.
So there is a lot of structure, but that is key to getting out of slips. Think about it. If your ED is all about control (like mine is) you put your energy into controlling your recovery instead. Into planning out the day, making fun activities, and knowing your meals. Remember to to stay around people. This helps combat the feeling of being alone and keeps you from acting on certain behaviors. Even share your meal plan with people if you can. That was actually fun to do with friends, because sometimes they would have the same meal as me and I knew if they were eating it and I was...then it wasn't too much, it was okay to eat.
So when it seems like things are slipping out of control, don't let ED call you a failure. In fact, turn it back on him. He is the one failing. Where is that happiness and control he promised? It's not there. He has failed you, so now its time for you to find success. How? In keeping the slip from becoming a relapse. We are all strong enough to do that. Just remember structure and support leads to success. It's not easy, but hey having an ED really ain't that easy either.
And if you are in a relapse that's okay too, because you can pull yourself out of that as well. Talk to your team or loved ones about treatment. There are so many options out there. It takes extreme courage to go to treatment, but to get out of relapse or a never-ending slip, it's crucial.
Sometimes its hard to see if we are slipping or relapsing and your team can help you there too. Be honest with the frequency of your struggles and ask for their opinion. They may give you a time span to try and get out of your rut, and then deem it a relapse and encourage you to get more support. PLEASE LISTEN TO THEM. Sometimes ED clouds our sight so much we don't see how far we are from where we want to be and that we need support to regain our strength. With your strength regained you can come out ready to walk back towards your future.
Remember no matter what do what is best for you. What will get you to the brighter tomorrows you deserve. If you are slipping, don't let ED hold you back from fighting by telling you you are a failure. Remind yourself success starts there, in taking back control of your life...getting back to your medicine. If you are in a relapse, your tomorrows can start today. Tell your team how rough things are and work with them to get you to the level of treatment you need and deserve. Neither a slip nor relapse warrant guilt. You wouldn't put guilt on a cancer patient based on the stage of their cancer, we are sick just like them and don't deserve guilt for that. We deserve support, love, and hope for tomorrow.
Hope this made sense and was helpful in some way. Hit me with any questions :) Those other posts will be coming I've just been slammed with work.