In recovery from an eating disorder, it takes constant vigilance to keep the momentum of recovery going. And when life starts to get more involved again after years of illness and takes over in other wonderful ways, it can be easy to take your eye off the recovery ball and not instantly notice that recovery might be slipping and the pesky eating disorder worming back in.
With this recovery I have had to learn the signs in myself of when things are starting to go a bit wonky or off kilter and when I need to slow down and put my full focus back onto the recovery ball….
So, what are these signs of recovery slippage?
Below are some of the symptoms and signs that kick in for me when the eating disorder is starting to get stronger again… some I am sure are common to many of us and for others there might well be more.
- Food intake sliding, more ‘safe foods’, more rigidity in the how, what and when of eating.
- Starting to feel generally more overwhelmed with life or by small things I have to do or that are happening.
- Worsening body image, more thoughts and focus on my shape and weight, which when I am in a good recovery space is not something that bothers me at all.
- Thoughts to weigh myself (which I stopped doing to get through recovery).
- Becoming more controlling in general – can be over food and eating rules but also in other parts of life which are not obviously eating disorder related.
- Isolating myself more from others.
- A rise in negative thought patterns and negative emotions.
- Conversely to the above point, an increased feeling of numbness or calmness.
- Feeling physically colder.
- Recognising the false ‘starvation high’ has returned – that feeling of being invincible we get when we have an eating disorder, of flying through life on high energy despite being in a negative energy state.
- An increase in the number of disordered thoughts and urges around eating, exercise or other compensatory behaviours.
- A stronger fear of weight gain or if really sliding backwards, a secret desire or satisfaction at the thought of weight loss.
- Generally feeling much more despairing of life and the future.
- Focus on numbers increases – with the usual number suspects coming into play more strongly than they have been.
- An increased control over money spending, urges to save, strong feeling of guilt over spending even small amounts.
- More and more food thoughts (mental hunger) so that concentration elsewhere is reduced.
- Often a reduction in physical appetite and / or greater anxiety at physical hunger.
- Greater irritability and losing touch with the ‘fun side’ to my personality (sometimes there is one!!).
- Stronger cravings again for sugary foods – a sign my body is seeking instant energy sources.
- Spending more time seeking magic answers through recovery sources… blogs, YouTube etc… increased mental negotiations and making recovery more complicated than it should be.
Knowing the signs such as these that recovery might be going in the wrong direction is one thing.
Then there can be the whole issue of what to do about it!
Recovery is tough, no matter what stage you are at and even if you have been at the recovery game for a while, when the illness starts to creep back in, it is still bloody hard work to get back on top of it again.
The distress and anxiety is still there and can be just as strong.
The slippery slope back to the illness can loom close by if we are not on our guard to the signs that it is starting.
And that is why, for me, I decided a few weeks ago that I had to push on hard and fast with full recovery because I did not come this far to only come this far. I did not go through the past months to let it slide back now.
So, each and every time I recognise that the illness is growing stronger, I have to keep pushing against the very fibre of my core that is screaming at me not to eat more, not to rest more and not to break the ‘rules’ of the illness and do again what feels so very wrong…. keeping my mind on my commitment to aim for overshoot and full health.
Eat a lot, rest a lot, push on and push through, keep challenging, refocus and just hope that each time I do, like all the times before, it will be taking me to even bigger and better things.
So… if you are in recovery, make sure you know for you what the signs are of your recovery slipping and when you notice any starting to kick in, recommit to your health and get back to munching for your life!