The Mighty Logo

What I Learned After a Relapse in My Eating Disorder Recovery

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Editor's Note

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

Today I relapsed.

I did something I thought I would never do again. I went into the bathroom, and made myself throw up.

I miss my eating disorder every day. I have urges to revert back to my old habits often. But before today it had been a year and a half since I had acted on those urges. Today I acted without thinking. I wanted to throw up, and so I did — a thought process and consequential action that has taken many years of therapy to work through.

What happened after my relapse taught me a lot, and I believe it will continue to teach me a lot for some time.

As soon as I left the bathroom I felt terrible. I walked back to my desk at work, avoiding eye contact with all of my colleagues; terrified they would look in my eyes and know my secret. Once seated safely at my desk my eyes welled with tears that I attempted to hold back the rest of the day.

As I drove home from work that evening I broke down. I cried the whole drive home and continued to cry as I unlocked my front door, greeted my dog, and carried myself to bed, which is where I stayed for the next several hours. I canceled my plans for that night, going to a gig with a friend and made my bed my refuge.

Just now I got up to feed my dog. I even managed to force myself out and give my dog a walk to the end of my road, still in my pajamas of course. While I was walking I thought about the day that had just passed. I took a break from focusing on the guilt and shame I felt
about my relapse, and started thinking about what this relapse could teach me.

My relapse reminded me of all of the horrible parts of my eating disorder, all of the parts that were left out of the glamorized version of my eating disorder I created in my mind.

Today I was taken back to the space I was in two years ago when I was suffering severely from my eating disorder, and I was reminded of something incredibly important that I had forgotten; this space was not a good place.

As I walked my dog down my road I asked myself a question:

“Is this the life that I want to live?”

A life of canceling plans, a life of avoiding people, a life of extreme sadness, a life of holding back tears all day. This was the life I led when I suffered from my eating disorder, this was the life I led this afternoon after I relapsed, and this was the life I would continue to lead if I continued to give in to my urges.

It was awful to experience these feelings again, but what I learned from these feelings was vital.

I no longer feel guilty that I relapsed today, instead I feel privileged that I could learn from this relapse.


Photo credit: tommaso79/Getty Images

Originally published: August 20, 2019
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home