When I relapsed for the first time, it was a weird experience that I will never forget. It felt almost as though I was outside of my body; watching in on my brain, but I couldn't do anything to help.
The saddest part was that I knew everything I was doing and why. Unlike when the anorexia first started in sixth grade, this was now my choice, something I could prevent but wasn't. I was completely aware of my thoughts and my actions regarding my behavior, but continued anyways.
The biggest things I remember about this experience were the clear signs that I was about to turn and go down hill. I refer to these as my early warning relapse signs:
1. Drastically lowering calories. This is always the first sign. I felt overwhelmed and out of control so what better way to deal with that than to cut calories, so that I was literally starving?
2. Eating "zero calorie", "fat free", "diet" foods. This was my go-to method of eating when I was hungry because these were considered free foods. Gum, pickles, sparking water, etc. all replaced real food that my body was starving for.
3. Avoiding situations where food was present. I started isolating myself in order to avoid any events where food might play a role at any cost. To be around food and people were scary ideas and became my biggest fear again.
4. Feeling hopeless, suicidal. When you relapse there's a lot of thoughts running through your head and most of them are pitty thoughts, "why me?" "I'm stupid", "I can't do anything right", "I'll never be good enough", etc. I felt hopeless and wondered why I should keep living.
5. Increasing exercise. After decreasing calories, I increased my walks each day. I went from maybe thirty minutes to two hours, five days a week to seven days. I became obsessive about my walks, couldn't miss them or else shit would go down.
And I could think of so many other signs but those are the common ones for me, but everyone will have different signs for themselves because everyone is different.
It's good to know what your early relapse signs are for the future. One day you may notice yourself consciously not adding sugar to your coffee and you will be able to save yourself from the long course of relapse.
I did however learn a lot of valuable lessons from my relapse and I think it was needed in order to fully recover so that I could learn more about myself and how to heal, but relapse is not fun and not something you ever want to face so the more you can prepare and prevent it the better.
What are some of your red flags in your recovery?