First thing is first…. Congratulate yourself. You’re no longer in denial about your disorder. You’ve gained enough self-awareness to recognize your triggers and realize that they’ve begun to affect your perceptions of food and your body (again).
Even though it’s frustrating (and understandably so) to find yourself feeling triggered during the later stages (or at any point, really) during recovery, it’s natural, normal, and, frankly, it’s to be expected. Not many of us get through recovery without at least one brush with relapse, be it because of food, family, or insensitive comments from others. The trick is to recognize what is happening and to take action by leaning on your support system and pulling out your arsenal of recovery tools.
Here are some gentle (and one not so gentle) reminders to help you avoid relapse when you’re feeling triggered:
Cut yourself some slack
It may be hard to accept that it’s happening, but it is, and that’s okay. It’s not your fault and there is nothing you could have done to stop it. Don’t be judgmental, don’t beat yourself up. Be compassionate and patient and focus on taking care of yourself.
Listen to others
Let your loved ones play the part of your voice of reason when yours is compromised.
Remember your coping phrases and other recovery tools
They were meant for times like these. Here are a few to get you started:
– Food is my medicine.
– My health is the number one priority.
– I am strong and I can deal with this.
– Taking the time to honor the needs of my body is taking time to honor the needs of my soul.
It is often easier to know what to do than to do it. Today I will do those things that strengthen my recovery.
Do you find journal writing helpful? Art? Exercise? Spending time with friends? Do it. Those tools weren’t only developed for the early stages of recovery, but for all the times that you are challenged throughout.
Talk to your dietitian, therapist, or other health care professional supporting you in your recovery
Sometimes all you need is to be whipped back into fighting shape by the person who knows your medical and emotional history best. Whether your primary care physician is gentle and compassionate, rational and uncompromising, or a balanced combination of the two, they’ll have the clearest perspective and the best approach for helping you get back on psychological track.
Hey, can you guess what will thoroughly, inevitably, undoubtedly make you feel worse? Starving. Bingeing. Purging. Self-harming. Avoiding foods your disorder has deemed “unsafe” or “bad for you”. Weighing yourself.
But if you do…
Even more important that not beating yourself up over feeling triggered is not beating yourself over relapsing. This, too, is a normal part of the recovery process, and should certainly not deter you from continuing on your path to psychological and emotional health. Contact your health care team, depend on your support system, use your coping phrases, and jump back in. Recovery is a marathon (with hurdles and potholes and large piles of shit in the middle of the road), not a sprint. You’ll get there.
Earlier this week, someone told me it looked like I had lost weight (I haven’t, I’m quite sure) in the last few weeks. A few days later, someone referred to me as a big “eater”. Yesterday, someone told me my face had gotten rounder since last year – a reference to the weight (and health!) I’ve gained through recovery. All of these comments made me extremely uncomfortable… and, as I later realized, triggered me. Which is okay. Because being triggered doesn’t mean I need to succumb to the bitchy, nagging, lying voice in my head that tells me I’m not good enough if I’m not skinny. Being triggered doesn’t mean I have to take two steps back. Being triggered doesn’t mean I’m not going to eat.
Being triggered won’t ruin my life.