Working to recover from an eating disorder is not easy, quick, or perfect. It challenges your patience, belief that recovery is worth it, and strength of your support systems. Because it is so much work, it’s common for a client to beat themselves up for a lapse back into a behavior. The trick to avoiding a relapse is to be compassionate with yourself after the fact.
First, what’s the difference between and lapse and a relapse? A lapse is when you slip up, return briefly to a behavior, and then work immediately to get back on track with your recovery efforts. A relapse is when you return completely to the old behaviors after trying to moderate or eliminate them.
Most folks in treatment will experience lapses. As a client works to understand and deal with underlying issues related to their eating disorder, emotions can run amok! Your treatment team expects it. As part of your treatment, you family and friends will learn about the illness as well and come to understand the ups and downs of the recovery process as well.
Your treatment team and support systems are there to help you, which also means holding you accountable for working hard. But that doesn’t mean they are mad at you. They all know it’s a long, hard journey to physical and mental health. The person who usually struggles most with that understanding is the client.
Perfectionism is incredibly common with eating disorder cases. Doing everything just right and being a model client is the modus operandi treatment providers are used to seeing, and that perfectionism is what interrupts to the treatment process most. One of the key goals of treatment is accepting all the beautiful “flaws” of our shared humanity – body and mind.
So, practice some compassion for yourself. You’re not perfect. You never will be. You’ll lapse from time to time in treatment, and maybe even throughout your life. It’s part of having an eating disorder. It’s not the end of the world. It’s not the end of your day. Maybe, it’s not even the end of your meal! Practice some self-care. Apologize to yourself for a minute, show some love to yourself, and repeat these words, “Nobody’s perfect.”
By Andrew Walen, LCSW-C, LICSW, CEDS, Founder, CEO at The Body Image Therapy Center. If you would like to get in touch with Andrew please call 877-674-2843 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.