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2 posts from February 2011


The Return from Relapse

Feature Article - February 2011 

This can be a difficult time of year for food addicts, compulsive eaters and those with eating disorders. There is still all of that pressure that follows a holiday season, all the after-effects. And then comes the talk about resolutions and weight goals; food and weight seems to be on everyone's minds and it's a big topic of conversation. Then comes slips, relapses and consuming thoughts about what to do next...
We see a lot of “slips” at this time of year, and sometimes those slips turn into full-blown relapse. It's never easy to come back from a relapse. You may feel embarrassed and ashamed, especially if you've had a period of long-term recovery. You may worry that the people around you won't understand - and for good reason, because they maybe won't.
That's why relapse is such an important time to reach out for professional support. This is not the time to try to go it alone or punish yourself by isolating or continuing to suffer. That will just fan the fire and "feed" the relapse. Now is the time for self-compassion, and allowing someone else to help you.
If you're returning from relapse, try these suggested steps:
  1. Seek the professional help of a therapist. The validation you will get there is such an important first step. The other people in your support system may not fully understand what you're going through, and their confusion can just make things harder for you.
  2. Get checked out by your medical team, including your family doctor. Make sure that you're safe and ready to heal on a physical level.
  3. Be gentle with yourself but fight the eating disorder with everything you've got. Don't give up.
  4. Consider signing a relapse contract with yourself. Some people commit things like: I will be compassionate with myself, or I will not harm myself.
  5. Look at what led to the relapse. What part was your responsibility? What was slipping prior to the actual relapse? Some people take an inventory of these slips as a form of self-assessment and reflection. From there, consider if there is something in your environment that needs to change, in order to prevent this from happening again.
Above all, remember that every slip and every relapse is an opportunity to learn and grow. It's the truth. Accepting that truth will allow you to find the positive gem in this challenging situation.


When We Slip and Fall

Tara Harvill
Tara Harvill, MA
Registered Marriage and
Family Therapist Intern
and Registered Mental
Health Counselor Intern
A Note from Tara 
Relapse – the etymology of the word is “who falls again.” This brings a smile to my face, as I recall a recent spill I took hurrying to a meeting. Picture this: it was a full-on, totally uncoordinated, arms and legs flailing, books-purse-folders flying, as seen on America’s Funniest Videos kind of incident.
Of course, I was not smiling at the time. In that moment, I felt embarrassed, frustrated, sad, disappointed, and physically injured (I had twisted my ankle and developed a huge bruise and knot on an already previously injured knee – yes, from another recent fall), not to mention the huge blow to my ego. As I felt my eyes well up with tears, the first place my mind went was to go home, call in sick, and wallow in my pitiful experience.
Okay, I know in the grand scheme of things, this doesn’t sound like a big deal. That’s exactly why I’m smiling now! The point is that I didn’t go home, etc. I took a deep breath, brushed my pants off (thank goodness I wasn’t wearing a dress), gathered up my belongings, and proceeded to my meeting. At the end of the day, I felt glad that I didn’t alter the course of my day as a result of that one event.
This may sound like a very trivial metaphor for relapse, but the essence of the story can be overlaid onto some of my most difficult challenges in life. After the fact, many of my struggles, disappointments, and "relapses" (times that I have returned to previous patterns of behavior, which is the definition of relapse) morph into strengths, accomplishments and life lessons. And, yes, I’m quite sure I will fall again. With each fall, though, I feel more certain I will be able to get back up!