Christmas is over, it's already 2016 and I am feeling pretty bleak. Since beginning recovery from anorexia binge-purge subtype some eight months ago, it's only recently that I've started to slip back under the bulimia spell - not something that I asked Father Christmas for. With the festivities over and nothing to look forward to, I'm yearning for the atmospheric nights spent cuddling on the sofa with the twinkling tree in my peripheral. Or the Christmas parties spent guzzling down prosecco (I am in my twenties so it's all about that champagne lifestyle, prosecco budget.)
Christmas is a challenge in itself for those with eating disorders. Despite the 'traditional' meaning behind Christmas, generally this is a holiday that revolves around indulgence. Food, alcohol, expenditure. Or should I say FOOD, alcohol expenditure. Whether you're of the eating disorder type that restricts, or one who binges inconsolably, we all feel shame about the consumption of food, especially during Christmas when there's so much of a reminder about it. However it's also in these 'non' days after the new year - basically January in general - that we're all still feeling the pressure. Pressure to get back on track, pressure to lose weight, pressure to change certain aspects of our lives. However for me I've gone and done the exact opposite and begun repeating processes that I have not done for months. Even if you're reading this and don't suffer with an eating disorder, it's still something we're told as a society that January is the big change, the deciding factor in whether 2016 is going to shit or good. But I don't want it to be. I, myself, want to be the deciding factor in whether I recover or relapse, and if you're in the same position, overwhelmed by increased anxiety to face reality, here are some tips to stay on the straight and narrow during this awfully depressing period.
1. Don't punish yourself for slip ups
Sounds kind of counter-productive being that the post is about recovering, but sometimes slip ups are inevitable. Just don't focus on this. One little moment today does not decide what tomorrow brings. It's about accepting that it has happened but moving on quickly. I used to find that when I was to relapse badly, I'd be breaking down all the time with my head hung over the toilet, but this just encourages the vicious cycle. What I do now is try to accept that the deed is done and then focus my energy on something creative as the thought of being unproductive for the entire day fills me with even more guilt. It doesn't have to be a masterpiece, it's just cathartic to express your emotions in whatever way you can, such as adult colouring books. Everyone can colour! Forget the saying one step forward, two steps back. Think of it as one step forward, one pause, then continue moving forward.
2. Find a recovery friend
This was a tip I received a couple of years ago from a CBT counsellor that's based upon getting a second opinion on the warped thoughts or dangerous intentions we may be having. Choose someone unbiased who isn't afraid of telling you how it is. This is a big ask for your chosen friend, and some might see it as an unwanted responsibility, however there will be someone near to you who is devoted to help listen to your worries and offer an alternative solution that's less self destructive. Despite this, you need to be in a position to trust that person and believe in their honesty and advice, whilst at the same time trusting yourself that you're going to contact them when relapse strikes.
3. Have a bath/shower
Sounds either odd or obvious. I'm not too sure. But water therapy has been a common treatment for mental illnesses since the early twentieth century. I see showering and bathing as purification and cleansing of the soul, and understand the notion that you're washing away your thoughts/sins. My slip ups happen when I am undressed, unwashed, unready to face the day. I tell myself time and time again in these moments to just get in the shower before my demons take over, but regrettably they sometimes already have. If I was to shower as soon as an urge materialises, I'm confident that the ritual wouldn't occur as there'd be no need to 'purge' out my anxieties as they've already been washed away.
4. Create a schedule and stick to it
Unstructured time is one of the biggest instigators for relapse, as our minds wander over endless possibilities to the point where we find we're punishing ourselves for doing nothing; being a nothing. The schedule doesn't have to be one that resembles an aspiring president, but one that resembles you and your abilities at this precise moment in time. Going for walks, learning more about a particular topic, drawing, dancing around to your favourite music in your pants. Who cares. As long as your days are enough to keep you occupied and proud of yourself for being productive that's what it's about. We want to eradicate any time for eating disorders to come barging in and destroying what is meant to be time for us. Time for us to finally start doing the things ED has made us not only miss out on, but forget the joy they can bring.
5. Change your surroundings
Often, we make negative associations with rooms, places, items and people, and often these are irrational. However we can't dismiss them when recovering; it's actually vital we acknowledge and tackle them face on. Be honest with yourself when it comes to your 'safe places', which in actual fact are the most detrimental places to our recovery. My old bedroom when I lived at home was my safe place, but it's the place that isolated me and helped feed my inner voices, making them louder and louder. It was the place where my eating disorders completely overtook, allowing me to dissolve slowly into my bed, disappearing from myself. We all have these comforting places where we can hide from the harsh truths of recovery but to really defeat our mental disease, we need to remove ourselves from these situations and change our state and surroundings. If you're lying on the couch in a depressive state, stand up and move, shout and dance. Go to a different room, or if you can't, go for a mindful walk, inhaling and exhaling with every step. There's a world out there just waiting for you to mark your footprint.
I understand reaching out can be difficult if you're feeling the reigns of recovery slipping from your fingertips, but now isn't the time to give in. Whether it's Christmas, Easter or Summer, It's never the time to give in.