eating disorder recovery

How do you cope with eating disorder recovery wobbles? 7


eating disorder recovery

In case you are wondering, this is what woodworm infested wood looks like.

I just love it when readers ask me to write about something. I got this request a couple of days ago:

“I wonder if you can, when time allows, write about the ways you have coped with any wobbles during recovery. Even afterwards, how have you managed to become so confident from all of this?”

I noticed that I have an interesting reaction to being called confident. I had never really thought of it before, but after giving it some ponderance, I have come to the realization that I am confident about my recovery.

I think the reason for this is simply because I have been at it so long. I’ve been through so much shit with this illness that I have every confidence that whatever it throws at me I can cope with. Confidence, however, or describing myself as that rings alarm bells for me, as I worry that confidence can lead to complacency.

Ironically I am so fractious about being complacent about remembering that I do have an eating disorder and it could come back that I think it is this that allows me to feel confident that I won’t let it. Or something like that.

I think I have just answered the question. Have I?

In case you missed it amongst the ramblings: I cope with the wobbles by not allowing myself to become complacent. I am confident because I do not allow myself to be complacent.

Because I am on the lookout for anything that might trigger my eating disorder, I can try and stay one step ahead of it. If I have as much as a whisper of an ED thought, I eat some cheese or something just to make sure. Even if I am not sure if I had an ED thought or just a random thought, I’d eat the cheese. Just to be sure.

It’s a bit like how my mum is with woodworm.

When I was about ten, I remember that Mum was really into antique furniture and doing “upholstery.” (I did’t really understand what that meant at ten, and I still don’t. Something to do with buying old furniture and then attacking it with needles and staple guns. It sounds rather unsavory, doesn’t it?)

Anyhow, something went desperately wrong because our entire house and all it’s furniture became infested with woodworm. (Isn’t “infested” a magnificent word?)

All I remember is Mum bemoaning the onerous task of de-woodworming everything. Ever since that incident, if Mum spies a hole in a piece of wood that looks vaguely woodworm-ish, it gets treated, or banished, or burnt, or at least sworn at profusely.

If there is one house in the whole of England that will not get woodworm now, it is my parents’. Mum is primed to smell out woodworm like a Russian spy is to sniff out … economic intelligence?

But wait. There’s more. I’m not complacent about my ED for the same reason Mum isn’t complancent about woodworm: I’m scared it will come back.


EDIT: See the comments below, but I think that this is worth putting in here:

A reader commented that this post seems to make it sound as if I am “living in fear.” I am not at all. I am just trying to point out that fear can be a healthy part of recovery. I certainly don’t think about these things a lot, and you can rest assured that I don’t get ED thoughts often. But I want to make it clear to people in recovery that it is not something one can ever be complacent about and that the fear of relapse is something powerful that can be used to one’s benefit.

To say that I am scared of something is not to say that I live in a constant state of fear, nor is it to say that it upsets me on a daily basis. For example I am scared of tarantulas, but I don’t think about them the whole time, and it is a healthy fear as a tarantula could kill me.

I’m just about telling the truth as the truth is empowering. The truth is that no matter how well recovered one is, there is always the chance of a relapse because Anorexia has a genetic base and one never therefore is able to completely banish it. A healthy fear of it returning is what stops it from doing so.


Fear is a big motivator for me. I always learn best from teachers that terrify me. I fear my eating disorder greatly.

I’m scared of Anorexia.

I’m scared because it almost killed me.

I’m scared of the depression and hopelessness that Anorexia brought.

I’m scared of how it effects my family and loved ones.

I’m scared of being that thin again because it physically hurt.

I’m scared of being that thin again because of what it did to my body and long-term organ/system health.

I’m scared of relapsing and letting people down—my parents, my husband, my friends, my readers, my advocacy group—the list does on.

I’m scared of walking down the street and being stared at and pointed at because I look like a skeleton.

I’m scared of the brain-crazy that comes with Anorexia coming back and not allowing me to sleep or have a moment’s rest from the frantic ED thoughts.

I’m scared of feeling so weak that I can’t get out of bed.

I’m scared of malnutrition and how it made my hair thin and my eyes go dull.

I’m scared of losing the life that I have—because Anorexia would happily take it all away from me if I let it.

I could go on. In short I am terrified of Anorexia coming back, and that is why I don’t get complacent about any of it. Sometimes fear can be a good thing. Like I said above, I believe that one can use fear in a healthy way, and the to say that I am scared of something is not the same as saying that I live in a constant state of fear.

How do I deal with the wobbles? I eat some cheese.

 

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About Tabitha Farrar

I work as Head of Marketing for a software startup in Boulder. As a recovered Anorexia sufferer, I advocate for proper understanding of eating disorders in my spare time. On that note, I wrote a book about my own journey into eating again called Love Fat.


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7 thoughts on “How do you cope with eating disorder recovery wobbles?

  • Rachael

    Hi Tabitha,

    I have been following all of your posts and am half way through reading your book. As a recovering Anorexic myself, and I have a long way to go, I am worried that you still seem to be very much under the influence of the illness. You talk about the fears you have and the constant thoughts that plague your mind. Are you fully recovered?
    I was hoping that recovery, for me and I hope for all other sufferers of this horrid disease, would be freedom of fear and the control that the disease has over our lives. I know that the genetic nature of an ED is that it can be dormant and there are many triggers that can force it into action. I understand the need not be complacent to the dangers of these triggers, but living in constant fear is not going to give one much quality of life. Sure, we all have fears that keep us awake at night, but recovery should mean that the nagging thoughts and the control that anorexia has over a person should almost disappear and no longer be a part of everyday life.
    I do really enjoy reading your posts and I can relate to almost everything that you mention. I just hope that anyone who is strong enough to beat this illness can be granted the freedom from its demons and live as they did pre anorexia. Care free and no longer consumed by fear of food or the urge to exercise to a point of extreme exhaustion and risk of poor health.
    I am having therapy which does help, but my recovery is definitely up to me. Re feeding is excruciating and I still want to exercise. I am gaining weight slowly and my physical health is returning, however, the mental aspects of the disease are still very much there for me. I know I need to continue therapy because it helps to reassure me that there is hope. Due to the many misunderstandings of anorexia, my husband and the people in my life struggle to relate to my ways of thinking. Even though I am very vocal about my feelings and thoughts now, I never used to be as you would remember during your days of suffering. It is a very lonely disease. People still don’t “get it”! It’s not just a matter of eating more and exercising less! Anorexia is a complicated disease. A mental illness that takes control of a person’s life and makes them unhealthy in a physical sense as well as emotionally and psychologically.
    Anyway, enough rambling from me. I just want to ensure that you are enjoying life and if you ever feel that the triggers and the fears are too much, there are good therapists out there. My doctor in Australia is a renowned ED psychiatrist and the therapy does help.
    Thanks for your posts. They help also.
    Rachael.

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Hi Rachel,

      Thanks for that comment. I can see that I may not have come across in this post as I meant to, and I have placed some edits in the text to highlight my point.

      I’m worried now that this post seems to make it sound as if I am “living in fear” as I am not at all. I am just trying to point out that fear can be a healthy part of recovery. I certainly don’t think about these things a lot, and you can rest assured that I don’t get ED thoughts often. But I want to make it clear to people in recovery that it is not something one can ever be complacent about and that the fear of relapse is something powerful that can be used to one’s benefit.

      To say that I am scared of something is not to say that I live in a constant state of fear, nor is it to say that it upsets me on a daily basis. For example I am scared of tarantulas, but I don’t think about them the whole time, and it is a healthy fear as a tarantula could kill me.

      I’m just about telling the truth as the truth is empowering. The truth is that no matter how well recovered one is, there is always the chance of a relapse because Anorexia has a genetic base and one never therefore is able to completely banish it. A healthy fear of it returning is what stops it from doing so.

      You said you are halfway through my book—by the end you will have a clearer picture of how well I recovered and how fabulous life without anorexia can be I hope. I am very glad that you are working with a good therapist! Wishing you all the best!

  • Anon adult sufferer in weight restoration phase

    Reading the reply made me so happy to have the support and genuine care for th normal worries along this difficult path. As an adult, who has suffered for a long time now, I think the wobbles can come for different reasons: seeing the weight going up in numbers, facing social situations, not being able to carry out familiar routines etc. The numbers riding makes me anxious and any tips for acceptance or simply not restricting would be gratefully received. I am slowly making progress but they are small steps. The bmi of 18.5 as healthy scares me too as its as if all is ok the, when it’s actually not.

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      It’s incredibly hard isn’t it? As you have noticed, the behaviours come in to affect more than just eating and exercise and anything that threatens the routine can be a trigger. Hard as it is, once you begin to know this (like you obviously do) it gets easier to challenge the ED stuff — for me, after a while it became irresistible not to challenge it.

      You need to work out how to be kind and forgiving with yourself while at the same time brutally honest and determined.

      • Adult anon

        I remember reading and replying to you in April in this area. I’ve recently had done ‘holiday’ wobbles snd have re-read posts and comments. I’ve just re-read your post and it’s made me realise I’ve been able to challeng ‘Edi’ more this year than I was able to this time last year. I think I owe your invaluable accoun in your book, your posts and your honesty to helping. Now, like I did yesterday when wanting to restrict a little, I thought of my support network, your advice snd my immediate family (hubby and son) and how I need to be honest and fight Edi, and have more fat, more cereal, just more! It’s still not easy, but it’s certainly steps closer to a better life.
        Thank you. Your replies, honest as they have always been, have really helped.

  • Patsy

    Hi Tabitha

    Just boosting my spiritual and mental defences by wading through your posts. Having crossed that invisible line into Anorexia, I do believe that I can never undo my brain and cross back into a idealised before state of normality when it concerns ED. I totally accept I have a mental illness and now I accept it’s my responsibility to recover. I’ll do everything I can to maintain my health and hopefully live as full a life as is left to me.

    I fully respect the power of this illness and in doing so I too take extra steps to look after myself. Having a healthy fear of Anorexia is very much part of self care for me. The list of consequences at the end of your post are brilliant reminders of where a relapse will take me. Of course there is also the possibility that I may die, the end, should I go down that road again. Having an active eating disorder never gets any better. As the illness progresses and age along with it, the health, social and mental consequences are greater. When I was young, I though I was invincible, when I reached my late 50’s I was shocked at the physical toll. Just as I maintain my recovery from alcoholism, now 26 years, I still go to my support group, it enables me to be free from that first drink and to pass that message on. To maintain my recovery from an ED I also do what’s suggested, I talk to my friend, 12 years in recovery from ED. I follow a structured food plan and I don’t weigh myself. Triggers happen all the time, sometimes fleeting others more disabling and then I make the call. When I think it’s ok to drop a few pounds I fast forward the tape to where it may lead. I don’t want to go back to starving myself, being constantly hungry, feeling shut down, paranoid, depressed and isolated from my gorgeous family and the people I love. So courage in the face of fear is where I need to be. Thanks for reminding me. Patsy

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Very wise words there Patsy. We all need to keep on top of recovery. Complacency can be deadly for us.

      It seems so innocent, doesn’t it? Just a little less to eat one mealtime. Or a little longer spent exercising. How bad could that really be?

      The truth is that those tiny changes amount to something disastrous. The solution is being able to know that.