Taking what I call “extreme ownership” of my eating disorder recovery was an important step for me. As an adult with Anorexia, it was crucial for me to understand that the only person at fault if I relapse is ME. And to be crystal clear from the start, taking ownership and admitting fault is not the same as berating oneself. Not the same at all. You are not to beat yourself up about any of this as doing so is a colossal waste of energy.
It isn’t my fault that I have Anorexia, but it is my fault if I allow it to control me.
Any relapse — no matter how small — must be identified and stopped.
To be clear. I define relapse as anything that is on my anti-ED behavior list. So while relapse for me has never been as full-blown as losing weight, I have had many micro-relapses. A micro-relapse could be any of the following sorts of examples:
- skipping a meal
- eating a low-fat food
- making a lower-calorie choice then I know I should
- not eating a snack when I should have
- doing 20 minutes cardio in the gym when I am only supposed to do 15.
- taking the stairs rather than the elevator
etc … you get the picture.
What is almost as important as recognizing these micro-relapses, is taking ownership of them. Extreme ownership. It is oh, so tempting to blame other people, but it is not productive. Because, when we blame something or someone other than ourselves, we are rendering ourselves powerless.
“I didn’t eat lunch because my boss dumped a report on my lap at 11am and I needed to get it done.”
“I lost a bit of weight this week, but it is my boyfriend’s fault for breaking up with me.”
“I super stressed at work so I’ll let myself run an extra 20 minutes because it makes me feel better.”
Stop blaming circumstances and people for micro-relapses such as skipping meals and doing too much exercise and start taking ownership. Every mistake that you make in recovery — and there will be plenty — is your fault and only your fault. The good news, is that if something is your fault, you have the power to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
I’m actually pretty good at this. I think a lot of it comes down to my pony club training as a child. If my horse bucks me off because a car backfired, guess whose fault it is? Mine.
Not the horses fault. Not the cars fault. My fault for not training the horse not to be scared of loud noises. Taking ownership is important if you work with horses, as it is the only way to keep yourself from getting seriously hurt. Cars will always backfire, and horses will always spook, the only way to manage it is to take responsibility and train your horse not to spook.
Shit happens. Shit is always going to happen. If you let that inevitable shit cause you to relapse you are not going to stay recovered for long. Stress is the biggest one. You will not and cannot expect to have a life without stress in it. Therefore you cannot allow stress to be something that puts you in relapse. Stress is part of life, and it is your job to work out how to live through stress without allowing your ED back in.
When you take ownership of your mistakes, you give yourself the power to not make them.
For example if I were to miss a meal, that would be my fault regardless of the circumstances. Even if I was abducted by aliens and that was why I wasn’t home in time for dinner, it was my fault that I didn’t have a snack with me. No ifs, no buts. My fault.
If you blame other people for your relapses you are saying “I was powerless,” and that is not true. That’s a lie that your ED wants you to believe so that it gains control over you. You and only you have the power to control your recovery.
And move on …
Taking ownership of your recovery doesn’t mean that you dwell on any blips that you have. It means you treat them as leaning opportunities. You makes notes on what went wrong so that if presented with the situation again you will know what you need to do in order to stay on track.
Beating oneself up and dwelling on mistakes is not effective. It wastes your time, your energy, and gives more power to your ED. Don’t fall into that trap. Instead, congratulate yourself for identifying a fault and taking the necessary action in order to nip it in the bud. Doing that is far more effective than wallowing in self loathing. Remember, your Ed wants you to feel powerless, so don’t let it make you feel like that. Identifying a relapse pattern is the most powerful move you can make against your ED. Be proud of yourself for doing it!
While having an ED Check Person is vital for recovery, this person can’t recover for you. Only you can do that.
You’re the only person who can really control your ED recovery. The buck stops with you. Take ownership of your mistakes, learn from them and move on.
You got this!