For six years I have struggled with my eating disorder. In the past year and a half, I have become much more self aware and have been in a recovering stage of the disorder. I don’t know if this is the correct wording, but I am better. I rarely go days upon days without eating and I don’t feel the urge to binge on snacks to satisfy any hunger pangs.
Despite my improvement, my eating disorder goes hand in hand with my anxiety which is still a very real battle in my life. What I have learned is this: relapse is normal. In every addiction, in every disorder, in every blip on the map: relapse is normal.
Taylor Swift has a song called Clean. I assume it is about a relationship, but it is all too real for those who have struggled with addiction. A line that catches my ear every time I hear the song is “Just because you’re clean don’t mean you don’t miss it.” I have grown in the time that I have been recovering, I know that skipping meals and starving myself causes my hair to fall out, it causes me to be more stressed and to be constantly tired. I know that the product of starving myself is bad in every way, sometimes I even ended up gaining weight.
Relapse is not logical though. Things that can trigger my mind to relapse can be anything from someone saying they don’t want dessert to a person mentioning they didn’t have the time to eat breakfast in the morning. These triggers are not the product of someone trying to hurt me to cause me to return to a negative mindset, they’re just what my brain has decided is going to remind me of all the calorie counting and meal skipping.
Relapse feels like failure, like you have let someone down, you’ve let yourself down. Relapse feels like anxiety about caving in and anxiety about not caving in all at the same time. Relapse can be lonely and confusing and twice as hard as your addiction ever was. I feel crazy when I relapse, I thought I was better. It is all normal.
In the past few months, I have developed a regular exercise plan and meal pattern. I have never had a good relationship with food or exercise and getting used to my new and healthy lifestyle does not come easy. It takes work but it is worth it. In my desire for attention which is where my eating disorder stemmed from, I now know that good attention comes from accomplishments, achieving goals, hard work—not who weighs the least. Sometimes I forget that. The days I don’t eat, that fact doesn’t matter to me. I am not in my “normal” mindset. But that is going to happen, that is relapse, it is normal even if it is not good. At the end of Taylor’s song, she sings “Now that I’m clean I’m never gonna risk it.” I know that I am stronger than this and that is why I continue to fight every day for release from this cycle.
My name is Meagan Donovan and I’m a 19 year old junior at Chapman University in Southern California. I am double majoring in theater studies and public relations/advertising, emphasizing my studies in the entertainment industry. A fun fact about me is that I’ve been performing since I was in third grade and I love writing my own songs, playing guitar, learning new dance forms, and acting in plays and musicals.