This isn’t what I expected recovery to look like. For over ten years, I’ve battled with an eating disorder, and I’m starting to realise that recovery might not have an end to it. For now, it seems like it’s a dynamic process, with an equilibrium that shifts left or right depending on the environment. I suppose it says a lot that my inclination is to imagine it as an A-Level chemistry problem, but that’s Imperial for you. I always knew that therapy would be hard, and adjusting to life after therapy would be difficult, but I wasn’t prepared when I was knocked by a death in the family. I was so sure I was winning the war until I turned my back to focus on something else.

The enemy came into my territory, and I retreated back to the restriction I knew best. For a while it was almost nostalgic, the familiar hazy head of starvation dulled my sadness and made the grief softer; the same purpose it has served for my anxiety and depression in the past.

The scariest thing about being used to a winning equilibrium was just that, I got used to it. The fight became less exhausting and almost unconscious, and it was so easy to get complacent. Skipping breakfast here and there didn’t feel dangerous, I was using the logic: “Healthy people do that all the time and I’m healthy now too!”. It turns out that all I was doing was tempting the beast to rear it’s ugly head.

Everyone around me got used to me being okay too, so the thought of coming clean about this is terrifying. I fear the day people will get bored of the vicious cycle of relapse and recovery, rolling their eyes because “aren’t you done with that all yet?”. It also feels somewhat insincere to admit that this is still a thing. That all this time, even when things have been good, I have had thoughts like “my friends don’t want to see me today because I’m fat.”, “That interview didn’t go well because I’m fat.”, “I deserved to be groped by that creep on the tube because I’m fat.”. It’s embarrassing to reveal this level of nonsense going on in my brain, and that I’ve succumbed to it again. Logically I know that none of these things are related to being fat. The fact that I am far from any definition of fat is besides the point. I am also wary of people pitying me, or being repelled by my absurdity. I wonder if I’ll be subject to the same type of judgement and misunderstanding that I react to other maladaptive coping mechanisms with. “Why doesn’t he just stop drinking alcohol? He knows it’s not a healthy way to deal with his problems”.

I have relapsed before, but all I have to hold onto is that each successive knock is easier to deal with. Fighting my way through every stumble is like training my army to be able to respond quicker when it finds itself on the back foot, or building up a buffer solution to keep things stable when my environment becomes sour. Or so I tell myself, anyway.