Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center
International Eating Disorder Referral Organization
Together Again: Relapse in Eating Disorder Recovery
by Jenni Schaefer, Author, Life Without Ed
How many times do we get back together with an ex just to give the relationship one more try? Why do we do it? Because our ex promises that things are going to be different the next time around. Things are going to change for the better. Just wait and see. So we wait. And we usually see that nothing has changed. We find ourselves in the same old destructive relationship looking for a way to get out all over again. This is how it was with Ed and I.
Unlike ex-boyfriends in the past who had been detrimental to my emotional health, each time I took Ed back, he was seriously putting my physical health at risk as well. At some points, my very life was even in danger. You see, Ed wasn’t my high school sweetheart or some guy I met in college. And I did not meet Ed in the fresh fruit department of the local grocery store (although he does hang out a lot in places where food is around). Ed’s name is actually an acronym for eating disorder. Ed is my eating disorder.
Psychotherapist and author Thom Rutledge taught me to think of my eating disorder as a relationship rather than a condition or illness. I learned that having an eating disorder is very similar to being in an abusive relationship where one partner tries to control and manipulate the other. Ed definitely tried his best to run my life according to his rules, and above all, he wanted me to stay with him always and forever. In order to accomplish that goal, Ed would go to any lengths, including lying, cheating, and/or stealing. He would do anything to keep me by his side.
When I finally made the decision to leave Ed, he fought harder than ever to stay with me. If I slammed the door in his face, he would serenade me at my window with a song and flowers. If I had my phone number changed to avoid his calls, he would send me love letters via email. He was quite persistent and convincing, so inevitably, I would end up taking him back time and time again.
So our relationship cycled back and forth for many years. I would break up with him and vow never to binge, purge, or starve again. I would do well for a period of time. Then I might confront a problem in my life, and Ed would inch his way back into my world. He would say, “Jenni, we’ve conquered this problem before. Remember? I think it was with a large pizza and some ice cream. We can do it again. Just this once. Only one time. I promise. I’ll leave you alone after just this one binge.” Ed always lied. With Ed, it was never “only one time.” If I went back to just one of his suggested behaviors, I always went back to them all.
Ed was a package deal. It was always all or nothing when it came to Ed and I. So there I would find myself right back in the same cycle of eating disordered behaviors with Ed singing sweet nothings in my ear. Sure he might reel me in with just one binge, but the next day he would convince me to starve. Then, the next day he might want me to binge and purge and then starve again. It was so exhausting. I would think to myself, “How did I let this happen again?”
In my recovery from anorexia//bulimia, I went back to Ed time and time again. But I made it a point to learn something from each and every set back. And I grew stronger each time I picked myself off of the ground and pulled away from him again. After years in recovery, I have finally gained the strength to ignore Ed’s empty promises. Yes, he still makes them to me from time to time – always saying things will be different. But I know the truth. I know that nothing changes if nothing changes. And with Ed, nothing ever really changes. Sure, he makes up new stories, but it’s the same lie. Life with an eating disorder is not really living. And I decided that I wanted to live many years ago.
So would I get back together with an ex-boyfriend today after our ties had been severed? I guess it would depend on the specific circumstances of the relationship. But I’ll tell you one thing. The guy has no chance if his name happens to be Ed. Bob, Scott, or Matt – maybe. But forget about Ed.
Jenni Schaefer is a singer/songwriter, speaker, and the author of Life Without Ed: How One Woman Declared Independence from Her Eating Disorder and How You Can Too (McGraw-Hill). She is a consultant and spokesperson with Center for Change in Orem, UT. For more information, visit www.jennischaefer.com or email email@example.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of the author and are presented without editing. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the position or the policy of EDReferral.com, and no official endorsement by EDReferral.com of the opinions expressed herein should be inferred.
To begin your search for help and referrals CLICK HERE
*We cannot diagnose or treat eating disorders by email, but we can send you information and assist you in finding resources. Information provided by the Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center is not a substitute for medical treatment or psychological care. It is vital that you talk with your physician and a qualified mental health professional regarding eating disorder symptoms and treatment.
*While EDRIC includes articles and links to sites which provide additional information on eating disorders and related topics, the EDRIC does not endorse or recommend any site, product or service provided on these links.
Search for Treatment Take Instant Poll Abbreviations/Glossary Return to Home Page Membership,