My therapist back in Michigan had me create a "traffic light" list for signs of relapse. "Green light" means signs of ongoing recovery. "Yellow light" means signs that things are starting to get rough and trending towards relapse. "Red light" means signs of actual, full-blown relapse. The next four posts will consist of making these lists and learning where your particular threshold lies for returning to different ED behaviors.
Four posts, you might ask? There are only 3 colors. How can you get 4 posts out of 3 colors? Sit tight my little ducklings, because on Monday (tomorrow is Sunday and that means a Smorgasbord!) we are going to look at signs between green lights and yellow lights. Informally called a "prelapse," these are the things that can precede yellow light thoughts and behaviors but often aren't exactly green light, either. Because the "prelapse" can be the most effective time to intervene and also the hardest thing to identify, I want to spend some extra time on them.
So. Onto green light signs.
Of all of the different lights that my old therapist had me identify, finding the green light ones were the hardest. Why? I had never really experienced ongoing recovery, and the years preceding the anorexia were clouded (we're talking thunderheads here, not those fluffy cumulous clouds) by anxiety, OCD, and depression. So my frame of reference was pretty much blank. I had no idea what a normal, healthy life would look like.
I did the next best thing: I guessed.
I know what my life is like when the eating disorder isn't as strong, and I think I know what I would like my life to look like. I'm guessing that many people reading this blog will have a hard time remembering what life was like before ED, or not liking the life you were leading before ED. Instead, draw upon what you see your recovery and your life looking like. Solicit information from friends and family for all of your different light colors- I know I'm not always the best at recognizing when trouble is brewing.
Here is my Green Light list:
flexible about meals (quantities, portions, etc)
minimal anxiety eating at restaurants
in regular contact with friends and family
exercise no more than X days per week (I don't want to trigger anyone, so I edited the number)
not spending hours doing grocery shopping
not letting body dysmorphia unduly influence clothes choice
able to eat without knowing precise calorie counts
no body checking
experimenting in the kitchen
engaged in reading, other activities
minimal ED thoughts, no strong urges to engage in behaviors
tracking my food intake via my meal plan (NOT counting calories, fat grams, fiber, sugar, etc)
normalized consumption of sweets
I realize that there are many green light signs that are simply the absence of ED stuff, which I'm aware isn't optimal. However, often with recovery I notice that the dwindling of ED symptoms are often the most noticeable part (i.e., "I had pasta and didn't freak out one bit!") rather than noticing that I'm comfortable around food. If that makes any sense whatsoever.
Share your green light signs in the comments section!