Hello, my lovelies! Thank you for being here because I have a super important, super exciting announcement to make. I am nominated for Blogger Of The Year at the MH Blog Awards this year! But there is a catch, I need your help! From now until June 4, you can go to the MH Blog Awards website and vote for Amber @ The Winter Of My Discontent for Blogger Of The Year!
It’s a true honor to be nominated with some of the best MH content creators on the web and I can’t wait to find out the results. As always, thank you so much to all of you who do and have supported me. You all mean the world to me and you just keep pushing me to be better and to keep fighting the good fight. It means everything, truly and I hope that I have earned your vote over these months.
Hello, my friends! I come to you today in a reflective mood; a mood I’ve been in for several days now. You see, I had therapy with Dr. W on Thursday. As some of you might remember, Dr. W is my “main” therapist, in charge of overseeing my overall recovery progress. At our last visit, she informed me that she would see me one more time before I went back to work and then she’s going to release me.
I’m graduating from therapy, y’all!
Of course, I’ll still be seeing Elizabeth for EMDR and Dr. R for ADHD and grief, but even those appointments will start to slow down eventually. It has me reflecting on the last 6 months and all the work I’ve done. For the first time in a long time, I’m starting to feel good. I’m in control of most of my disorders and I’m really content. Despite all of this, it still feels like there is so much work left to do. Three years ago, Dr. W told me that her goal for me was to get me to a point where I didn’t need her anymore. Now, here we are.
That said, I can’t look back on this time, all that I’ve learned, and how much I’ve grown without thinking about what happens when things aren’t so good. Mental health recovery and mental health relapse go hand in hand. It will happen again; I will get sick again. It’s a part of my path that I’ve accepted and now I’m working on arming myself with the right tools when the time comes.
Mental Health Relapse
Let’s talk about mental health relapse. Mental health recovery isn’t like other types of recovery. The illness is happening inside your brain and you can’t always stop it. It isn’t as clear-cut as abstaining from your drug of choice; there is no clear-cut recovery date. And it almost always comes back. Relapse is a given with mental health recovery.
So, my illnesses are in remission right now. This means I don’t have enough symptoms to reach a diagnosis threshold. What happens when I start seeing symptoms again after a period of remission? It is common to have challenging times or setbacks when your symptoms worsen. There can be many reasons why this happens and everyone’s triggers are different. Some may include:
- Not being med compliant
- Drug or alcohol use
- Conflicts in your relationships
- The death of a loved one
- Any major life changes
Warning signs of relapse are different for everyone and it is important to learn your own. I honestly am not sure of my own right now. The last time I had an episode, I wasn’t looking for the signs so I didn’t see them. Some early signs to be aware of are:
- Sleep issues – sleeping too much or too little
- Stopping medications or not taking them as prescribed
- Feeling tense/nervous/on edge
- Social isolation
- Not going to work
- Not attending to personal hygiene
- Increased risk taking
- Overwhelming feels of sadness
- Loss of interest in your hobbies
These are not exhaustive lists and by no means represent the full experience of all people. I have different disorders, so relapse for me could look a lot of different ways. It can include depression, anxiety, apathy, or intrusive thoughts.
Having A Backup Plan
So. I know that relapse is inevitable. What do I do? First and foremost, I take care of myself. The best way to keep your brain healthy is be healthy. This means getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, and eating regular meals. You need to avoid old habits and build a strong support system; people you can really depend on when the proverbial shit hits the fan. But, most importantly, have a backup plan.
Watch For Early Warning Signs
As I said before, the signs will be unique to each person, but some universal symptoms if relapse can be seen in most people and it’s important that you know yours. Catching it early can be the first step in righting yourself. When I became ill at the end of last year, I caught it quickly. It became really severe, really fast, but I was able to get treatment after about week and get my feet back on solid ground.
It’s important to be honest with yourself about relapse when it happens. Acceptance is important in getting the help you need and getting better as soon as possible. Mental health relapse is not a failure. A setback, maybe, but a failure never. You can and will get back on the horse. Be patient with and kind to yourself.
Have A Good Social Support System
This is really important when you relapse. You need people that you love, respect, and trust and who will be there for you when you fall. Cultivate your support system so that you are surrounded by supportive, empathetic people. In order to do this, I think you have to be honest; always be your authentic self. Your people will stick around. The others…they just weren’t your people.
I’ve been working on my support system, as of late. It took some big hits over the last few years and a lot of my friends and family have moved way to different states. But I’ve been utilizing the internet during these pandemic times and I’ve got some beautiful friendships with some amazing people. I’ve even reached out to some people that live in my area to get together when things get back to normal.
I won’t lie…I’ve been sticking with people who either have ADHD and mental illnesses or who know about them and are accepting and empathetic. I honestly don’t have time for relationships in which one person refuses to even try to understand the other. I won’t be in friendships were my illnesses are downplayed or I am made to feel that I should “push through them” for the sake of others. I’m done with fair-weather friends.
Discuss The Episode
Tell someone what is happening. Acknowledge it, speak it out loud, just don’t try to get through it alone. This is where your support system will come in. You need to make sure that you discuss it only with people that you trust and who understand your situation.
I have a very trusted friend and every time that I have something that even resembles an intrusive thought, I send her a message and say, “Hey, don’t worry about me, but I just feel better if someone knows that this is happening. I’ll keep you posted.” Most of the time, I’m fine and my mind straightens up…just a flash in the pan. But an oncoming relapse is never far from my mind. It’s important to normalize speaking up when you are struggling.
Learn About Your Condition
This cannot be understated….learn about your condition. Read everything you can get your hands on. Talk to people who have similar experiences to your own. Search the internet, read medical studies, and participate in webinars. Learn everything that you can. It will help you identify what is happening and it will make it easier to get the help and support that you need.
The last time that my mental health took a turn, I was able to get help quickly. In the time before I called the doctor, about a week, I felt more in control than I ever had because I knew what was happening. I could identify intrusive thoughts, at least, and I understood that the obsessive thinking was making my anxiety and depression worse. I don’t want to downplay the experience, I was scared and distressed. The thoughts that I was having were cruel and persistent. But knowing what was happening really changed the game.
I’ve also said before and it bears repeating, learning about my condition made me love myself more. It helped me to forgive myself and be kinder to myself. I am more patient and I feel more comfortable in my own skin. It changed everything for me and I will be forever grateful that I was able to gain the knowledge I have, however late.
Seek Outside Help When Needed
Knowing when to seek outside help is so important. Often, I have waited until I was at rock bottom and on the verge of losing total control before I sought help. Those days are long gone for me now. I know now that there is no shame in reaching out. No one will cart you off in a straight jacket. Those people that don’t understand will probably never understand, but the ones that do you should hold tight to.
Reach out to your therapist, your family doctor, your best friend, your boss, a respected colleague…whomever you know and trust. Get the help you need, when you need it, and be proud of yourself for taking such a brave step.
There you have it. My backup plan for relapse. I know that it is inevitable. I know that I can’t keep my brain at bay forever, no matter how hard I try, and no matter how many pills I take. It’s a terrible burden to bear, but it is my burden and I will carry it gracefully. I will make sure my social support systems are in play, that I am taking care of myself physically, and that I reach out for help when I need it.
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Love and light. Keep fighting the good fight! 💜💜