When people carry a mental health diagnosis there is an almost constant fear of relapsing. Whether from a long-standing chronic condition or new diagnosis, the fear of symptoms re-activating or worsening, is a real problem for people who suffer from mental illness.
Some common questions are:
Will I always feel like this?.
What if my symptoms return?
When will I be recovered?
First, let’s dispel a myth. People are in control of their health and healing. People are not a the disposal of their illnesses. Keep in mind you have complete control over your mental health and do not need to live in the fear of a lifetime of arbitrary and unexplainable turns in your daily health.
Despite what some people believe, mental health can be managed and maintained with some rhythm and predictability over the long term. There are contributing factors impacting our feelings and what we think, but these are just markers.
I believe in self-determination. For people to maintain their mental health, recognizing new symptoms when they activate and working on eliminating the impact of extraneous factors contributing to limited or poor mental health is truly a great place to start self-managing. Additionally, self-determination is the mobility needed to work on ourselves. With enough self-awareness, people will soon realize their strengths, as well as limitations, come from within.
Sure, some people are put in impossible situations. Some are born into poverty, victimized, abused, and maltreated. Still, even in these circumstances, some rediscover resilience and make it, despite the seemingly disparate nature of their problems.
A Lifespan of illness: Chronicity
People fear relapsing. People, regardless of the success often lose sight of the bigger picture. For people in recovery, the road ahead can seem long. Seem long, and belong if your illness is chronic and likely long-term. For young and even middle-aged people a lifetime ahead can seem like a lot of work or too much effort to sustain long-term across the life span.
Maintaining good health will only make a living more manageable and tolerable in the long term. Creating and allowing for more solutions during difficult situations and making everything more manageable, aside from remembering this reasonable explanation for why people lose sight of their recovery plan.
Recovery plans, self-care, and being authentic with our health
Remember, rationalizing or discontinuing behaviors promoting healthier decision-making is a step back from acceptable self-management practices. Instead, consistently engage in everyday routines and self-care measures during the tenure of their illness. Due to several reasons. Sometimes people deem themselves as cured. People often encounter a seemingly impossible situation created by their negative behaviors as a result of playing out symptoms of a disorder.
Whatever the reason, there are many, almost infinite self-rationalizations people can manifest to discontinue critical self-care practices. Negative self-messages people create usually become cognitive distortions, seemingly real and authentic, but at the root of it, are untruths and outright lies your minds manifest.
Distortions are maladaptive, unhelpful, and sometimes frightening, and if we follow these negative thoughts to their horrific conclusion, they are disturbing to most of us from experiencing them. Self CBT, disputing and challenging these rationalizations every day, and when they first occur, will go a long way in sustaining your positive behaviors and persisting towards your goals for yourselves and good mental health.
Ultimately, when people are left to their devices, they set limits and create better solutions. Life can sometimes seem like we are on a ride or just passengers in our lives. Driving your health forward at a rate and speed and course of your choice is the safest bet. I recommend allying with your therapist, treatment team, and close peers with a vested interest in your mental health, establishing a deep trust with those who have close personal contact with you every day.
In doing so, collaterals may detect an extreme and toxic abnormality in your health. Feel safe to take stock in their advice and concern very seriously. Sure, no clinician or friend can get a perfect read on our health. But for those of you without a great deal of self-awareness or drive to look after yourself, there are still options and strategies to stay healthy without relying entirely on your own devices. Indeed, not everyone cares enough about their health to self-monitor all the time.
In other cases, the priority of the day will capture our attention, e.g., paying the rent, housing, and employment. Disruptions to our mental health and even put our lives in jeopardy regardless of diagnosis. Regardless, taking your health and the quality of your mental status into your own hands is the best way to maintain good mental health and reduce the likelihood of relapse.
Staying connected with collateral contacts to delegate health needs is a great plan “B”. When your self-care takes a back seat to the priorities of life, working towards good mental health might mean leaning on a friend or family member for help. A second more short-term plan can always be handing out responsibilities or delegating.
Upon feeling too overwhelmed to get chores and other ADLs done, ask family, friends, and those you trust to help. For some of us, our disorder disrupts our capacity to stay connected to reality. Disruptions can take the form of elaborate delusions, which complicate our interpretive eye to know what is truly happening with our health.
In the end, manage your own mental health and be independent. Have a plan, and have another goal when the original road map to better health becomes unworkable. Ultimately, whether you have a chronic condition or an acute diagnosis, relapse is only to be feared when you aren’t doing what you need to do to work towards better health and healing.
Relapse is real. Relapse is awful. But it isn’t the end of the world. Relapsing and experiencing the renewal of old symptoms can still remind you to get back on track with your recovery. Keep going! Don’t stop! When you stop taking care of yourself, be prepared for your worst fears not just to haunt you but become the grim reality you feared so vehemently instead of investing the same mental energy in health and healing.