Relapsing: Surrendering Privileges

Relapsing: Surrendering Privileges

The best part of recovery is gaining access to new responsibilities, materials, information; and all the good things that come with stable living. Given that relapse is an inevitable part of recovery, I plan to explore the loss of material, access, and resources attributed to relapsing and mental status degradation. There are many possible ‘loses’ associated with mental status freefall. We will explore the financial and material issues as well as issues rooted in access to resources or information.

Through an evaluation of my own relapses. I have disovered that the biggest loser in a persons life who is relapsing is hygiene. When I say hygiene, I mean a the ability to clean up after oneself, keep clean and general sanitary coniditons in or around your living space. I also mean odor, grooming, and self-care. I have found just about every aspect of hygiene becomes impacted by mental status free fall, or even a slow relapse. In the end, and even over time, hygine can be impacted. Even if it is not the direct result of activating symptoms, hygine can be impacted on a secondary level. Homelessness from mental health relapse can easily disrupt someone’s hygiene and capacity to keep clean. Hygiene is a great indicator of a shift in mental status.

Someimes poor hygine is the result of neglecting to clean or not being aware of dirt disorganization in the home or it may go even deeper. Many people who relapse stop working and can’t pay their rent. Many carrying diagnoses lose their homes during relapse from symptoms. Sadly I have witnessed police storming doorways with shields to access a home fortified for the “end” to avoid being evicted. Barricading yourself in the home or something even worse is never the answer. It may even further your risk of relapsing more acutely if you go against police orders or personnel it will only exaggerate your problems and complicate your relapse even more deeply.

Transportation is usually another likely candidate to suffer during relapse. Not having money for gas or tickets makes maintaining a vehicle very complex during relapse. I can say first hand during my relapses I find myself taking public transportation. I have lost vehicles during relapse just to be located years later. Remember to get you know how to get around town in the event you aren’t driving and are dependent on public transportation. It may be your only method of navigating through the darker moments of your relapse.

Many folks lose access to information. The internetr, and paying cell phone bills and connectivity costs money and depends largely on regular income. All of these non material ports to the world through data streaming and wifi are the gateways to important information. Without vital information, intermittent loss of this ports can make recovery impossible or very diffiuclt to attain.

My recommendations on how to avoid to limit the damange of relapse:

  • Get a library card and get to know your free wi fi hot spots in the event you lose internet.
  • Purchase a phone card or obtain a way to make telephone calls if you dont have acesss to your cell phone (to contact doctors and therapists you need access to a phone)
  • Get to know where local soup kitches are and food pantrys.
  • Have all contact information for freinds/family/providers and vital information written down on paper.
  • Familiarize yourself with bus routes, to and from major hospital networks and providers associated with your ongoing treatment.

Do you live in a group home or apartment treatment facility ? If so, relapse usually brings with it more concrete freedoms that may be stripped away. Sometimes relapsing means changes in curfew or even may trigger reduced independence in the community when the doors to your residence are usually open for residents to come and go freely. Relapse can mean many things. The addition of new medication or a change in dosage. Loss can also mean losing housing or moving into a residence with more supervision and more restrictions placed on your freedoms. In any event, be mindful of what the loses really mean for the bigger picture. Ultimately, your pathway back to health and wellness.

Loss can also mean losing contact with friends. Sure, noone likes a ‘fair weather friend’ only around during good times. But, generally, as people become increasingly symptomatic it becomes more diffiuclt to connect with other people in our life in a meaningful way. Think about your most manic, or depressed times in your life. Were you actively making and keeping friends and building a network contacts? Probaly not. You were most likely actively trying to surive in the world on your own given the tall stack of challenges ahead.

The worst privilege to lose during relapse is the freedom to live healthily to the fullest. With healthy living comes with it life circumstances which support wellness and mental hygiene. There is no question that when we lose healthy living practices we lose the freedom to be good to our bodies and minds and treat ourselves kindly and with respect at all times. Relapsing means surrendering some of these healthy moments for symptomatic periods of distress in which it is more difficult to life peaceably with the world at large and adjust to our situations accordingly.


J. Peters

J. Peters

Max Guttman '08, MSW '12, is the owner of Recovery Now, a private mental health practice. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, therapist and disability rights advocate, Max fights for those without a voice in various New York City care systems. He received a 2020 Bearcats of the Last Decade 10 Under 10 award from the Binghamton University Alumni Association. Guttman treats clients with anxiety and depression, but specializes in issues related to psychosis or schizoaffective spectrum disorders. He frequently writes on his lived experiences with schizophrenia. "I knew my illness was so complex that I’d need a professional understanding of its treatment to gain any real momentum in recovery," Guttman says. "After undergraduate school and the onset of my illness, I evaluated different graduate programs that could serve as a career and mechanism to guide and direct my self-care. After experiencing the helping hand of my social worker and therapist right after my 'break,' I chose social work education because of its robust skill set and foundation of knowledge I needed to heal and help others." "In a world of increasing tragedy, we should help people learn from our lived experiences. My experience brings humility, authenticity and candidness to my practice. People genuinely appreciate candidness when it comes to their health and recovery. Humility provides space for mistakes and appraisal of progress. I thank my lived experience for contributing to a more egalitarian therapeutic experience for my clients."

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