Depression Relapse Recovery Struggles

How to cope in healthy, positive ways through recovery

Mental Health Matters

7 Strategies to Help You Recover from a Relapse

It’s a dreadful place. Relapse.

Maybe you had hoped you’d never go there. Or maybe you stay awake fearing you will. It doesn’t matter. You don’t have to stay there for long. You’ll be on your way shortly.

I prefer to use the term “set back” when I get sucked back into the Black Hole – bam! – stuck inside a brain that covets relief, any form of relief, and will do just about anything to get it. Because it’s certainly not the end of recovery. From depression or any addiction. A relapse merely gives you a new starting place.

Since I’ve been struggling with this recently in my own life, I’ve laid out seven strategies to get unstuck … to recover from a relapse.

Listen to the right people.

If you’re like me, you’re convinced that you are lazy, ugly, stupid, weak, pathetic, and self-absorbed when you are depressed or have given into an addiction. Unconsciously, you seek people, places, and things that will confirm those opinions. So, for example, when my self-esteem has plummeted to below-seawater status, I can’t stop thinking about the relative who asked me, after I had just returned from the psych ward and was doing everything I possibly could to recover from depression: “Do you WANT to feel better?” Indicating that I was somehow willing myself to stay sick in order to get attention or maybe because fantasizing about death is so much fun. I can’t get her and that question out of my mind when I’m pedaling backward. SO I draw a picture of her, with her question inside a bubble. Then I draw me with a bubble that says “HELL YES, DIMWIT!” Then I get out my self-esteem file and read a few of the affirmations of why I’m not lazy, ugly, stupid, weak, pathetic, and self-absorbed.

2. Make time to cry.

I’ve listed the healing faculties of tears in my piece “7 Good Reasons to Cry Your Eyes Out.” Your body essentially purges toxins when you weep. It’s as if all your emotions are bubbling to the surface, and when you cry, you release them, which is why it is so cathartic. Lately, I’ve been allowing myself 10 to 15 minutes in the morning to have a good cry, to say whatever I want without cognitive adjustments, to let it all out, and not to judge it.

3. Ditch the self-help.

As I wrote in my piece “Use Caution with Positive Thinking,” cognitive-behavioral adjustments can be extremely helpful for persons struggling with mild to moderate depression, or struggling with an addition that isn’t destroying them. With severe depression or a crippling addiction, though, positive thinking can sometimes make matters worse. I was so relieved the other day when my psychiatrist told me to put the self-help books away. Because I do think they were contributing to my self-battery.

Right now, when I start to think “I can’t take it anymore,” I try not to fret. I don’t worry about how I can adjust those thoughts. I simply consider the thoughts as symptoms of my bipolar disorder, and say to myself, “It’s okay. You won’t feel that way when you’re better. The thoughts are like a drop in insulin to a diabetic … a symptom of your illness, and a sign you need to be especially gentle with yourself.”

4. Distract yourself.

Instead of sitting down with some self-help books, you would be better off doing whatever you can to distract yourself. I remember this from my former therapist who told me, during the months of my severe breakdown, to do mindless things … like word puzzles and reading trashy novels. Recently, I’ve been going to Navy football games, which does take my mind off of my thoughts for a few hours on Saturdays. Not that I understand football … but there is a lot to watch besides the cheerleaders. Like my children trying to score all kinds of junk food.

5. Look for signs of hope.

The little, unexpected signs of hope kept me alive during my mega-breakdown, and they are the gas for my sorry-performing engine during a fragile time like this. Yesterday, a saw a rose bloom on our rose bush out front. In October! Since roses symbolize healing for me, I took it as a sign of hope … that I won’t plummet too far … there are things in this life that I’m meant to do.

6. Say yes anyway.

In her book Solace: Finding Your Way Through Grief and Learning to Live Again, author Roberta Temes suggests a policy whereby you always say yes to an invitation out. That keeps you from isolating, which is so easy to do when you’re grieving or stuck in a depression or off the wagon in a big way. I’ve been following this piece of advice. When a friend asks me to have coffee (and I really hope she doesn’t!), I have to say yes. It’s non-negotiable. Until I feel better and get back my brain.

7. Break your day into moments.

Most depressives and addicts would agree that “a day at a time” simply doesn’t cut it. That’s WAY too long. Especially first thing in the morning. I have to get to bedtime? Are you kidding me? So when rear-ended in the depression tunnel or fighting one of my many addictions, I break the day into about 850 moments. Each minute has a few moments. Right now it’s 11:00. I only have to worry about what I’m doing now, until, say 11:02.

For all 12 strategies on how to recover from a relapse, click here!

Understanding Mental Health Disorders

Holding back success

Not fulfilling your capabilities and life’s dreams. is one of the biggest reasons for finding yourself unhappy and empty feeling. It can also be the root cause of some anxieties and depressions. Whether it is emotionally or professionally, when you know you are not living up to your potential it can actually cause your brain a great deal of distress.

If your brain is craving more stimulation than what you are giving it it will look for things to focus on. This is not always in your best interest as what it grabs onto may be unpleasant worries, an intense focus on fearful things or ruminating on unfortunate past events. It may sound weird but either you control your brain or its going to control you. You have to make the conscious effort to give it a focus, goals, challenges, rests when necessary and proper fuel. Good brains need proper care or they get a little sideways, causing you needless emotional problems.

Having a lower level job than you are capable of, tolerating toxic or abusive relationships or allowing others to make important decisions for you are all examples of not living up to your potential. There are few individuals who are OK with that over time and whose brains don’t rebel on them at some point, usually by developing some form of anxiety or depression.

You may not trust your own abilities and strengths, and instead find yourself trudging through life with no direction that fits your personality. You may be experiencing. poor self-esteem and a lack of purpose. You may be unsure of your capabilities, and may resist trying to achieve due to a fear of failure. You may have experienced some type of failure in the past and see any future attempts as futile. The belief that you will continue to experience a never-ending pattern of defeat may dominate your mind and may be reflected in your choice of schools, careers, friends and partners.

You may find yourself looking in the mirror and labeling yourself in a negative fashion. What a way to start the day! Your insecurities may keep you limited to experiences where you feel comfortable or in control. You may have a very fragile ego that has been splintered by negative interactions with a dysfunctional family or others. You may have been told that you are stupid or incapable and therefore do not believe in your abilities. It is likely that only you see yourself through this lens, your abilities to thrive are probably very clear to others.

You may be so fearful of the world around you that you don’t even try to do anything other than what is required to get through the day. Or, you may be so depressed you don’t even feel like trying. Attention problems may be present and keep you unfocused. You may lack persistence. There are a myriad of reasons why you may be getting in your own way. as any or all of these difficulties can stand in the way of your emotional and professional success.

On the flip side, sometimes a deeply psychological issue is not the problem at all. Not understanding the value of setting goals that move you toward a brighter future, just living day-to-day and not making plans or setting a path will also interfere with your success. You may simply not be aware of the success toolset that others use and that achieving goals no matter what they are feels good. If your parents were not able to teach you this you may just not have learned it yet. Everyone likes to feel good about him or herself and accomplishing things is a good way to achieve this feeling.

If you are not achieving at the level you would like or are experiencing vague depression or anxiety it is likely that you are engaging in some of the thought processes listed above. You may be in the middle of a life where you have a dull job or poor quality relationships. It may be time to switch things up! To help you start this process I developed a worksheet, How to Break Free from 12 Dysfunctional Thought Patterns … and a handy chart to help you track your progress.

How Would You like to reinvent your life beginning today?

Do you suffer from chronic depression or anxiety?

Are you angry much of the time?

Do you have a hard time making decisions?

Do you experience trouble when you are trying to focus?

Do you have ongoing relationship difficulties? Are you unhappy or sad more days than not?