Relapsing is a completely normal part of the recovery process.
Whether you experience this once or multiple times, work on letting go of the shame and fear it brings. The more it happens, the more we can become exposed to a feeling of hopelessness. Instead, show yourself compassion and forgive yourself for being unwell.
Although it is difficult to accept, the more prepared you can be by having your own coping strategies in place to overcome this, the easier it will be to move forward. We have to resource ourselves for things to change – this could be as simple as keeping a list of books, podcasts, quotes or videos you can reference when you need to.
If you are stuck in a relapse cycle then it’s because the underlying causes behind your illness have not been treated - you are still not well.
Symptoms-focused treatment alone does not lead to long term healing. Recovery is possible when mental health treatment is holistic and tailored. We look at the whole person to help our clients break past this and continue to progress.
We don’t use the word “relapse” when our clients have a bad day in clinic - we call it a bad day, that’s all it is.
Describing it as “relapsing” is completely unhelpful. We recognise that you can be doing really well and have a bad day/week/month but it doesn’t mean you’re not doing really well anymore. It means you are having a bad time – we all do occasionally so it’s okay to go ahead and release that guilt.
Tips to Help You When You Relapse
- First things first, don’t panic and let blame consume you. You may feel that you have failed and have gone backwards, letting yourself and everybody else down. You most definitely have not failed and have not let anybody down – the journey you are on is tough, but we promise it’s worth it in the end.
- Don’t let the bad day/week/month knock you off course. Instead, let it make you more determined. Find your inner strength.
- Focus on finding your way back to recovery rather than dwelling on what has happened. Reach back out for help or try one or more of the methods below.
- Remind yourself of the reasons why you want to recover. Write them down in a journal so that if you need to, you can refer to them again in the future. You may also like to create a vision board so you can picture what you are working towards.
- Use affirmations and mantras to help remind you that you most certainly are worthy and deserving of recovery.
- Be compassionate to yourself – both with your words and actions.
- Be open and honest. Admit that things aren’t going so well. It takes a strong person to admit that they are struggling but you are strong. It’s likely that the only person judging you is yourself so ignore that inner critical voice. By keeping it a secret you are allowing that unwell voice to take control again and are punishing your mind and body.
- Talk to a family member or friend who you feel close to – someone who you are comfortable with and also your therapist if you have one. There is nothing to be ashamed of, so don’t let pride or embarrassment stand in your way. With a good support network and a strong personal reason to recover, you can keep going despite what feels like a setback.
- Turn it into a learning experience. Think about the patterns you are in, the obstacles that are in your way and the triggers that you’ve got and start to change them. Ask yourself, “what can I do differently next time?” It really is an opportunity to improve your skills or develop new coping techniques which can help you recover more quickly or easily next time.
- Take care of yourself and make time to do things that you enjoy. Spend time with the people, animals and things that bring you the most joy. This will help boost your self-esteem and give you a renewed sense of energy.
- Practice mindfulness. This will help you stay in the moment. Take it day by day.
Don’t lose sight of the fact that with your inner power and resilience, you have the ability to make a full recovery.
If you are struggling and are losing belief and hope, then have people around you to help – in person or online – to encourage and support you to keep going.
Do not give up on your recovery journey, even if it feels easier to do that right now.
Each day is a new day and an opportunity to start afresh if the need arises. Take that leap of faith down a path that you cannot see the end to (yet).
You can, and will conquer this battle.
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