Monday 1 May 2017

The Fear of Relapse

Erin writes about the reality of relapses, and how they can actually be used to change your outlook on life.
- Erin Cadden

Relapsing, it’s a frightening one to comprehend. You don’t think it is possible at a time when things are good. After my last relapse, I didn’t think I could fall as low as I did, again.

One year ago, on May 1st, I had an episode in which I was hospitalised in a mental health facility. This was a turning point for me - a time when I knew I had to seek professional, long-term help.

I’ve struggled for the past 10 years or so with my mental health and my recovery is still ongoing. But only in the past year, after the relapse in May, have I been taking the right steps towards it. While it’s been a difficult journey, it’s also been life changing. I’ve participated in group therapy, private CBT, talking therapy, and hypnotherapy, as well as mentoring and reading self-help books, all to get to know how my brain works.

So I thought I was in a good, healthy place. I’d have my down days from time to time, but I sought comfort from friends and family in order to pull through. But this latest relapse was different.

About a week ago, feelings that haven’t surfaced for a long time came flooding back and my brain, at the time, didn’t seem strong enough to handle it. I tried to end my own life. The police were called and my mum drove over 40 minutes to my rescue. It’s upsetting, knowing that as I type this I feel remorse for that person who came so close to ending her suffering, because that was not the same Erin that is typing this today.

What’s scary about dark thoughts is that they can consume you. They can block out everything that is going on around you and can hone in on the negatives in your brain. At my time of despair, strangers surrounded me trying to help, but all I could hear were my own thoughts. I wish at that point in time, someone could have removed the dark cloud that was overshadowing me, because only then would I have been able to see the bright blue sky.

The greatest realisation from my recent relapse was that no one can help you as much as yourself. There was something inside of me that was determined not to let my self-destructive mind win. I have so much potential, ambition and determination for life. But in that split second, it could have all been lost. I’m not deceived; I know I’m still in recovery and may be for a long time. My journey has not finished yet. But I’m fighting that voice telling me to stay in bed, to ring in sick to work and to not face contact with society.

We need to realise the world is much greater than just our minds. What we’re told by our brains is just a spec in comparison to the extraordinary potential in the world. We can pull through at dark times, and while there’s no guarantee they won’t return again, each time we get stronger. Each time we learn a little more about how our brains work, and each time, recovery from painful relapses is that little bit easier. I’ve realised that ending pain and ending a life are two separate things. When the dark thoughts consume you, it might seem that ending a life is the only way to end the pain. This is not the case. There are many ways to relieve the pain of all mental illnesses. You just need to make that first step to getting help.

It’s important not to get caught up in the negative stigma surrounding mental health. I am not afraid nor embarrassed of it. No two brains are alike; people cope with and handle life in different ways, and this goes for treatment too. Some need a little more support, be that medication, mental health professionals or a simple shoulder to cry on.

Your mental health is a part of who you are. This isn’t always an easy thing to comprehend. After my relapses, I learnt that this mind, my mind, is what I’d been dealt with in life. I could either resist and live my life in pain, or accept and love myself. I am not resisting and fearing relapse. I am growing with it.

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