Relapse is both a fear and a loitering thought in the minds of many recovering from any illness or disease. I know for me personally, I always feared relapse of my bipolar disorder and my self-injury. The longer I went doing well; the fear joined the loitering thought of relapse in the back of my mind. Looking at why fear was associated with the possibility of relapse, I came to realize it was a result of an array of feelings which I hate to even think about, yet plague me on a daily basis. These feelings are guilt, shame, anger, sadness, failure, disappointment, hopeless, loss of control, imperfection, and self-hatred. I was taught relapse means I wasn’t strong enough, that I didn’t try hard enough, that I gave up, and that I let people down because they have to prepare for long term care arrangements. Being in my mid 20’s when hearing all of this, it is the last part which scared me the most. In my mind, it translates to failure because as an adult I can’t take care of myself. Well, I have been through many relapses since my first hospital treatment and diagnosis of bipolar disorder at age 18 in 2003. Some relapses were minor and some not so much. However, it wasn’t until this most recent relapse which I realized I can chose how I view my relapse and what path it takes while I am actively in it.
It’s no secret that I am not on any medication. My doctor winged me off of them almost a year ago. I did really well for the first 8 months. I tried my hardest to take care of myself (physically and mentally). However, looking back, my emotional health was impacted greatly. When I started working full-time, everything escalated. Escalation then turned into a secret full-blown relapse in terms of what happened which led me to my first episode and hospitalization what is now 10 years ago. This relapse was different though. It was as if the medication closed Pandora’s Box. Now, with no medication, the box is open and there is 10 more years of experiences and silence to add. It is in essence a tornado & volcano erupting at the same time.
Every which way I could self-destruct I did. Self-injury of massive proportions, smoking, drinking, binging & purging, sleeping in my car in freezing weather, eating foods I have severe allergies to, driving recklessly, and suicidal ideation. I was doing all of this to cope with life. This time I didn’t want anyone to know, so I held it as a secret for as long as I could. However, a select few people know. To be honest, I scare myself when I relapse. I never know how far I am capable of going if I am in a dissociative state. That is where having even just one close friend or someone you can talk to who will tell you like it is when you can’t see it or in my case so separated from myself most of the time. They say they love you and you know it is true. But, they will call you out because of that love and they know you can’t do it alone at this time.
This brings me to having power over the path in which our relapse takes. It can ultimately either destroy us if we let it or we can fight back to the best of our ability each and every day with the hope, faith, and/or desire to leave relapse in the dust.
What have I personally chosen?
Honestly, I felt powerless over my relapse until today. I always thought it would destroy me. This time I accepted defeat early with having the added diagnoses of borderline personality disorder, dissociative disorder, and severe anxiety on top of the bipolar disorder. So, in essence I was waiting for the end. But, through the help of the voice calling me out and saying “I love you” over and over again, I began to fight back by getting a therapist a few weeks ago with whom I openly talk to and am comfortable with. A.A meetings, other support group meetings, meeting with friends, new people, reading, writing, calling, and taking baby steps are all me fighting back against my relapse. It can destroy me if I let it, but instead every time it tries, I am now screaming in its face “YOU BETTER PREPARE FOR A FIGHT BECAUSE I AM GONNA KICK YOU TO ANOTHER GALAXY!”
Remember, it’s never too late to fight back.