Mental Health: Relapse

So, relapse. What should I say about it? I mean, the term itself is pretty straightforward. It’s a relapse of an individuals mental illness. I guess I could describe the experience. I don’t think I’ve ever really read someone describing the relapse experience before. Yeah, I guess I can do that.

So.

Relapse!

So.

Relapse!

Quite recently, I had a relapse. Well, it was not a full-blown depression, since I caught it early. Wait, I know what you are thinking. How can a person ‘catch’ depression early?

Think of depression as being in water, and ‘not having it’ as being out of water. A relapse would be that very first second you are fully submerged in it. Your body would react to that very first second, going, “Oh, this water is cold!” or something similar.

But once you’re in the water for a period of time, you stop thinking about it too much and just start swimming. You start putting the active act of thinking of the water to the back of your mind and just swim. That’s what’s it like to be in depression and why it is hard for a persona having it to detect, because it becomes natural. A ‘daily routine’ if you will.

Suicide would be likened to drowning. Sure, you could save yourself, but in a situation like that, it’s much easier for someone outside the pool to jump in and pull you out, provided they can see you struggling underneath the surface. Medications are like floatation devices. They stop you from drowning, but don’t actually get you out of the water.

So, back to relapses. When you first hit the water, you have just a few seconds to adjust. If, of course, you realize the water is too cold or hot before your body temperature equalize, you could climb out. But once everything settles, you won’t feel the difference any more.

From personal experience, there’s only a couple of days to catch the change in your personality from ‘normal’ to ‘depressed’. Once that period passes, depression becomes a ‘daily routine’. My recent relapse found me in luck. I caught the change quickly, and I managed to get in contact with a friend with experience in mental health issues and talked things out.

The initial relapse period, I think, is the best time to catch depression. You’re clear-headed enough to realize the difference, and am not depressed enough to reject help. You can pre-empt it with coping mechanisms, therapies, and execute short bursts of activities to help release endorphins that you might not otherwise have time to do over long periods of time.

Relapses gives one of the most complex mindset during the whole bipolar phase. Mania is straight forward crazy high, while depression is simply suicidal low. But during depression relapses, you have your days punctuated randomly with incredible feelings of sadness. It’s as if I’m walking on the streets and a random guy, out of nowhere, punches me in the nut and ran away, only to come back when I least expected it and punch me again.

When relapsing into mania, instead of sadness, you get these bursts of energy and idea, but not enough to get anything going. And when the burst subside, you get the feeling of being useless and not having achieved anything in life. The whole process is almost similar to cyclothymia, but much, much more frequent, within the span of hours instead of days or months.

These bouts don’t last long, and to catch them requires you to be knowledgeable, experienced, and clear thinking enough on the moment to catch the symptoms. Truthfully, I doubt catching during relapse is something someone can do without first having experienced full-blown mania or depression first to get ‘used’ to the feeling.

(Note: For more links on resources, blogs, or articles about mental health and services, visit the Links and Resources page.)

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5 Comments

  1. I really liked the water analogy – it serves so well and could apply to many other mental illnesses. I have some very close friends who suffer from depression and anxiety and the analogy fits really well. I myself have never suffered from a mental disorder (that I know of) but I am passionate about mental health issues. I find so often people are ignorant of them and just think somebody who says they have depression just ‘can’t be bothered’. The next time somebody asks me I might use your water analogy to help them understand! Also very glad to hear you managed to catch it in time. Depression can be severely crippling.

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    1. Like a lot of things, the issue is just a matter of learning and understanding. I’m glad you found this post a good read. The water metaphor is how the experience feels like to me, and I’ve known many other who can relate, so I think it would be one of the best analogy to use when describing the experience to someone who has little knowledge in the matter.

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