You might have read in my blog recently that last week was a rough one for me. I got massively triggered by a friend, and this lead to an avalanche of ancient thoughts racing at top speed down the massive neural canyons in my mind. And some familiar bedfellows, anxiety and depression, were punching me in my stomach and chest as I tried in vain to sleep, too. Blergh!
If I were really in recovery, shouldn’t I know better by now? How can things be improving if this relapse was so intense? Shouldn’t the intensity have lessened by now? I feel like I’m right back where I started, so what’s the point? Sound familiar? But wait. Hold your Negative Nancy horses, and take a reality check. As you gain more recovery from mental illness, it’s important to remember these three things when pushing past the hangover of an intense (or not so intense) relapse.
1. You’re entitled to have bad days. We all are. Only human, right? The more you focus on how shitty the relapse was, the more you enforce the thought process that surrounds the relapse. Recovery is about breaking that cycle, not reinforcing it. I hate to sound like Tony Robbins, but negativity breeds negativity. Step back from your mind’s unfair or distorted evaluation of the relapse and recognise that you’re a human being in recovery. This takes skill, courage, and grit. And because you’re in recovery, you already possess these qualities.
Tip: Treat yourself as a though you were a child. Talk sweet, self-soothing nothings while rubbing your stomach, or get some ice-cream and watch your favourite TV show in your jim-jams. Why? Because a relapse is distressing, and now you’re de-stressing.
- Look how far you’ve come! And with that sweet self-talk to your inner child, it’s great to remind yourself just how far you’ve actually come. Did the thing that triggered your relapse this time happen last year too? Was the relapse as bad then as it was this time? Perspective is a fantastic cognitive tool in your mental toolbox.Tip: If you’re struggling to get some perspective on just how far you’ve come, write a list of all your achievements in the last 3, 6, or 12 months. And ask yourself, could you have done these things without such fantastic recovery? Share it with a trusted friend or family member, and you’ll probably find that they’ve got their own positive observations to add to the list!
- Resume Without Fuss. A friend said this to me recently, and I liked it. Resume without fuss. Just get on with it. Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. Learning to think new thoughts and act in self-nurturing ways is tough when you don’t have a history of doing it. So start to do the things that look like good recovery, even when you feel like a freshly laid turd spread generously under a newly purchased pair of sneakers. You know, fake it till you make it? Resume without fuss, and stop feeding the negative story. Tip: Meditate. If you’re like me, your negative thoughts won’t just go away because you told them to in a very serious and irritated voice. Meditation is a great way to watch your thoughts, rather than cling to them for dear life.