Reality Check: Chronic Mental Illness Involves Relapse

When a person is diagnosed with a mental illness, after they achieve stability, the thought and reality of relapse is frightening.

Earlier this week, I write a post Mental Illness Recovery: Will I Stay Well? Following the post, I started thinking. I asked myself that very question: Will I stay well? The answer? No, not forever. Forever would be nice. I then wondered how I could become comfortable with this.

Is that possible?

Relapse is Part of Mental Illness

Now, I understand--there are, presumably, a few exceptions. But stress the word few, and enlighten us if you are one of these people. You must know something we do not not--The Secret?

Once a person is diagnosed with a mental illness they are treated for it. The road to recovery is long, it is never easy, but we rejoice once we find it.

And then, after relishing in new found stability, we ask ourselves: "Will I relapse?" We probably ask our psychiatrist, and he or she will probably tell us not to think about it, but to focus on getting and staying well! Yay! That's great advice, it really is, but learning to live with a mental illness is challenging.

Accepting the probability of relapse can seem impossible. But it isn't.

Accepting That Relapse is Part of Mental Illness

Is probably less difficult than having lived with untreated mental illness. Presumably, your mind is working quite a bit better and you, we, can try to figure the whole thing out now.

It takes time to accept the diagnosis of mental illness. I struggle with this every single day--though it no longer defines my life-- and I believe coming to terms with the probability of relapse is part of this.

When I think of relapse, I no longer think of my life before I was diagnosed: The highs and the painful lows of bipolar disorder. Because that was then and this is now. And now is sort of nice.

Once diagnosed, you learn about your illness. You, and your support group, can recognize symptoms of relapse before life becomes unmanageable. If you're feeling more tired than usual, check in with your psychiatrist, you can often avoid relapse entirely.

Practice self-care. Reach out to people. Write down your feelings, yes, your feelings. I know I know...we talk about our feeling enough, but still, pull out the damn pen! All the little things we can do to make our lives more manageable--do these things--even if your scowling whilst you do them!

The reality? Chronic mental illness often involves relapse. Learning to understand your illness, yourself, allows life to brighten up a bit. And to stay bright.

APA Reference
Jeanne, N. (2012, May 17). Reality Check: Chronic Mental Illness Involves Relapse, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 22 from

Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne

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