Planning Ahead For Relapse When You Live With a Mental Illness

January 10, 2013 Natalie Jeanne Champagne

Mental Illness and relapse go hand in hand. Sort of like addiction and relapse. The statistics for both are rather dire: relapse, at some point in our recovery, often occurs. Having said that, there are some damn lucky folks who become stabilized and never become unstable again. I hope they recognize how lucky--how blessed--they are.

But in this post we are not talking about those who live a life of sustained recovery. We are focusing on those of us who falter from time to time--falter and pick ourselves back up. The majority of us.

"I'm Finally Stable. I Don't Want to Think About Relapse!"

When you live with a chronic mental illness planning for relapse is important.Neither do I. It's one of the last things I want to think about--like the reality that my best bud, my 130 lb dog, will not be around forever. Or my parents for that matter. Morbidity aside, when we are feeling our best it's the best time to prepare for the worst. A few reasons (I like lists! They make complicated things make more sense) why:

  • Trying to make a plan for recovery when we have become sick is a million times harder than making it clear-headed.
  • If we make a plan when we are well we won't feel as much guilt if our family and friends need to step in on our behalf.
  • Making a plan does not take long! An appointment with your mental health care team, sitting down and taking some notes and talking to family and friends. If you are comfortable speaking to your employer is important as well.
  • Having a plan for possible relapse is sort of like having a 'safety net'. Just in case we fall, we have a place we can land--a place that feels less like concrete.

That's just a few examples. Take a minute to think about what might work for you. We are all different and our lives--the impact our illness may have on them--is different as well.

What is a Plan For Mental Illness Relapse?

I don't like to think of a plan for relapse as a guarantee I will relapse. Often, mental illness becomes more stable as we age, as we grow into it and learn more about ourselves in relation to it. But having a plan is still important. Let's look at what a plan might involve:

  • Literally, a document created by you, your mental health care team and those who support you in your recovery.
  • This should include recognizing the symptoms of relapse.
  • Once recognizing them, outlining steps to stop them from progressing.
  • Possible medication alterations that could be made.
  • If you can put your pride aside, a signed letter giving consent to your psychiatrist to hospitalize you if you become suicidal. This is tough, I know, but it can save your life.

Again, we all have different steps we can take, methods we can employ and people we can trust to make an effective plan for relapse. In my humble opinion, it's part of self-care and just having it in place can stop a relapse before it takes over our lives.

APA Reference
Jeanne, N. (2013, January 10). Planning Ahead For Relapse When You Live With a Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 14 from

Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne

January, 17 2013 at 5:56 pm

I agree, that most people do have relapses or days of depression.

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