A Responsible Relapse - Rethinking Recovery Language

November 20, 2017

The phrase “responsible relapse” has been rolling around in my head for several days now.  I have returned to work and it is incredibly surreal that I am back when just a month and a half ago, I was in the stabilization unit at Peachford Hospital. 

It’s a weird thing. 

I struggle with shame and guilt over relapsing into old symptoms.  I used to end my mental health presentations by saying that I no longer fit the criteria for an eating disorder and for Borderline Personality Disorder and so now my ego is struggling because those are things I cannot say right now. I took such pride in that.

I think it may be time now to not take so much pride in being rid of something undesirable but of handling returning symptoms in a responsible way.  I desperately want recovery to be a straight line but it isn’t.  A part of me is sad that I was hospitalized again but my therapist reminds me that this is the longest I have ever been out of the hospital as an adult and that it was the result of old traumas getting triggered.

 I realize now that putting all of my focus on not being somewhere is perhaps what led me back in the first place. It was my fear that led me to believe that I was not safe.  

I think there is some value in adding up the days but perhaps not as much value as I used to think.  I should celebrate each day instead of waiting for some special moment. When I think about the magnitude of my being able to relapse and still advocate and listen and return to my job and my house and my relationships, I am astounded.  It is easy to take it for granted until I remember how I used to be.  Sometimes relapses sneak up on us, especially when triggered by trauma.  I think we should perhaps not focus on the relapse but more on the resiliency.  

This relapse has taught me many things and I am proud of myself. I hope that I can be an example of self-care during times of pressure.  I hope I can show that shame and guilt are really useless emotions.  

There is such a thing, I think, as a responsible relapse. 

Once I realized where I was, I asked myself what did I value and I found that I valued my life, my relationships, and my job more than I thought. I also realized that to keep these things, I needed to change some others. When I am in wise mind, I choose to use this relapse as a learning experience.

Lessons I Am Learning: 

If I cannot do something, then it is not my job

Shame and guilt are useless emotions.  Anger can be useful but not for wallowing.

When working through trauma, it is tempting to wallow, but I actually need to follow positivity or else I will be dragged down.

(Those first three realizations are courtesy of the new trauma therapist.)

If I am productive in the morning then I won’t feel like staying up too late because I didn’t get enough done.

If I cook dinner in the morning, then I can relax when I get home

If having food anxiety, I can eat with my eyes closed and just focus on the experience.  Being mindful and savoring the flavors will reconnect myself with my body.  Life deserves to be appreciated.  

Protecting myself is my number one job.  Jesus may be my savior but only metaphorically. 

It is not entitlement to want to be treated with dignity and respect - that is something that all human beings deserve.  Mental health professionals are sometimes the best at gaslighting.

Being vulnerable allows for deeper connections

I need people just as much as I need boundaries

Stretching is spiritual

Waves of awful emotions really do eventually pass - the trick is to ride the wave.  The ride isn’t pretty or graceful.  (It usually involves a lot of tears - good thing I’m already in the water.)

Crying is a gift not often recognized - anyone that’s been hospitalized with me knows that I am epically gifted.

A cleaner house really does help clean the mind

Even when I stop having panic attacks, I should still bring my anxiety PRN with me 

99% of my symptoms point towards anxiety

Mindfulness, laughter, and positivity are hard things for me to grasp but are vital for my survival.

It is more important to notice what lifts me up than what brings me down.

It is possible to imagine problems resolving well

People will often give validation when I ask for it.  The result will still feel good.

Recovery is not a straight line

I am not perfect

I really love Greek yogurt.

Gay dance music is excellent for motivation and feeling good.  
How else would we survive?

2 comments on “A Responsible Relapse - Rethinking Recovery Language”

  1. This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing this powerful, intimate writing and the totally fun song.

    I have a YouTube playlist called:

    It's all tracks that put me in a good mood. And there is no "i'm happy because of you", it's all just I'm Happy just because.

    With much Love,

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