The word Relapse is most often used when speaking of those addicted to drugs or alcohol, but it also pertains to those with mental illness. According to Webster’s Dictionary, “Relapse” is to fall back or revert to an earlier condition.
In plain English, I would refer to it as a time when life seems to be going along and fine and all of a sudden there is a brick wall in front of you and you are not sure how to climb over it. All tools, therapy and medications you have acquired are no longer relevant. This often leads to a hospitalization in order to set things right again.
The word relapse, however, is not often used by those with mental illness, it is more seen as being well or unwell. To use the word relapse means going backward and that is the one thing that is feared the most, losing ground on stability or going back to square one. In addition, many believe that in order to relapse you would have to have been well, then become unwell again and continued the cycle. The realization is, those with mental illness believe that they have never “been well,” so there is no way to relapse.
If all this seems confusing, think of it this way. Mental illness is something we are born with, it is not brought on by anything we have done, so while there may be a relapse, so to speak in treatment or how one is feeling – is really a matter of how well we are feeling at a particular time.
The most important thing is to be aware of the signs and know when we are becoming “unwell” again. Be aware of changes in thought, feelings and behavior. What I have found is tracking my moods and medication daily. I have two apps on my phone that help with this and I receive reminders several times a day that ask me how I am doing and if I have taken my medication.
First is “MedCoach,” this keeps track of my medication when it needs to be taken, my doctors information, refill information, etc. Second is “My Mood,” this app keeps track of my sleep pattern, mood, stress, energy and a number of other things that can affect how I feel and relate to my illness. (These are both Apple apps, I do not know if they are available on Android) It is vital for me to do this every day, sometimes I wonder if it does any good, but when I do find myself falling back I am able to see where it may have happened, how I was feeling and what was going on at that particular time.
No matter what it is called, the important thing is to stay aware of your actions, feelings and most of all be vocal to those around you that care about you and your doctors so as to avoid a major setback.