Last year this time I was having my third psychiatric assessment done in the basement of my school. There was a doctor, a resident and little old me. As they were delivering their verdict of my diagnosis they were giving me information on what this meant for my future. The resident told me that when you have 3 or more depressive episodes you have a 90% chance of having another one. To my understanding, an episode is 3 months or longer. I spent almost all of my teenage years in a depressive episode so she was telling me this so I would be cautious, and regimented in my treatment plan. She was telling me this to be helpful. It was one sentence out of hundreds that were said in those two hours. That one sentence runs through my brain several times in the course of one day, in one year I’ve thought about that one sentence hundreds and hundreds of time. If I break it down, that one sentence, one statistic really means just one word to me: relapse.
Relapse: deterioration in someone’s state of health after a temporary improvement.
Or so the dictionary tells me.
Temporary and improvement said in relation to one another.
Relapse: state of constant fear.
Is what my Chelsea dictionary tells me.
Two weeks ago when my last post went up, I slipped into a “relapse”, I like to call them depression days.
I was a zombie. Again.
I cried. Again.
I found my razor. Again.
I shut down. Again.
It was hard to get out of bed. Again.
I don’t know why. Again.
It was and is scary, living in this state of fear that the depression days will become depression weeks, depression months, and soon that one sentence will take over my one life for good.
I have spoken before about feeling feelings and embracing sadness, and jealousy, and disappointment, and the negative feelings that we so often run far away from. That’s not what I’m referring to here. I am not afraid of emotions, I am afraid of the depression.
I am afraid of the emptiness. I am afraid of the darkness. I am afraid to have the life taken out of me again. I am afraid I won’t be able to recognize myself again. I am afraid of the heaviness. I am afraid to be chained to my bed. I am afraid the tears will never stop. I am afraid of the looks people will give when they see my thighs or my wrists. I am afraid of having to explain myself to people when I can’t understand it myself. I am afraid of the hospital, and the IV, and the repeating myself over and over again. I am afraid that I will turn back into the empty shell of a person. I am afraid that maybe next time I won’t survive it. I am afraid.
Fear is a funny thing, it could be a functional emotion, it can help keep us safe, and it can have a purpose. This fear though, this fear is dysfunctional, it is not helping me live better, freer, happier, more, it’s not helping.
I was reflecting on this one sentence, this statistic, this relapse word, this concept of fear and what it all could mean, how could I turn this dysfunctional fear into something functional.
Last week I had two depression days. BUT I went to class, got my homework in on time, got out of bed, went to therapy, took my meds properly, and did the things I needed to do.
I also cut, I cried, I slept a little more than normal, I kept to myself, I shut the world out, I had a lot of Starbucks, and yes I did feel empty.
I came back to life though. It was two days. It didn’t become weeks, months, or the statistic. Not only that but I knew what I needed to do to take care of myself. I needed the time to be alone, I needed to be okay with indulging a little more, I needed to go to therapy, I needed to write, I needed to sleep. As I continue through that treatment plan that was set out a year ago, as I am going to therapy, to my doctor, taking my meds, getting to know myself I am also getting to know my illness, my triggers, what I am and am not in control of.
I am afraid that I will have another episode, I am afraid that one sentence will be true and my life won’t be my life, my life will be depression, that is my fear. Honestly, it will probably come true. I will probably have another episode if not more than one in my life, depression will come back, maybe for a few days, but maybe for a few months.
My new goal is to not fixate on the fear, fixate on the possibility of a relapse, fixate on something I can’t control.
I want to turn my dysfunctional fear into functional fear.
I want to change the thought pattern, this is something that may happen, I have no control over the chemicals in my brain, or my external circumstances, I can’t control if it comes back or not. I can control what I do right now though. I can control sticking with the medication, I can control maintaining my appointments, I can control those things so that if and when that fear becomes a reality, instead of being paralyzed by the dysfunction of the fear, I will be prepared because the functional part of my fear reminded me to be cautious and to stick with it.
Obviously, life is more messy and complicated than the black and white, function and dysfunction thinking, but maybe it’s a start?
The great thing is that right now, in this present moment you and I have already survived our hardest times, our most challenging days. Whether yours is depression or not, we each have something, some hard time, some fear, some adversity. We have done it once before, we can survive it again.
Relapse is scary, fears are scary and big and overwhelming, but we are stronger, we’ve got this.
My very favourite quote is from Rupi Kaur and she beautifully writes
“if you were born with the weakness to fall you were born with the strength to rise”.
So if you are reading this today, if you have a fear of falling, or relapsing whatever that looks like for you, we can do this, we can face this, and I will be fighting alongside you.
I hope you are all having a wonderful fall!
You are loved
You are valued
You are cherished
Until next time,
About Chelsea Moore
My name is Chelsea! I am in my third year of university studying Anthropology and Sociology. I started self harming when I was 15, had my first suicide attempt when I was 16, and that is when I was diagnosed with Depression. Since then my life has been about recovery, and throughout this journey writing has been my safe place. Throughout my journey I've learned that everyone has a story, and hurting together feels a lot better than hurting behind closed doors.I am passionate about bringing awareness to mental illness, and couldn't be more excited about this opportunity to write for Healthy Minds Canada!