Stuck in an Endless Cycle of Relapsing and Depression

July 30, 2017

Red and white farmhouse in Salento.

I am so sick of constantly relapsing. Most people experience at least one period of depression in their lives, but it is often situational. My depression is cyclical, and has affected my life up to several times a year since the age of fifteen. It can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months at a time.

I am sick and tired of relapsing again after I feel like I am finally getting better. I honestly feel like I am stuck in an endless cycle of depression. Since changing the dosage of my medications in late March, my mental health had been at an all-time high. I woke up motivated and excited about my day and my life in general. I re-found my creative roots and found an outlet in the form of this blog. I started to feel like a functioning member of society again. But this has all been changing over the last two weeks.

I can feel the familiar depressive feelings settling in. Waking up feeling tired and unmotivated, crying more easily, feeling desperately insecure about my appearance, and believing that I am a bad person are all sneaking back into my daily routine. It feels so crushingly disappointing that I truly believed that I was recovering in a big way, and relapsing has brought me back to reality. I heavily resent that I live with chronic mental illness, and that it means that I can only be truly productive for limited periods of my life.

I can’t just put a complete stop on my life and hibernate in my room, as much as I would like to. So these are the strategies that I use to cope when I am in the middle of relapsing.

Brown colonial church in Barichara.

Create a daily list of productive activities and complete them.

The easiest tasks can feel like a chore when you are in the middle of a depressive period. It can sometimes feel like there is no point to doing anything, and that any tasks that you complete are meaningless. When I started seeing my psychologist, she recommended designating tasks for each day, and taking the time to acknowledge and reward myself when I complete them. They can be as simple as doing a load of washing or going for a walk.

You don’t need to achieve everything on your to-do list or make major life changes to reward yourself for still being productive. Depression is so consuming and pervasive that little successes are truly important. Remembering to value your achievements when you are struggling is imperative to keep up your levels of optimism.

My suggested activities are household chores, going for a walk, cooking a meal, socialising with a friend, or making a conscious decision to do a relaxing activity like reading or meditating. These are all low-energy tasks that will contribute to your overall well-being and help your life run smoother, even when you are relapsing. You don’t need to do every activity every day, but pushing yourself just a bit to complete some helpful tasks is really beneficial.

Take time to write in a journal.

When you are relapsing, it can sometimes feel like you are drifting in a pool of negative emotions that threatens to pull you under. They swirl all around you and stop you from being able to see anything other than the depression and anxiety that consume your waking thoughts. Pouring out your feelings into a journal so that you can purge them from your brain is a helpful way to keep on top of your emotions.

I also use a journal to keep track of the good things that are still happening in my life, even while I am relapsing. During a major depressive period three years ago, I used to write every little thing that I accomplished every day. Most days looked like a list of:

  • I ate food even though I didn’t want to.
  • I went to work even though I felt like shit.
  • I thought about hurting myself but didn’t.
  • I went for a walk.

Even though these may seem like tiny achievements, they were a really big deal in a time when I just wanted to lie in bed all day and do nothing at all. Having my achievements written also helped me to be able to physically see my mental state over time and track any improvements in my mental health. You can use a journal like this to keep tabs on how your mood is progressing and how much you are succeeding despite relapsing.

I spoke to my psychologist recently and told her that I am relapsing and consequently waking up in a state of anxiety and general dread. I don’t know what events my dread concerns, only that I am sure that something is going wrong and I need to fix it. She suggested that every night before I sleep, I make time to write all the things that happened during the day that I am grateful for.

If you take time to visualise and document the events that you are grateful for, no matter how small, it can slightly pull you out of your loop of negative feelings and force you to evaluate the true nature of your days. It also serves as a reminder that you can look back on if you are feeling extremely depressed and telling yourself that nothing good ever happens to you.

Red and white buildings in Mongui.

Do mindfulness exercises.  

Mindfulness is one of the most important skills that you can hone to cope with chronic feelings of anxiety and depression. Mindfulness is performing activities that keep your brain engaged in the present moment and not worrying about the past or the future. This can range from traditional activities like meditation, to counting breaths, and fully engaging in listening to music.

Mindfulness is one of the core components of dialectical behavioral therapy, which is the therapy specially designed for borderline personality disorder. It is also a major feature of cognitive behavioral therapy, which I engage in for my depression and anxiety. It is incredibly difficult at first, especially if you have a brain like mine that likes to race between thoughts and dwell on past failures and future anxieties. However, practising the art of pulling your attention back to the present moment and present exercises helps you to train your brain so that you can distract it when you are losing control of your emotions.

These are the main mindfulness activities that I find helpful:

  • Sitting in the shower and focusing on the sensation of the hot water running over my skin.
  • Spending 5-10 minutes meditating and focusing on the sensation of my breathing and how it affects my diaphragm.
  • Listening to a song that I emotionally engage with and focusing on all the sounds and the lyrics, and singing along.
  • When I am in a state of distress, sitting there and listing all the uncomfortable physical sensations within my body.

There are countless activities that you can do to keep your attention in the present moment and away from the distressing feelings in your brain. It’s all about finding activities that work for you and come more naturally.

 

It is really difficult when you live with chronic mental illness and go through cycles of relapsing and recovery. It can sometimes feel like there is no end to your suffering and that you will never feel good again. However, the period of depression will always lessen or come to an end for a time, and there are ways to not feel so despondent about your situation. These steps that I outlined can be helpful to keep your mind in the present moment and not dwell on the chronic nature of your mental illness.

15 Comments

  1. Reply

    Lisa K

    You have some great strategies in place! People don’t realize how much mental illness can affect life. Reading your story helps others see what it’s really like. Thank you for sharing your experiences:)

    1. Reply

      Her Travel Therapy

      Thanks 🙂 I’ve had to develop them over many years of struggling so they’re a bit more fine tuned now!

  2. Reply

    Sarah

    First off, you are a great writer. I get depressed occasionally, I think we all do, and these look like excellent strategies to have in place. Don’t let it get the best of you. One tip I’d like to add for you is that if you ever need someone to talk to, you can always send me a message to chat.

    Sarah
    http://www.hitcontinue.eu

    1. Reply

      Her Travel Therapy

      Thank you that’s very kind of you 🙂

  3. Reply

    Kasia Mikolajczak (@KasiaMikola)

    These are great tips to help people cope with anything. Thanks for sharing these.

  4. Reply

    sj

    These tips are really helpful and i do writing journal thing 🙂 Thank you for sharing !

    1. Reply

      Her Travel Therapy

      Thanks 🙂 I hope the journal works for you

  5. Reply

    Tahnee's Blog

    What an honest and more importantly helpful post. Particularly the diary as a way of release. I hope you are feeling a little more yourself soon sweet xxxxx

    1. Reply

      Her Travel Therapy

      Thank you 🙂

  6. Reply

    Abhinav

    Nicely written, commendable self admission. I know a friend who is going through a same. Yoga (especially meditation) helps me with some soothing music in the background, spiritual in nature is better. Keep small tasks, that should help, let them be simple and easy, take this slow. This is all that he does in addition to your few pointers. Hope these are helpful.

    1. Reply

      Her Travel Therapy

      I’ve just started meditation classes in my local city so I’m really hoping that will improve my quality of mental health!

  7. Reply

    Niki Bozionelou

    Have you ever read OSHO’s books? When I was dealing with my panic attacks, his books helped me cope and get over it. I hope you get rid of your depression once and for all 🙂

    1. Reply

      Her Travel Therapy

      I haven’t, but I’ll look it up! I really hope so too, I’ll keep chugging on with therapy and eventually things will get better, I hope.

  8. Reply

    Medha Verma

    Hi Kate, firstly I’m so inspired by how you’re hanging in there despite going through such a tough time in life. My mother was similarly clinically depressed for a long time and I don’t think people who haven’t experienced it can ever truly understand what it’s like. I saw her struggling with daily chores and could never really figure out what to do to be able to help her. She’s in a better place today, thankfully, but I’ve seen the worst. I see you trying to be really strong through this, with your strategies and that’s really commendable! x

    1. Reply

      Her Travel Therapy

      Thank you, I really appreciate the sincerity of your support. It can be really hard to know what to do when a loved one has mental illness. Sometimes I get stumped with how to help my boyfriend with his depression, which I should really be an expert at!

Leave a Reply