Number One Reason For Relapse In Mental Illness

The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (etching...

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Self-Care Tip #230 – Remember why you feel the way you do.

Olive was doing well.

How are you doing Olive?

Oh fine.  Just fine,

Olive would say.  And she was.  A sense of rightness filled her when she thought about it.  Right with the world, her garden, her work and even her kids.  She wondered that there had ever been a time when she hadn’t been.

It was almost easy for Olive to forget about why she was better.  Almost, except for her probably thirty seconds of opening the lid, dumping the contents into her hand, tossing them, all of them into her mouth.  One swallow with water and it was over.  Thirty seconds she thought.  I’m doing it for my kids.

Then came the best reason she ever needed.  And despite knowing that she had done this before and had relapsed, something about the rightness of the reason made her feel like the relapse wouldn’t be allowed.  The rightness would keep it away.  After all, she was stopping her medication for her kids.  If she didn’t have medical insurance than she would be a huge burden financially and she would die before doing that to her children.

So quietly Olive stopped.

By stopping medication, many of us have this sense of eliminating the reason we started the medication in the first place.  Take medication.  Disease continues.  Stop medication.  We are superior.

When my son was about one year old, he learned that if he turned his head away from you, it was as good as denying your existence.  Turn.  You’re gone.  Turn back.  You reappear.  Turn.  And just like that, you’ve been eliminated.  Even now, remembering it delights me.

Not so cute however, is the number one reason for relapse in mental illness – stopping medication.  For Olive, she turned her head, and hoped her recurrent Major Depressive Disorder would not be there when she turned back around.

How are you Olive?

(Sigh.)  Fine.  Just Fine.  (Sigh.)

But Olive wasn’t.  Even though she knew she had been better on her medications, she couldn’t see any more, how much better.  Her face tightened up, her thoughts wandered and she exploded more.  Self-loathing of course followed and she felt like her suffering was unique to her.  No-one understood her, especially her ungrateful children.  She was doing this for them, just like everything she did through her whole unappreciated life.  This was all wrong.

Is this why I worked all those years and raised them?!

Readers, you may not agree with the crystal clear logic that emboldened Olive’s heroic stopping of her medications, but it’s not the only one out there.  This being the number one reason for relapse implies that there are many that seem to make really good sense.  So forget about they specific “why” of why Olive turned, and just know that many of us do.  Many.

Question:  What has helped you stay on your medication when it seemed to make sense not to?  What do you think about people who choose to stay on medications for life?  Please tell me your story.

41 thoughts on “Number One Reason For Relapse In Mental Illness

    • smiling. thank u cin. i’m looking forward to today and my pending hair salon appointment! whoohoo! how cum people don’t get that excited to see me…? hmm ;).
      as for the “olive’s” of the world, that is part of the important selection of questions. i hope so. hugs

  1. I have done it once or twice. Like many others, I fell into that trap that said: I am taking medication. I feel better. I am cured. I no longer need medication. Hurray! And the relapse comes, you get back on the wagon, take your meds, and you feel better.
    Those who can’t pay for their meds, their doctors can help them to get free meds through the manufacturers.
    Ms. LS 😛

    • hello LS. thank u for your very real story. that is important to many of us who feel our struggle is unique to us, to hear u. i especially appreciate the reference to the free meds through manufacturers. not enough of us know about that. keep on courageous LS!

  2. The word relapse is one I wish they would take out of the medical jargon. In many ways the word is a cop-out for many in the medical profession.

    • it can be confused with relapse with drugs versus relapse with cancer versus relapse with depression and I agree, that is messy. also considering that we understand the type of depression with olive to not be “curable” we use relapse still to describe when her symptoms come back versus the disease and that is confusing. however, i’d luv to hear your thoughts about the “cop-out.” i might not be seeing it entirely.

  3. oh dear, this struck a nerve – I’m pretty rubbish at taking my medication all the time (and being a medical student just makes me feel even worse about it – surely I know better….). Depression makes me angry and rebellious in a way I haven’t been used to, as someone who is usually very reasonable and amenable – and as so much is often out of control with depression, being rebellious and not taking medication seemed like a good idea a few months ago, kind of like sticking up two fingers to it. Admitting that I needed medication in the first place was probably the hardest thing for me – growing up with parents dependant on substances has given me a real issue with the concept of needing something to function normally. Adding to that, every time my dose gets increased, it sends me pretty haywire, so sticking with it has been a battle. It’s a tricky one, but at the end of the day, medication doesn’t work when it’s sitting in a drawer.

    Something that has helped, was telling a few people I trusted (and knew I couldn’t lie to) that I was being non-compliant. Seeing their faces and concern was enough to make me try harder, and they know me well enough to tell me off when I need it. It’s hard, though.

    • hey char!!! i think many of us can relate. excellent step involving your supportive scare-you-faced friends (smile). there’s a lot out there in the medical community that makes being a patient extremely confusing. what courage u have to press on. way!

  4. I remember when I did a stint working in psych some of the brightest smartest together people we sent home deciding to stop their meds because they felt so darned good just readmitted and start the cycle over again. My heart cried for them and their families.

    • i’m thinking u were pretty wonderful at your work…

      but i hear u on the readmissions. Our lives are much more affecting to others (people and affects we may never even know about) than we often imagine.

  5. Here I go again. I was on all sorts of meds, first for depression and anxiety and PTSD and then for those plus Fibromyalgia. I reacted badly to pretty much all of them (which, I gather, is a Firobmyalgia thing in itself). I gained a ton a weight. I felt bad; I looked bad; I was depressed about the fact that I was depressed and needed the meds that made me feel as bad and look as bad as I did. So, I stopped everything except for Klonopin. Wow! Look at me! I’m doing great…except that the weight won’t come off and I’m still anxious and, well, yeah, maybe just a little depressed. Not in the psych ward, though. Not looking at people who got off their meds and ended up in that ward because they had attempted suicide. That I knew was wrong. They were wrong. I’d never do that….or did I???

    What I’ve discovered recently is that there are meds and there are meds, and handled properly by the right physicians or psychiatrists, problems like feeling groggy or gaining weight or having a severe reaction (many of which put me in the hospital), at least for me, are not problems anymore. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to give up all medications, like I was SURE I could a couple of years ago, but I think I’m on the right track with the right care-givers now and, probably most important, I’m becoming my own care-giver. It’s all good. I would just pray that those people like me can, before they do something they’ll regret, find a program that works for them. I understand the fear and the stigma thing, but now I understand the “it’s about me” thing, too. I’ll always be a work in progress, and that’s okay.

  6. I am new to this site Dr. Quijada wants me to get connected with others suffering as I am I don’t know how others handle their depression and anxiety mine seems to go in and out I will be fine for a few days then I get hit with the sadness uncontrollable crying then panic attacks the last three days have been horrible I don’t seem to have any control over my emotions at times I don’t want to even live anymore and I don’t know what to do I could sure use some encouragement and help anyone is there anyone out there I feel so alone. Thanks for any help

  7. intresting mediction has its uses but in the cases of me i chose to take half what i should do now most people are going to question why do i think im as clever as the doctor who prescribed it to me in this case im not i do what i do i cant sleep 16 hours a day i dont have the time it might make life a little bit better but it comes as a major cost to time in my life currently half the medication i think i cope pretty well i still sleep 12 to 14 hours but not 16 i can see the diffrence on my medication i think it would be easyer here to give an example last year the doctor gave up on me and siad he wasnt going to give me no more medication the way it hapend he gave me 4 weeks supply of the highest dose he was young everyday back then was very hard and i mean very hard i was doing uni work at the same time my ex girlfriend would say ill be home in an hour but never use to come back till maybe 12 hours later it still hurts a bit even to think about it so what was it like absolute hell i would not go out i would not get up i didnt want to live ended up in hospital every other week with an overdoes of something or other and some off them i delibritly took enuff to stay in hospitall for a cople of days and my head was just racing all the time i could not think straight what so ever and everytime i tryed to think everything was negative and i would blame everything that had ever happened to me on who ever tryed to speek to me in that short space of time not taking my tablets wasnt good i got sectioned in that time as well and yes i battled to get out and i allways won and just ended back up in hospital the next week the resus team at the hospital had come to know my name i was in that often and my mood was unpredictable and i did not want to live allso i did not sleep i would stay awake for 76 hours at a time waiting fr things to happen so im kkind of the opersite to your question i have to stay on my tablets now it would seem at the time there was no point in taking my tablets becuase they wernt working i was told when i was 21 that i would be on my tablets for the rest of my life and in my case it looks allmost certain i would like to come off my tablets but i know what happens when i dont have them and i know how i feel my number one reason for relaps is when i drink or when my life goes wrong major wrong and it does and i cant handle it but today i am able to mange life i have a lot going on including my two assignments one in for next week and one in the week after then on top of that my new blog with the new design witch i wanted for so long and finaly had the money but not the time to put out right then i have been redisigning my website when i started i had about 5 pages where now well past 200 pages quite a bit when you have to re index them and put them in some kind of order on top of all that i still in the recovery stage from a few weeks ago but it will all come together as long as i remeber not to push to hard and to fast

  8. This is a tough one. I have tried many different medications. I take them and when I don’t feel like they are doing anything, I stop. Things eventually get worse. Why don’t they work in the first place? Oh yeah, that other disease that keeps my body from functioning due to the malnutrition. It seems as though it has and always will be an endless cycle. In this case, it’s hard to even look back to try to figure out which meds did help for any amount of time. Then there are the Dr’s that won’t even touch my ‘case’ because of the diagnoses…

    It’s as though its a game and it never gets better until its much worse and I finally reach out for help because I don’t want to live like I am anymore.

  9. This is a tricky question for me. When I was 15, I was told by doctors that I would need to be on antidepressants for the rest of my life, that I had a chemical imbalance in my brain. Thereapy in recent years has revealed that my depression may have been a situationally induced depression rather than a chemical imbalance. When I was 13, I was raped and abused, and got addicted to methamphetamine. These were things that I didn’t understand at 15, when I was first treated for depression. When I left home, I stopped taking my meds because I couldn’t afford them, so over the years I researched alternative treatments, and found some that helped. My family, however, is of the opinion that all my health problems are due to my not taking medication, so they sent me to a therapist hoping she’d convince me to take meds. The therapist instead helped me make the above discoveries. But, the pain and exaustion associated with autoimmune disorders still persisted. My family convinced me to go on a county funded program here locally to get medicine. The medicine helped the depression in the same way the alternative meds did, but actually made my other symptons worse. I stopped taking them, and have gone back to the alternative treatments, which include a strict regime of diet, physical exercise, some psychological exercises I learned in therapy, and supplementation of Sam-e, Lizyme [a natural sorce of lithium], and Melatonin for healthy sleep patterns.

    So you see, I’m hard pressed to say whether I think people should stay on their meds or not. How do we know their depression’s not curable?

    On the other hand, my brother had a brain injury that induced bipolar/schitsophrenia. When he’s not on his meds, he becomes delusional and a danger to himself as well as others. My family and I have told him for years that he has to take his meds. He doesn’t like the way his meds make him feel. He likes the way he feels without them better. He keeps hoping God will cure him, and when he stops taking them, believes God has cured him. That’s when things get very scary. In a way, I feel like a hypocrit for telling him he has to take his meds [who am I to tell him he can’t be cured?], but I can also see that he is running away from the reality of his situation, while I’m trying to deal with mine.

    So, I could never suggest to anybody to stop taking their meds, especially if they don’t have a back up plan.

    For me, right now, what I’m doing is working, so I have no inclination to stop. I don’t think I’m cured. I have some bad emotional habits that I developed in childhood, and that need reprogramming. Until then, I’ll keep doing my alternative treatment. I don’t considering conventional medication right now, because money is a real issue for me, and I’ve not found one that works as well as what I’m doing. Also, finding one that works is a scary and emotional process. Weaning off one and onto another wreaked psychological havok on me. There are so many things to consider.

  10. thank u sincerely for your story. it is courageous and an act of self-care i believe to speak out and connect. I’m so sorry your brother and u were hurt like that. it is evident that u r working so hard on your self-care and inspiring to us readers. perhaps when u feel like it and have the time, many of us would luv to hear more about your “regimen.”

    • I would be honored. Is there anything specific you’d like to know? Diet? Exercise? the exercises I learned in therapy? or all of the above?

      The supplementation is different for everybody. What works for me, might not work for somebody else, and I’m not really qualified to recommend supplements. I can tell you about them, though. Are you interested in or do you prescribe natural medicine in addition to conventional meds?

      Would you like me to write about it here in the comments of this post? or send an e-mail?

  11. I’m going to stop my E.C.T’s, but not my Meds. But if I start to feel bad again I may restart them. I’ve been doing them for almost two years. I’m hoping that I won’t need them any more. I’m tired of doing them, and tired of the people who run them. And the memory loss. They say it comes back, but it hasen’t. It just gets worse and worse! I can’t concentrate I can’t even remember things that happened yesterday! I have to write EVERYTHING down, or I won’t remember it. I feel like an idiot!!!!! It embaresses me !!!!! Maybe if I stop, atleast for awhile, I’ll get some of it back.

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