How To Stop A Relapse Before It Starts

Australian garden orb weaver spider, after hav...

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Baby I have been here before
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah…

– Leonard Cohen

Relapsing in brain illness is the pits.  The prodrome, as it starts creeping into our awareness, is worse than knowing we are about to walk into a spider web with the spider and his dinner still in it.  It’s so horrible that even before the prodrome hits, imagining a relapse can trigger foreboding and anticipatory anxiety.

What will I do if I…?  

Dear God no…

Recently we did a brief series on ECT and discussed how ECT can improve brain health, signal neurogenesis and trigger healing.  This brought many of us to wonder about what causes brain damage.  It became apparent that many of us had forgotten that brain illness, in fact, damages the brain.  We still have a hard time, despite all our progressive activism and awareness, believing to the core that the brain is human, that emotions and behaviors come from the brain and that a diseased brain is what generates disease symptoms as seen in emotions and behaviors.  We still have a hard time believing that the brain responds to medication, much like the liver does.

What?!  Depression causes brain damage?


Now compound that with the spider’s cousin, Medication-For-Life, and you’ll see us doing a funny walk-hop-dance in the dark to avoid what we wish we weren’t getting into.

The wonderful bit about all this is that staying on medications, even for life, is the best way to dodge the worst of it.  Sure, even with medications, as prescribed, compliant and all that fluffy five-star behavior, we still relapse.  “Depression should be considered as a continuous rather than an episodic process,” as stated so well by French biomedical expert, Vidailhet P.   But, (this is really good news,) when we relapse, we do not drop as fast, we do not fall as low and we do not hit as hard when medication compliant.  Staying on medication is prophylactic against those miseries.  Staying on medication is protective against progressive brain disease and it’s deteriorating effects.  Staying on medication is friendly.

…Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Leonard Cohen

Question:  What have you noticed that staying on your medication has done for you?  How do you manage to stay on it even when you don’t want to?  

When you’ve come off of it and relapsed, how was it different from when you relapsed while still maintaining your medication therapies?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip – Stay on your medication.

28 thoughts on “How To Stop A Relapse Before It Starts

  1. I have been so physically ill this month and the stress of all of it (in addition to the dog bite that my husband suffered last week) has close to undone me completely. As a result, the reoccurance of a urinary problem (not an infection) that I suffered through all last summer and that started up again this past weekend put me pretty much over the edge. I’ve done everything I can do – or remembered I did before – to make it go away but to no avail, so I called my doctor and wept to the nurse about this whole month of woe and this final straw. (Please note that what I’ve gone through this month is nothing when compared to cancer and severe mental illness and all of the much, much worse things that others go through. It’s just that sometimes it’s the little things…..)

    I took myself off of antidepressants several years ago and have thought I was doing well. I’ve made some adjustments in the last year, thanks to a great doctor I found while I was in California, and that has helped but I have refused to actually go back onto antidepressants. I’ve had bad – really bad! -reactions to too many of them. So, when my doctor’s nurse called me back yesterday to tell me that the doctor had called in a prescription for my most recent physical problem, I was thrilled. However, when we picked up the prescription, it was for Elavil. Now, yes, I have gone through the terror of having a relapse…the “What will I do if…” and the “Dear God, no!” things many times, but this time I don’t think I’m relapsing. I think I am so frustrated and so sick of being sick that I want to throw things, but I don’t want to believe it’s a relapse thing. So, when I looked at the Elavil, I threw it -across the kitchen, said a few words I don’t normally use, and didn’t take it. I know. I know. The best thing would be to suck it up and swallow it, but, for me, after my history of reactions to any anti-depressant, I can’t. I just can’t. And I don’t know how to convince myself that it’s the right thing to do. I prayed last night, “Dear God, no. Don’t make it necessary. Don’t let this happen. Don’t……” I wonder how many out there are like me. How many are terrified like I am now. How many just can’t. And how many have found the answer to the prayer, “Dear God…..”

    • Nancy I have been there, when my doctor told me I needed to go on medications I was terrified! I put the prescription on my countertop and passed by it everyday for a week convincing myself I didn’t need it. I couldn’t do it… i actually could not go to the pharmacy and drop off my prescription because it would make it real. you are not alone don’t forget that and I will pray for you.

  2. I am still new to medications so I have not had the experience of being off of them yet. What I have noticed since my doctor put me on medications is that my anxiety has decreased. Before medications I couldn’t go any where because I was terrified that I would have a panic attack, or I would try to do something normal and the anticipatory anxiety would turn me around. I lived my life in fear until my doctor and friend told me it was time to take medication. I needed someone to take my hand and show me there was hope.
    I am doing so much better now, I can go to the movies and not have to leave and I feel I am getting closer to “my normal”.
    How do I manage to stay on the medications even though I don’t want too? there are times i don’t want to take medications anymore but i remember what life was like before and I don’t want to be that person again. I want to be me, healthy, normal and not living my life in fear, I just needed help getting there.

  3. Even on meds the crushing depression invades 2 or 3 times a month for me but as you present the lows are not so dramatic. As you present , to understand and accept that depression is a continuous process and never cured but managed is important as well. Like glaucoma – as long as I do the drops I’ll be fine re eyesight.

    • great question. sorry it took so long to respond. relapse is a polluted word of course, as r so many words we smear in English :). relapse on drugs. relapse on gambling. relapse in Gillian barrett. but the common thread in these, and including those such as depression or panic, are that they are biologically based, disease processes that improve and then the symptoms and disease processes surge forth again – there is an tide, pulling back and pushing forward. they never disappeared.
      did this touch your question? any more?

  4. well this was timely – I haven’t checked your blog for a while, and when I do, it couldn’t be more relevant. I’ve come to accept in the last week or two that I’m definitely relapsing after coming off medication in February by my own choice as the one I was on made me feel worse – and I wasn’t well enough to face yet more attempts and appointments. Seems trying to recover without meds works for a little while, but not forever. I’m going back to the doctors next week with the aim of trying again, and actually taking it this time (seems trainee doctors don’t make good patients). Relapsing is terrifying.

    Thanks for this – it’s a good bit of encouragement in a pretty emotional time.

  5. John, I don’t know whether you are familiar with this blog site but, if you aren’t, you should know that the writer of this blog knows of what she speaks (or writes). She is extremely well-informed and well-educated concerning the subjects about which she writes. I know that we all have our own thoughts about how to or whether to take psychotropic drugs and I am struggling now with what to do for myself. However, the really good thing about this blog is that it creates a back-and-forth between all of us, the writer included, about our feelings, our fears, our successes and our failures and it then allows us to decide on our own (or with the advice of our own physicians) how to go about taking care of – being a friend to – ourselves. Check out the disclaimer on the left side of this page. And thank you for the information you have given all of us. I have no doubt that we’ll check it out with open minds because that is what this blog has taught us to do. Keep checking back in. I think you will get a lot out of the experience.

    • I agree, Cindy. It was the worst experience of my life, too, and it was the reason that I swore I would never take another antidepressant. Not only should packaging highlight the danger, I think doctors should, too. Mine said it would take a week or so as I slowly backed off the med. Not so!!! It took literally months! Thanks for mentioning it here.

  6. Going off Prozac brought the anxiety back. Restarting Prozac failed and I was afraid I was stuck. Cymbalta is working great for me.

  7. My reason for taking my prescribed medication?:

    Because when I stop without telling anyone, my teenager and husband look at each other with a raised brow, then look at me and ask if I remembered to take them.

    So I guess that means it the meds do make a difference. haha

    Hugs and Blessings!

    Jasmine Wilmany

  8. I recently had a relapse after stopping two of my medications. My doctor had been on my case to stop some of my medication saying that I was taking too many meds. I decided to follow his advice out of guilt, and it was a complete disaster. I spent six miserable weeks with overwhelming thoughts of self distructions. I guess this is overwhelming prove that I need meds to survive; without them I am as good as dead.
    It got so bad that I even called my daughter to ask permission to kill myself. That is how desperate I was. Nothing ever happened, needless to say, but it was very close. It makes me very sad that I have to rely on so many meds just to get through the day. I worry that I won’t always have the money, or they won’t be enough supply to last me.

    • wwwow. we’ve missed u marie. i’m so glad to hear from u after all this time. …so that’s where u’ve been. ugh. hard place. i can tell u though, and i don’t know if it helps, but… there r many productive people out and about on a train track of medications, doing what they need to do to take care of themselves. u r not alone lady courage. keep on.

  9. Thank you for sharing this information as for me I can be quite guilty when it comes to over taking meds because I want the fix to kick in NOW. I know not good but on those days it seems difficult I find meds soothing.
    Blessings to Sana, I appreciated your post.

  10. Pingback: Do I have to stay on medication? – Friend to Yourself

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