One of the more frustrating elements in my journey with mental illness is relapse.
Things will have been going pretty good for months, if not years, and then some trigger hits that sends my anxiety into a flare.
Next thing you know, I’m back on the panic train and having to implement all my strategies of healing in order to to slow down the train enough so that I can get off.
Even in the midst of recovering from a panic and anxiety flare, there are ups and downs. Oh how I wish recovery went in a straight diagonal line that only moved up!
But unfortunately, in the midst of healing there are good days and bad days alike. So many times it is two steps forward, and one step back, to the point that the image of recovery looks more like a corkscrew moving upwards instead of a line.
I have to frequently remind myself that this is okay.
It does not mean I am a failure.
It does not mean I will never get better.
It does not even mean I will go back to square one in my healing process.
To borrow a line from the substance abuse community:
Relapse is a part of Recovery
I still don’t understand all of why this is true, but if you want to know more, you can look into the work of researchers Prochaska and DiClemente. My nerdy (but adorable) social worker husband loves what they have to say about change.
I also have to remind myself periodically that relapse is not the same as free fall decline, though at times for this anxious girl it feels like it is. I feel myself loosing ground and I wonder and worry about how bad the fall will be this time.
This past summer I flew for the first time in several years and as a part of a get over your fear of flying course, I learned a lot about turbulence.
Now let me just go ahead and tell you how much I hate turbulence. Bumping around in the air like that drives me crazy. I worry that the plane is going to hit a pocket of air that is so unstable it will cause the plane to just plummet all the way to the ground.
Imagine my surprise to learn that when a plane encounters turbulence most times it actually is only moving a few inches up and down.
Yes, that is right. Inches. It only feels like we are bobbing wildly through the air. The scientific answer for why it feels worse than that is that the plane is moving so fast. (Also, the anxiety probably amplifies things for me as well.) The course also informed me it is almost impossible for a plane to crash from turbulence. Turns out those flying metal cans are way more resilient than I thought them to be.
I think it is like this with our lives sometimes as well. We feel like we are losing major ground in a relapse, when in truth if we looked at the big picture it would only be inches. Also, we are much more resilient creatures than we often believe ourselves to be. We are not going to totally crash into chaos; we are just bumping around a little bit. We will be fine. Let me say that again.
We will be fine.
So dear readers, do all the good things you can to help heal your anxiety, but know that in the end it will take some time to get to better. And just go ahead and expect some bumps along the way. For whatever reason, it is just part of the process.
But from one anxious flyer to another, I hope that your ride to healing is as quick and smooth as possible.
Oh yeah, and don’t forget to look out the window occasionally on your journey. There might be some surprisingly nice scenery along the way.