3 Steps to Dealing with a Mental Health Relapse

“The [mind] is not unlike the body, in that as long as it is well, one is barely conscious of it. Let something but go wrong with its mechanism, however, and the whole aspect of things alters in a moment.” – John Custance, Wisdom Madness and Folly

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. But what happens to the weak? (Asking for a friend). 

My heart aches for anyone who has recently pulled themselves up by the bootstraps and conquered some insurmountable mental health challenge—some beastly depression, panic disorder, OCD, whatever it may be—and now they’re thrown back through the wringer due to the pandemic that’s swept the globe. Hopefully I don’t have to remind you that we are all supposed to be isolating, and spending a lot of time alone.

A little isolation in manageable doses can be the best emotional elixir; but a lot of isolation, all at once, can be the tipping point for anyone who was already on the edge. 

So to anyone suffering inside their minds during this time, understand one simple thing: 

You will eventually emerge from the fiery depths of hell, feeling like the most powerful motherf*cker to walk the face of the earth.

There is a special neurochemical blast reserved for the resilient. Anyone who has endured what they thought they couldn’t knows how good it feels. There is no more badass feeling than the comeback. 

And when things have reached some level of normalcy again, you’ll find yourself thirsting for more suffering. Because nothing “hits” quite like being dished your own personal poison, and having to scramble to find new ways to mobilize your heart, mind and soul in order to heal from it. That, my friends, is the essence of resilience: adapting to difficult circumstances, and coming out the other side with an imperturbable mind.

1. Face yourself. Realize that any issue you are facing now, would eventually have to be faced. Removing the hustle and bustle of life is just expediting this process of purification. Get up one more time, and always one more time. Recognize the cyclical nature of life, and of progress.

“There are cycles of success, when things come to you and thrive, and cycles of failure, when they wither or disintegrate and you have to let the go in order to make room for new things to arise, or for transformation to happen. If you cling and resist at that point, it means you are refusing to go with the flow of life, and you will suffer. Dissolution is needed for new growth to happen. One cannot exist without the other.”Ekhart Tolle, The Power of Now

2. Remember that you are not starting from nothing. While all the progress you have made may feel futile, you’re not starting from scratch. You conquered these difficulties before. You will conquer them again. Lean on the lessons you learned from your first dance with darkness. You’ll realize that the half-life of your difficult times is likely a lot shorter now. The more self-knowledge you derive during difficult times, the less difficult subsequent times become—because you learn how you respond, what you need, what truly helps.

3. Get back to basics. If all you can do is crawl, then crawl. If all you can do is breathe today, then breathe. Eventually, you’ll garner the strength to check more boxes, to keep moving forward. Try your best to check these boxes everyday:

Health: pay special attention to your nutrition. Mental health is inseparable from the information you are providing to your body through food. You cannot expect your mind to function like a smooth-running car when you are filling it with diesel instead of gas.

Creativity: self-expression is a vehicle for self-transcendence. When we create, we are contributing to the ever-expanding universe. I have nothing truly startling to say about creativity apart from the fact that it just feels good, it does good, and it will help you through your roughest times.

Connection: While in the confines of your dwelling place, find ways to connect with other humans. The “Call a Friend” option is a lifeline on daytime TV for a reason. Friends are the family you get to choose, and what could be more special than that?

Something ended, I didn’t know what to do. I started with recapturing this daily practice: rather than worrying about and regretting what happened, I have to focus today on my physical health, I’ve got to be around people who are good for me, I have to be creative, and I’ve got to be grateful and compassionate for what I have. So I have to check those boxes everyday. And then, bit by bit, I climb out of the hole I had dug for myself, and a new beginning can start. But it always gets back to following this daily practice and making sure today I check those boxes. Because the only way I can predict a good tomorrow, is if today is a good day.” – James Altucher


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