So you’ve been walking down the road to recovery for quite some time now. It’s been a long and tedious journey, but you’ve picked up a steady pace and your every step is becoming more and more confident. There may have been a few bumps and pot holes along the way, but you got past them. Perhaps you’ve come off your medication, or you’ve ended your CBT sessions. At last, you are on your own road now and you’ve never felt better!
But what happens when you fall into the fire pit again?
First, there’s the dread of the approach. You can feel your long lost symptoms creeping up on you again, the enemy you hoped you would never see or hear from again.
“Oh God, no, please don’t let this be an attack” “Please don’t let this happen now”
There’s shock. For a moment you can’t believe it’s happening. It’s been so long since your last attack, you can’t believe they’ve managed to come back.
“I haven’t had an attack in so long, surely it can’t be happening now”
“Why?” “How can this be happening again?” “I haven’t had an attack in ages” “I thought this was all over” “I thought I was better”
There’s realisation. You have your first attack in a long time. You finally give up trying to argue with yourself. You accept that this is really happening again.
“It’s happening again” “It’s actually happening again”
Finally, there’s defeat. You feel so weak and disheartened; you can’t believe that you let it get the better of you after you had been doing so well. You feel like you’re back to square one and all your hard work was a complete and utter waste of time.
I felt all the above feelings just over a year ago when I relapsed at the beginning of my second year of university.
Over the summer before I started back to university, I came off my medication and put a healthy amount of weight back on. I hadn’t had a panic attack in a while and everything was heading in the right direction. I was so pleased with my progress and was so excited to get back to university, back into routine, back into studying and seeing all my friends again. But I didn’t realise I would be revisiting my anxiety once again. My first week back at university and I had my first full blown panic attack which landed me in hospital. It started off in the student village, feeling slightly nauseous I went outside to get some air. Without realising, my breathing had picked up a faster pace. I was crouched on the ground and soon enough, my legs began to get pins and needles. I thought this was just from sitting down for too long, but then it spread to my arms, then my hands, then my face too. My friends tried to get me inside but they near enough had to carry me. I tried to stand up and I couldn’t. I couldn’t stand on my own, I had almost completely lost feeling in my legs. This naturally enough made me begin to panic. My breathing picked up the speed even more and I couldn’t slow it down. It was out of control. I was brought inside and my friends contacted the residential services to see if anyone could help. They came round and decided it would be best to call an ambulance. The paramedics arrived and they tried to calm me down. Not as easy as it may sound.
“Control your breathing” “Katrina, you’re breathing too fast you need to slow your breathing down”
Believe it or not but it’s not that easy to do when you’re in a state of panic and wondering why your legs don’t work -_-
So after sometime, they decided it would be best to bring me to A&E to get me checked out. Hours went by in the ward and all I was told was the same as in the village. “You’re breathing too fast” “Control your breathing”. At this point, my wrists had curled up and my fingers had stiffened and I couldn’t move them, so they formed some sort of deformed claws. Similar things were happening to my feet and I was losing feeling in everything. It turns out this was because there wasn’t enough carbon dioxide getting through my body and so it was causing everywhere to lose feeling and tense up. It went on and on. I was in a wheelchair as I obviously couldn’t walk at this point. My friends waited in the waiting area while I was brought into a ward. After being told to control my breathing several times, I was wheeled back out into the waiting room without my friends being told of my whereabouts. I was placed in the corner to wait for my friends to find me, whilst I was surrounded by several drunks crawling about the floor, and of course the majority of people staring at me and wondering what was wrong with me. It was only after a while when my friends asked the nurse how I was, she then decided to tell them that I was back in the waiting area. There was obviously nothing they could really do for me, but they could have told them where I was…
But anyway, it took at least an hour or two, but I eventually began to settle down and got my breathing under control. However, once my breathing was fairly regular again, I still had to wait for the feeling in my arms and legs to return. This took at least a half hour. I knew then that they would do no more for me so I discharged myself and returned back to the student village with my friends. The long and eventful day had finally come to an end.
In that one week, all my symptoms had returned to haunt me. I was being sick several times a day, I refused to go out and I couldn’t eat. I was so miserable. In the space of two or three weeks I had lost about 2 stone and became underweight once again. I had climbed for so long up the ladder and fell back to the bottom so fast.
I decided to go back to the doctors. I wasn’t thrilled, but I knew I had to something about it before things got even worse again. She agreed it was time to go back on my medication. I came off them too soon before and didn’t give myself enough time to adjust to reality. I was told to go back on my medication immediately and to remain on them for at least a year. I tried to hold back tears. I didn’t particularly mind the medication, there weren’t many side effects as such, but I felt so dependent and I hated it. I was over the moon when I first came off them, I felt like I could do things on my own now without the help of pills and pills. I just had to accept that I needed them again and I was willing to try anything at this point. I just had to brush off the dust and start climbing once again.
Feeling disheartened when you relapse is unavoidable. But it happens.
So what do you do when you relapse? What can you do to get back on the road to recovery?
Think about the things you did to overcome it the first time round, did these methods work?
If so then use them again, and think of other methods to try out, or improve upon these methods. Don’t be afraid to speak to your doctor again. If you were on medication before and found they helped, then there should be no harm on going back on them unless your doctor says otherwise. Speak to your friends and family, they’ll only want to help!
You’ve walked down the road to recovery once before. There’s absolutely no reason why you can’t do it again and come out the other end even stronger.