#Relapse #Depression #Remission

Relapse.

My relapses have always been somewhat hard to explain.

I think it’s because my day-to-day fight with depression makes understanding what a relapse actually is quite hard.

Often, I have sad days where I feel down and lack motivation for pretty much anything. This might lead to me bailing on plans last minute, or avoiding any type of conversation for that specific day. This is normal every day life for me - a sad day in trade for a few good days. It’s an ongoing cycle of my depression.

These days are different from a relapse because to me, they are normal - they come with the mental illness. However, a relapse is much different. Just like recovery, everyone suffering from a mental illness will have their own unique definition of what it means (to them) to be experiencing a relapse.

For individuals suffering from depression, 50 percent are likely to experience a relapse after remission from their first major depressive episode. In this case, a relapse being defined as a deterioration in someone's state of health after a temporary improvement. In simpler terms, a “set-back.” This percentage increases with the number of relapses one may have experienced. For example, someone who has experienced two major depression episodes carries a risk of about 70 percent. While someone who has experienced three episodes or more, watches their risk rise to around 90 percent.

Hence, I find myself with a slim 10% chance of avoiding any type of relapse. To me, I define my relapses as experiencing one of my sad days for three or more concurrent days. In the clinical setting, this would be defined as experiencing a major depressive episode (excluding their time-frame of 2 weeks or more).

It’s hard not to take one’s relapses personally because they have this ability to make us feel as though all our progress is for nothing. When I think of the word relapse, it brings about a lot of pain. Maybe it’s because I will always hold onto the memories of my first major depressive episode. And so, relapsing holds the potential of those memories coming to life once again.

A major component of treatment is recognizing one’s triggers - what could trigger a major depressive episode. In a sense, what makes you crack? For some, their triggers are tangible such as academic or work-related stress, losing a job or ending a relationship. While others can be more difficult to grasp, such as changes in one’s environment or routine. This is why recognizing and understanding why we may have relapsed, in the first place, can be very difficult.

Sometimes relapses last a few weeks, or a few months - there’s no way of telling how long the symptoms will stay. Symptoms of sadness and feeling completely empty as though you are spending hours just watching the time pass by.

Depression is a form of biological survival, meaning all our energy goes into staying alive and there is not much left for anything else.

Thus, one’s habits change.

We sleep more or less than usual.

We eat more or less than usual.

We withdrawal or avoid social situations.

All because we simply don’t have enough energy to go about day-to-day living.

We lose interest in hobbies that were once pleasurable.

We feel both hopeless and helpless.

All our energy goes into fighting the battle within our own mind, leaving us with very little to simply live.

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