When I started my journey of recovery two years ago, my struggle was mainly depression and anxiety. It was easy to pick up a blue chip, my first blue chip being for anxiety, to destroy the boundaries which were holding me back from being a Celebrate Recovery volunteer and leader for the brand-new CR that we were planting in our church. Since then I have also picked up a blue chip for choosing to stay another day after my most recent suicide attempt. I always knew what I wanted to pick up the blue chip for, there was no doubt what I wanted to “fix,” what I wanted to give over to God to let Him heal me from. However, in my newly formed recovery process, I soon discovered that I didn’t know what it looked like if I relapsed. And if I didn’t know what that looked like, then how could I properly make sure I was recovering?
So my first chip, anxiety. What in the world does it look like to relapse in anxiety? Did that mean that as soon as I worried about something, that I would have to take a blue chip? What about if I had a panic attack? How about if I couldn’t bring myself to talk to a group of people, or do the meet and greet with someone I didn’t know? If that was the case, then I guess I should have gotten a blue chip several times a day. I found myself comparing my recovery to those of others, those who had chosen to give something up, to stop doing something. Well, in my recovery, I had actually chosen to START doing something. I had chosen to start doing whatever it needed to take to make sure that my mental health would be a priority in my life.
So in mental health, what does relapse look like? Well, in my experience, I’ve narrowed the definition of a relapse to one simple idea:
Relapse happens when we make the conscious choice to stop doing what we said we were going to do when we picked up that blue chip.
That means, for me, relapse would begin when I allow my anxiety to talk me out of being a leader for CR. When I stop pushing forward. When I stop taking my medication. When I stop going to see a counselor. When I stop going to see a psychiatrist. Relapse happens when I stop treatment for my anxiety and depression. Because if I stop treatment, then I would stop doing whatever it took to make sure that my mental health is a priority. Principle 3 states, “Consciously choose to commit all my will to Christ’s care and control.” The key words are consciously choose. I am consciously choosing to take the next steps in my treatment. I am consciously choosing to trust that God still loves me despite how horribly I see myself at times. I am consciously choosing to keep moving forward in my recovery, because no matter how easy it is to give up, how much I want to give up and just quit my treatment at times, I know that would lead to relapse.
Recovery is a process. We may not can cure or get rid of our mental health issue, but we can choose to treat it. We can choose to keep doing whatever it takes to be able to live life despite of our diagnosis. We can choose HOPE.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
April Brantley, CR Mental Health Team X-factor