On Relapsing

Your progress means so much more than a relapse.

Trigger warning: suicide, addiction, and self-harm.

If you’re suffering from mental illness or addiction, you’re probably familiar with “The Point.” The Point where you’ve officially hit rock bottom, and you make a pledge to yourself that starting today, everything will be different. This is different from all those other times that you made half-hearted attempts at changing, because something has happened that makes this Point an all-or-nothing, now-or-never gambit. The Point can happen anywhere, but for me, it happened in the hospital in February 2012.

I don’t really like talking about everything that happened back then because it was a really dark time, and I have improved immensely since then. Long story short, I have a history of self-harm that when mixed with my underlying mental problems equaled suicidal tendencies that resulted in me more or less admitting myself to the hospital about a year and a half ago. It was there that I decided that I wanted to live, and I made a vow to myself that I would never be back in the psychiatric ward again. Whatever it took, I was going to be better.

And I was better. I stopped cutting and started taking medication and seeing a therapist. My depression cleared up, and with it my urge to cut and kill myself. I was feeling better than ever, and I definitely felt like I was on the right track towards whatever self-actualized nirvana was achievable.

And yet, this past fall break, I found myself in the hospital again. I was drunk, I cut for the first time in seven months, and I hit a blood vessel. It was not a suicide attempt, I had just been feeling stressed and went back to an old habit. Still, with my past history, it was enough for me to be sent back to the psychiatric ward for 72 hour observation.

Out of all the emotions I felt, the largest one was disappointment in myself. I had promised myself and my peers that I would not get to this point again, and that I would never give anyone the reason to admit me to the hospital again. Had I lost all my progress because I fucked up this one time? Was I back at rock bottom? Was life going to be a constant cycle of getting better and then fucking up?

Although I don’t have the answers to those questions, I’ve learned that I need to cut myself some slack. Yes, I did break that promise to myself, but at the end of the day, I wasn’t suicidal, and making that one cut, regardless of how deep it was, does not erase the immense progress I’ve made mentally since February 2012. Just because I relapsed does not make me a weak individual, and it does not mean that I am destined to back-slide until I reach rock bottom again. I am still learning and growing, and just because there was one unexpected bump in the road doesn’t mean that it’s all over.

If you’re dealing with an any sort of addiction or illness, whether it be drug addiction, bulimia, or cutting, know that messing up one time does not mean that you are destined to be stuck in a downward spiral forever. We are all human, and we all fuck up one time or another. Take everything day by day, don’t be afraid to reach out for help, and if anything, remember that you are a beautiful, important person who will one day conquer your demons once and for all.

The Rosemary Furman Counseling Center is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm in the first floor of Hewitt Hall. Or call Nightline at 212-854-7777, available between 10pm and 3am.

Image courtesy of 2medusa.

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