Mental Illness, Stress...And Relapse

October 29, 2012 Natalie Jeanne Champagne

Oh...This is hard. I don't think I have ever slept this much in a very long time. I can sleep 20 hours a day. I can drag my ass out of bed to complete important articles, walk the dog and feed the cats and...fall back into bed. And by accident! I just cannot stay awake. My bed and I have become best friends. The books on my night-table keep me company and I try to eat. My life, pretty good just a month ago, has bloody well crumbled and I cannot even find the pieces to put it back together.
I wrote in my book: This is The Land of Depression and I Have Finally arrived. Dammit, I have.

The Impact of Stress on Mental Illness

I might (will?) blabber on about myself in this post. Depressing people are depressing. They are narcissistic and irritating. Even if the sun shines, it appears black to them. And black it is. But the focus of the blog is stress and mental illness and so forgive me for using my own life as an example right now. I could spew out some research on the topic and both of us might fall asleep. I could fall asleep if a herd of elephants ran into my bedroom door.

I moved into a beautiful new home three months ago! I picked the paint colors and the carpet and promised myself "This Would Be My Home" and nobody could take it away from me. Just me and my pets and all the money I saved to have it. After being an addict for so long, being so sick, how wonderful it felt to feel safe. How glorious!

And then things slowly crumble. Money does not come in like it once did. Writing can be a crap career. You can work 24 hours a day and still it is not enough. You can have a degree and is not enough. But I live with bipolar disorder and though I have had jobs outside of my home, I moved to a small town near my family, with no work opportunities--unless I learn how to log trees or herd cows. But writing was enough. And now, house will no longer be mine.

I have to move. Again. I have to find somewhere else and work out mortgages and things that confuse me. I look at the pretty light green paint that will no longer be mine soon and I cry and I sleep and...I'm suddenly not doing very well.

Stress impacts our mental health. Stress can cause relapse. Perhaps I am not in a position to give you advice, perhaps I should shut my lips and stop typing, go back to bed where nothing will change while everything changes. But I can't. When life changes happen, we need to learn some essential skills. We need to learn them before we sink or...Well, try to swim.

Essential Skills When Recovering From Mental Illness

I can't tell you it is easy for me to be writing at this moment. I get up early every day. I'm pretty great at self-motivating. I make my own schedule and stick to it. But not right now. Yesterday, somehow, I woke up at 4 p.m. and was absolutely disgusted with myself. I had no idea how such a thing could happen. I panicked. All the work I could have done! The dog who will have a late walk! The day that was wasted but why would I want to be awake?

I set two alarms this morning. Put the phone beside my head and asked my partner to call me at 7 a.m. I woke up at 11 a.m. My god, what is going on? How could I sleep through that?

Depression. Depression. Depression.

I start to think about the advice I give on self-care, the advice some of you may have read within these blogs and realize it's damn near time I employ it.

Here's the plan (just having one makes things feel a little better):

  • Make an appointment with my doctor.
  • Find a way to get the hell up. I live alone so this might require, oh, I don't know...eighty-five alarms? If you have any advice, please share.
  • Try not to use words like "hell" and other expletives I cannot share with you.
  • Talk to people even though I would rather put bars on all of my windows and add five more locks to my doors. Adopt 20 dogs who growl at the smallest noise. Someone walking by; a commercial.
  • Eat. Eat more than fruit and yogurt and chocolate.
  • Tell those in my inner circle I'm not feeling so great. But they already know this. They always do. If I reach out, let them in, they will help me.
  • Do not self-medicate! This is tough for a recovering addict, let me tell you, it's really hard.
  • Limit additional stress.

And on and on. It's part of living with a chronic mental illness. Relapse. But if you, I, catch it early enough we can recover. I can recover. When life becomes rocky employ your mental illlness self-care practices.That's the plan.

APA Reference
Jeanne, N. (2012, October 29). Mental Illness, Stress...And Relapse, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne

November, 4 2012 at 8:52 pm

I have wanted to create my own blog about the road back to recovery from bipolar and addiction relapse for quite awhile...but I thought, "who in the hell (and I NEED my 4 letter words :/) would want to read about my narcissistic crap?"
Well, I guess there is a need...for a connection when you are so alone in the depths of despair, yet, logically you already know the steps to take to get out of your misery... But you can't seem to do it this time. If you are like me, I have been battling co-existing disorders for over 25 years. I have used the tools , like you have suggested plus many more including the 12 steps for the addiction and managed a pretty make a pretty good life. Not what I dreamed, but for me no hospital, no jail, no death defines a pretty good life. Yet, 2 years ago a tradegy happened and the stress and grief slowly pulled me under the waves of depression again. I have isolated myself from everything and my bed and iPad are my main companions. I am just treading water right now with no will to really live but no desire to die. At least I have the motto, "don't pick up alcohol / drugs no matter what"... But I have already been down that relapse path before and I know it doesn't work. So what does at this point? Reading blogs like you provided to remind me I am NOT alone. Thank you for your honesty.

Steven Murray
November, 4 2012 at 9:48 am

That old devil called stress. My job, being a teacher, is not helping at all. Had a wobble just before half term with a mixed state. Seriously elated and seriously agitated at the same time. Survived but relapse always scares me. Had 62% absence from work last year dueto bipolar.Meds help but you always worry about the future. I really hope things look up for yoy soon!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
November, 5 2012 at 7:16 am

Hi, Steven:
Mixed states are so scary. I have had enough of them myself to know this...Thanks for the positive encouragement!:)

Julie Desfosses
November, 3 2012 at 4:28 am

I feel for you, and I know how easily balance can be lost. My meds keep me in check, but I never know when a med is going to stop working for me. We live on the edge with mental illness. Take care of yourself and please try not to take this relapse so hard. You are doing the very best you can and I respect you so much for continuing to write your blog. Best Wishes.

November, 1 2012 at 10:08 pm

Hi Natalie,
I come from a similar place as you, I feel your pain. Sometimes it seems as if no matter how hard we try, no matter how well we nay be doing, it all crumbles apart again eventually. I truly am a positive thinking person, don't get the wrong impression. I too have lost homes (2) at different times, and marriages (2) also at separate times, lol..I'm Bipolar not a bigomist. ;p..Each day we must view as a new one to be great. One day at a time. I work at home now as virtual agent. It's easier to manage for me. Tomorrow is another day, I'm hoping a good one for us both.
Gerald Bouthner
Gerald Bouthner

October, 31 2012 at 11:58 am

Hi Natalie,
when I'm depressed and can't wake I set 3 alarms. One in my bedroom, one in the hall, and one in the kitchen next to the coffee, I feel tired, but usually works. And then I go to swim, otherwise I return to bed. After I swim I usually don't feel as bad as before. There's something magical in the water (at least for me).

October, 31 2012 at 1:02 am

If you ever figure out the sleep thing, please tell me how! It's my nemesis this year. >_<

Nathan Daniels
October, 30 2012 at 10:04 am

Just think about how far you've come, Natalie. You are an inspiration, and a phenominal writer. Hang in there my friend. I wish you all the success, health, and happiness you can stand.

October, 30 2012 at 9:55 am

I don't see "David's" comment you replied to, but I was also going to say to force yourself to be around people -- even total strangers (especially total strangers?) because it will force you to simulate some level of normalcy, then that might lead to more real normalcy. I'm thinking take your laptop to Starbucks/Panera etc. Even though I'm giving you this suggestion, I would probably not follow it in a bad depression. I keep in touch with my husband so my thoughts don't spin completely out of control (suicide) and call my doctor/therapist. Even that is an accomplishment! Most of all, I have to fight the overwhelming sense of guilt and self-hatred.

October, 30 2012 at 9:42 am

Dear Natalie,
Thank you for sharing with us! Wow, I am 55 years old and a grandmother. I can so relate to this. I have only recently disovered that my relapses are caused by external stresses that I then internalize. If I become angry about the stress, the relapse is even worse. I'm working on expressing myself in healthy ways so as to lessen the relapse times.
Always learning and growing,

Joanna Lacey
October, 30 2012 at 7:33 am

I am so right where you are today! I've been struggling, actually wallowing in relapse for a few weeks now. I know the self-care routine and attempt to employ it and my emotions drop flat and my head hits the pillow. I did make the doctor's appointment and started a medication increase. That should kick in here in about another week or so. I have no daily routine anymore and that's killing me more than the over sleeping. I'm not sure where to begin...

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
October, 30 2012 at 8:07 am

Hi, Joanna
Sorry to hear you are in a similar place. Sometimes self-care is nearly impossible. When I am in bed and trying to figure out how to move each leg over and get's damn near impossible to remember to eat. But we need to try. Let's hang in there, we'll make it.

David Nelson
October, 30 2012 at 7:30 am

Holy Crap! I am there with you. I am more comfortable being alone and not speaking with anyone. I can't get enough sleep and when awake I am lethargic. i wish you the best. Hell, I wish both of us the best.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
October, 30 2012 at 8:08 am

Hi, David:
Yes, I am a "loner" by nature. I like it like that but know I need to be around people as much as I would rather not! And yes, David, I wish us both the best!

October, 30 2012 at 6:45 am

I think, as I reflect, that almost every one of my relapses has been caused by stress - even as simple as meds that "aren't quite right." I have Bi-polar disorder, emotions sometimes frighten me because I never know if I will lose control. When my father died, I was emotionless until I had trouble functioning. I went to the hospital to grieve - at least then I knew someone was there to help if I lost control. Any kind of change...big change-big stress, little change-little stress. I do make plans, most of the time they help. Letting people in helps me the most. Thank you for mustering up the energy and courage to share - I don't think we talk about relapses much, we fear them, and they happen to all of us. Take care!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
October, 30 2012 at 8:09 am

Hi, Beth:
Thank you for reading and commenting. It's hard putting my tough times out there and it helps knowing I am not alone. Hang in there.

Anne Marie
October, 30 2012 at 6:22 am

Printing this article out for my 19 year old daughter who has bipolar disease. Last 2 days I'm seeing the signs of a potential relapse. She sees it too and is afraid. I'm hoping your article will help her feel reassured she's not alone and give her a little more hope that she can try a few steps to stem the rising depression. Thank you, and sending you a big virtual hug and reassurance that *YOU* can do it. You can rise up, once again. I believe strongly in always working towards a better tomorrow. Do it, girl!

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