Flashbacks from When You Were Sick With a Mental Illness
When you are in the process of recovering from a chronic mental illness, when you have achieved a state of remission and are free from psychiatric symptoms, you will never forget the impact, the memories, of when you were sick. The flashbacks.
Sometimes, when my life is still and it is uncomplicated, my mind is bombarded with images and with feelings that I cannot rid myself of. I might be having dinner, perhaps reading in bed, when my mind starts to spin. I suddenly remember things that terrify me. Things I have worked to forget. I see myself in the hospital, crying, my knees pulled tight to my chest. I feel the angst, the desperation I felt. I am once again the young woman who thought she would never get well: I am the addict who could not stop using. I am my past.
It is not so dissimilar to the feeling you get while grieving the loss of a loved one. The feelings do not leave you. You are still burdened with the past, with the pain and with the reality that the person who experienced all of that pain was you. It was the illness, untamed, encroaching, and devouring your life.
Flashbacks and the Fear of Relapse
Even when I am well, I am acutely aware that I will not always be: some people go symptom-free for years, for the rest of their lives, but many of us do not. The flashbacks frighten me. I do not want to be the woman stumbling through each day. I just want to be healthy.
When you have recovered from a mental illness or co-morbid conditions, the memories of when you were ill will follow you. You cannot escape your past, but you can learn to accept it and separate it from yourself.
I spent many years thinking about what had happened when I was sick. I was tortured by the images, tactile in nature, and triggered by little things like the places I frequented when I was ill, the things that I did because I was ill. In order to move on, to become well, we must tackle the flashbacks that define the experience of when you were unwell.
Recovering from the Memories of Mental Illness
The memories of when you were sick can make recovery more difficult than it already is. Being diagnosed with a chronic illness is hard enough, but the images and the feelings of when we were ill are devastating. How can we work to move on?
I struggled for many years to work through the pain. I believed that if I worked hard enough to separate myself from the past, I would become well. I would re-enter the world, fresh and new, not chained by the past.
It does not work this way. I wish it did.
You have to think and feel your way through the past. It is a slow process, it is not comfortable, and it often feels impossible. But it is not. Recovery is possible and sometimes, the memories, the flashbacks, can help you heal. Recovering from mental illness involves acceptance of the disease and, in turn, acceptance of the past.
It is easier said than done. It’s a lot of work, but coming to the conclusion that the person you were when you were ill is not the person you are now is a freeing experience. Chronic mental illness is defined by the very word itself: Chronic. A frightening word, but one that should not determine your future. The memories are part of you, but the person you slowly become when recovering, that person defines you.
When you are ill, strive to become well. Work to understand that the illness is a small part of you and the memories, the flashbacks to when you were ill, are part of the process.
Champagne, N. (2011, September 12). Flashbacks from When You Were Sick With a Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2011/09/recovering-from-mental-illness-flashbacks-and-the-fear-of-relapse
Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne
Last November,but unsure ......exactly.
( due to the fact I've temporal -lobe epilepsy which complicates memory...
Plus I'm psychotic aft long stretches of mania so given many extra meds which make
You lose your memory as well.....
At least personally.
Congratulations to all that have stayed out of hospital,the not so nice hotel! :(
I've been and fear I could be@ any time,that person again.
I know ECT,we were Best Friends yrs ago...
Been on a cocktail of meds,tried self medicating w street drugs ( bad idea)
Course of good Drs horrendous Drs..
Therapy,DBT therapy,stone therapy..even been desperate enough to turn to religions at time I thought nothing could save me...from this monster called bipolar disorder...
First,may I say,you are NOT alone in this fight.
Yes,it's exhausting,but you will reap the rewards w the right meds,the right coping tools.
Adjusted just FOR YOU.
We all experience this disease differently,what helps one,may be hell for another....
So..I'm a rapid cycling bipolar,it's very very hard ....but I've done a lot of hard hard
Work and found the correct drugs.
Stopped self medicating ages ago stopped hanging w toxic people.
Ended a stressful relationship.
I'm single,I've got my BFF gal pal online,and my cat
Most importantly.......myself...beyond the bipolar.
You will too,it's not rubbish,it's true.
Sometimes it takes what feels like forever,it took me many many years but would I take back my life even w the mistakes that scarred me made me want to find the perfect
Euthanasia to end it all at times?
As I learned to be tougher,not in a mean way,but less ...well..fragile..for lack of a better term...and as my team member told me one of the ones that made it.
Thus a survivor..that,my friend could also become you.
God bless,your beautiful inside / out.
You'll make it...if you truly want to,let nothing/ no one stand in your way!!!!! :-)
A year stable is a great accomplishment and hopefully means many more to come. Some people stay stable for years, a couple people I know have not had an episode in over twenty, so stay positive.
Thanks for your comment,
I actually find that when I'm feeling better the memories of feeling worse fade. It's a neurological thing.
Nevertheless, I know what you mean. I can remember things I wish I had never heard of.
"The memories are part of you, but the person you slowly become when recovering, that person defines you."
Thank you for the comment. It's something that is hard for others to understand, if you have not walked the road of mental illness, but is something those who have suffered understand on a deep level.