Relapse really is part of recovery

By Jack Smith

My doctor told me two things the day I left The Menninger Clinic: I may never outgrow bipolar disorder, and relapse is often part of recovery.

My first six weeks or so at home, I felt renewed and refreshed, hopeful and content.

I awoke every day at 5 am, read my Bible, made a gratitude list and enjoyed the silent comfort morning brings. I experienced something that has eluded me for much of life. Serenity.

My naive hope was that my illness was behind me. Maybe I finally had found the right combination of meds and mojo, therapy and attitude.

Yet somehow the train recently came careening off the tracks, and I couldn’t stop it. I pulled the emergency brake, but it didn’t stop. I did all the things I was told to do.

I prayed. I exercised. I mentalized. I took deep breaths. I told myself the paralyzing anxiety that triggered obsessive and ridiculous thoughts would pass, that feelings are just that. They aren’t facts.

Yet the depression came back like a slow-moving, dark cloud, consuming my soul and distorting my thoughts. The stubborn cloud hasn’t moved.

Depression is a liar. It tells me my life is unraveling. It tells me the pain and suffering might never go away. It tells me I’m not worthy of the blessings I’ve been given. Worst of all, it makes me forget how blessed I really am. This disease is cruel and cunning, relentless and unforgiving, exhausting and maddening.

It tells me it’s not even worth the fight. It tells me to fear my emotions, all my emotions, because I might launch into mania or slide down the slippery slope of misery.

Today, I used all the strength I could muster to try and climb out of this dark and dreadful abyss. My fear is slipping into the pit of agony again as I scratch and claw my way out.

As difficult and discouraging as these days have been, I have not given up hope.  I can’t give up hope because it’s all I have.

I do not believe God has forsaken me or left me alone in the bitter cold and darkness of winter. I believe he has a plan for me, a reason for my suffering. I just don’t yet know what it is.

I have asked God to take this burden away from me, but I can accept it if He doesn’t. At least then the suffering will not have been in vain.



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30 thoughts on “Relapse really is part of recovery

  1. Praying for healing for you Jack. This is certainly a dreadful illness. I so appreciate you sharing your journey. God bless you.

  2. Have you had your Vitamin D levels checked? There is a reason that more people are depressed in the winter and feel better when they get back from a vacation in the sun. I wish you well.

  3. Hang in there. I am glad you are not keeping this a secret so prayer warriors can go to work and folks can reach out to you and your family. I hate cancer and it makes me mad for folks and so does depression/bipolar. I can get really cranky with God about it. One time a friend and I were talking about hurt and understanding God’s plan. I wondered if when we get to heaven we will be able to ask all of our “why” questions or if we will just know. My wise friend said we would just have to know because the line would be too long if we had to ask. Keep the faith and keep sharing. I have shared your blog with several people and you are helping them. I pray this cloud moves away soon so you can enjoy your Auburn Tigers..RTR from this Bammer though.

  4. Reading your relapse post makes me want to cry, to curse, to scream! The way this monster violates your total being is cruel, nasty, and sinful. I am reminded of the story in Matthew in which Jesus cast out the demons. Remember: they were cast into the swine and went over the cliff. I am praying and visualizing your demon being cast out, cast into a huge cloud and being blown away by the healing breath of The Father. I call on Christ to see and hear His child Jack. I beg Him to blow your demon away, time after time if necessary. Blow until the demon is replaced by peace, by joy, by wholeness. This I pray for you, Jack. Cast your burden on Him for His yoke is light. Sending you all love and peace. Cathy.

  5. I can only say be strong, hang on. Your pictures were wonderful and kids looked like they were on a tiger”high” ! I wish I could say something to help ease your pain. .you are a sweet and precious boy and like I have told you before, you can only take one day at a time. .one step, one minute, one hour. .i hope you have a peaceful and happy holiday. .love you in Eufaula. …

  6. Its a constant battle keep fighting some ppl have to fight harder than others but remember Jesus suffered more than we ever will and we can survive this life on earth.

  7. Jack, I am so sorry you are experiencing this period of depression. You have come so far and you will get through this period of depression. You already know this is a part of the diagnosis and you are doing all the right things. Know that you have many friends who are lifting you up in prayer and are always here for you. Stay strong and keep the faith and you will find that peace again. Wishing you and your lovely family a wonderful holiday season.

  8. I literally checked the blog to see if I had been missing posts since Thanksgiving yesterday. You are always in our prayers, and you have no idea how much you are helping others by sharing your story. Hoping for comfort, strength, and peace for you.

  9. Hang in there. You have more friends and people in general that you have touched who are praying for you. We are all humbled that that you are sharing this painful journey with us . That in itself is a gift. You are a very generous friend. Hope this is under control soon. Take care.

  10. Cling to your hope and your faith as you have so beautifully stated. I believe God wants to use your gifts, which are important to many, especially to other sufferers. I am so proud of the way you are fighting this war..
    Many of your readers have told me they suffered for years but finally found peace and a way to manage the illness. They all used the past tense of suffered, even though they accept that episodes may re-occur. The point is, they “made it.”
    You have so many praying for you and Barclay. I hope you can feel the love. You are precious to me and to your family, and I use that word precious in its most meaningful sense.

  11. Jack, you are truly an inspiration to so many. I am so sorry some days are so difficult for you. I pray that you can dig deep to keep up the good fight. You are a special young man, and Barclay is such a special young woman. I love all five of you, “Miss” Paula

  12. Your blog tore at my heart strings. I cannot say I know how you feel, but I do know that you have so much support, prayers and well wishes from your friends and family. I do believe there is hope and reason to carry on. Look at your beautiful wife and children. They along are the reason for getting up every morning and existing. Stay on the path of recovery my friend. God does have a plan for you and you are right that he has not forsaken you. He walks beside you every step of the way. I am sure there is a lesson in his plans for you. Love and prayers.

  13. Thanks for sharing this. It’s a difficult time of year for many, especially those of us who suffer from this disease, and I can certainly relate to your struggles. I wish for you and your family a Merry Christmas

  14. We love you, Jack, and are all pulling and praying for you. I know your depression tells you differently, but don’t believe it: YOU ARE A SPECIAL PERSON, A CHILD OF GOD, AND A PERSON OF WORTH. The Lord knew you before you existed; He will not forsake you now.

  15. Praying for you every day, Jack. You are so loved and such a special man. Keep the faith and know that God is with you every step of the way.

  16. Jack, I love you! I am praying for immediate peace, strength and healing and more specifically that your hours, days, months and years ahead be met with warm, beautiful light and a lot less darkness. Remain strong and remember that you are loved, very loved. Blessings, Amy

  17. Jack,
    Be gentle with yourself. This time of the year is tough. You came back from Menninger, and you had a honeymoon period of recovery, so to speak. Now, the real work begins. But, the courage within your words tells me that you will do okay with the work to come. However difficult the work ahead, the times ahead will be so much happier than the times behind you. You have an understanding and acceptance of your illness that you did not before.

    And do fight your illness, even while befriending it. I am not sure God gives us a purpose behind everything. We make our own purpose, with His guidance and prayer. Your blog may be enough of a purpose in itself, as you have helped so many of us. My personal belief is that our main purpose in learning from, recovering from,and living with depression is to be better parents for our children, so that they become better people than we are, and they pay it forward, and on, and on. The wonder of your legacy is yet to come.

    The words of your mom warmed my heart.

  18. Jack, I read your story and I truly am concerned and care what is going on with you and your family. In listening to what you where saying you showed alot of courage in what you have said. For those who thinks the devil is not real then they better be looking at there heart. He is here to destroy anyone he can. I know you know what has gone on in my families life for the last 10 years and when I got to that low point I started reading the book of Job. It helped me along with a lot of praying . You are surrounded with friends and family but you are in the arms of God trust in him and he will help you. He will never put more on you then you can handle .I will pray for you and my phone is always there for you anytime. God bless.

  19. I hope you feel the love that so many are sending to you and your family. I’m Not going to pretend to know how hard this struggle is for you (y’all) , but I do know that you are blessing to so many….. Outside of your family. You are so much stronger than you know……. Simply by continuing with your story (blog). I will continue to pray for you and your family! With great admiration… Pam Lewis Welsh

  20. Jack, Deuteronomy 31:8 The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” He is with you and his spirit guides you. Please do not give up. There are many who love you and are behind you. Godspeed in your recovery!!

  21. All I know is that you are the sweetest boss we ever had, and I know without a shadow of a doubt, you will beat this. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Be kind to yourself!

  22. Hi Jack, you may or may not remember me. Eufaula is my hometown and Sam (deceased) and Lenora Slade are my parents. I have enjoyed reading your blogs, since I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder in February of 2007. To be as brief as possible, I suffered thru extreme hormonally induced migraines from the time I was 13. As I barreled into menopause, my blood pressure shot up for about a week, and I had a stroke. Aside from losing my eyesight for a couple of weeks, I thought I was recovering nicely, until I started crying and couldn’t stop. That little stroke did something to my brain. The hopelessness was unbearable. I felt so depressed that I didn’t want to live. I didn’t exactly want to kill myself — I just didn’t want to be in the world. After 3 days in the Bradley Center and the last few years of trying different medications, I think I am mostly okay. Just wanted you to know that I have had those terrible feelings which are sometimes hard to explain, but I know how you have felt, and I thank you for your blogs. Bless you.

  23. Jack,
    Hope this finds you really, really, busy with the holidays and that nothing is wrong. Have been praying for you and your family. Have you on our prayer list at church. I pray for the best for you and yours. Dianne

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