Recovery Trust Forum

Mental Illness Guide: Care, Support, and Education
The Recovery Trust home page
[Home] [Support Group] [Ask an Expert] [What's New] [Search] [Help]

 

Will I get sick again?

Most people with serious mental illness will get sick every so often throughout their lives.  A few will get sick only one or two times, others more frequently.  So it is very important to think about ways to try to keep yourself well and avoid getting sick again.

Things you can do to stay well

The rules for “staying well” are the same for people with serious mental illness as they are for everybody else.  Here are things you can do to keep yourself from getting sick again.

bullet

Take your medications regularly, just as your doctor tells you to.  This is probably the single best way to keep from getting sick again.

bullet

Keep a regular daily routine of mental and physical activity.   Set a time to take your medications, to get up each morning, a time to go to bed, when to have meals, when to ride your bike or take a walk, when to listen to music or watch TV, call a friend, or meet with your support .  Knowing what to do, and when to do it, will help to reduce your stress and give you control over how each day goes for you.

bullet

Sleep six to eight hours each night.

bullet

Eat healthy foods.

bullet

Do not drink too much alcohol.

bullet

Do not use illegal drugs.

bullet

Stay calm.  When you start to feel that a person or situation is upsetting you, learn to walk away and find a quiet place to calm down.  Take a few deep breaths.

bullet

Reduce stressful situations.  If your life has too much stress, find ways to change it.  If the bus you usually take is too crowded, fix your schedule so you can take a less crowded bus.  If meals with your family are too stressful, arrange to have your meals in another room or at a different time.

bullet

Find ways to relax and exercise.  For example, take a walk after dinner, avoid action-packed TV shows or listen to music before you go to sleep.

Know the signs that you may be getting sick again

Many people with serious mental illness have signs that they are getting sick again.  These are called “early warning signs.”  Families have noted that the signs that point to people with serious mental illness getting sick again are usually the same as those that happened before they got sick the first time.  You and your family should make a list of these signs.   Here is a list of signs that you and your family members should be looking for that might mean you are getting sick again.

bullet

Missing scheduled appointments with doctors or other treatment team members.

bullet

Doing less than usual during the day.

bullet

Drinking more caffeine and smoking more than usual, or drinking and smoking less than usual.

bullet

Not being able to sleep, having unusual waking hours and having days and nights mixed up.

bullet

No longer visiting and going out with friends, staying by yourself most of the time and lack of interest about most matters. 

bullet

Having fewer social contacts.

bullet

Going from being busy and in a hurry to being restless and not wanting to do anything.

bullet

Spending a lot of time discussing religion.

bullet

Becoming unfriendly, mistrustful and fearful.

bullet

Becoming angry too quickly with friends or family when there is disagreement.

bullet

Not keeping yourself and your clothes clean.

bullet

Writing things that are not clear or have meaning.

bullet

Having a lot of emotional responses to unimportant matters.

bullet

Having a sad and blank look on your face.

bullet

Staring, not blinking at all or blinking a lot.

bullet

Smelling and tasting things differently.

bullet

Refusing to touch people, constant wearing of gloves, shaving your head or body hair or threatening to hurt yourself. 

bullet

Having everyday thoughts that may be confusing or that do not connect right.  Sentences are unclear or do not make sense.  You may have difficulty thinking, following a conversation or remembering things.  Your thoughts seem to speed up or slow down.  You might do some of the following:

-- Talk too much.

-- Talk to people who are not there.

-- Talk back to the radio or TV.

-- Pray or sing out loud at wrong times.

With help, people can learn to know their own “early warning signs.” If you or your family notice early warning signs, call the mental health workers to help you avoid getting sick again.

See: How do I know if my relative is getting sick again?  Early warning signs of mania and Early warning signs of depression

Avoid things that make you feel uncomfortable

You should try to avoid “triggers.”  Triggers are things that may cause you to feel uncomfortable.  You might feel anxious, scared, discouraged, sad, or start to say bad things to yourself.  Reacting to triggers is normal.  But if you do not see them coming and are unable to react in a good way, they can make you feel worse and worse.

How to know your triggers: Make a list

Make a list of things that happen that make you feel uncomfortable, or that may have made you sick in the past.  Add things to your list as you think of them, or as you notice things happening that make you feel worse.  It could be things such as:

bullet

Anniversary dates of losses or trauma.

bullet

Scary news events.

bullet

Having too much to do.

bullet

Family problems.

bullet

The end of a relationship.

bullet

Spending too much time alone.

bullet

Being judged, criticized, teased, or put down.

bullet

Getting a big bill.

bullet

Physical illness.

bullet

Sexual harassment.

bullet

Being yelled at.

bullet

Loud noises or certain smells or tastes.

bullet

Being around someone who has treated you badly.

Trigger action plans

Once you know what your triggers are, make a plan of what you can do to make yourself feel better and keep from reacting too much.  Add things that have worked in the past and ideas you have learned from other people.  You might add things like this to your plan:

bullet

Do all the things you have planned to do each day.

bullet

Call a support person to ask him to listen while you talk things out.

bullet

Do a relaxing exercise.

bullet

Write in your journal.

bullet

Ride a stationary bike.

bullet

Pray.

bullet

Play the piano or work on a fun activity.

If you are reacting to a “trigger” and find these things helpful, keep them on your list.  You can always change your “action” plan.  Keep looking for and trying new ideas until you find the most helpful ones.