This past Friday we put our dog Koda down. He was 14 and had a lot of troubles – mostly neurological but his body was failing too.
I thought I might relapse into depression but I didn’t. It’s not that death and grieving are triggers for me. It’s that the last time our dog died, I did relapse. I was on the watch for warning signs this time.
Knowing your triggers, warnings signs and stay well strategies will help you ward off relapses.
Here are the warning signs I was watching for and the stay well strategies I used:
- Was the story I was telling myself causing me to feel guilty? It wasn’t. My self-talk was “ he was suffering, it was his time, he had a great life, this was as good a death as anyone gets”.
- Were my thoughts running out of control? They were in the days leading up to Friday and I hadn’t been sleeping. Lack of sleep makes it harder for me to get a grip on my thoughts. So I started to sleep more.
- I didn’t have the energy to run but I know I have to exercise to feel good. So I went for walks.
- I was on high alert for any negative self-talk and there was some. “I’m benefiting from putting him down because he was so difficult to care for.” I gave myself permission to have that thought for about two minutes and then no more.
When Lexi passed away eight years ago, I didn’t catch myself going from grieving to depression. That relapse lasted more than a year.
Lexi and Koda are Keeshonden. If you abhor going to the bathroom alone, this is the breed for you! They’re also watchdogs – they’ll notify you of such impending dangers as a plastic bag blowing through the yard or a bunny in the cul de sac. You just can’t buy protection like that!
Here’s what happened when Lexi died.
We were away in Whistler skiing. Well I wasn’t skiing because on day one I had come down with strep throat. After several days, we got word that our five year old dog Lexi had gone into the hospital. When we got back home I was exhausted from being ill and from worry. After several more days in hospital, she was supposed to come home but she died suddenly.
There should have been depression alarm bells going off in my head but there wasn’t.
Here’s where I went wrong in heading off a relapse:
- I hadn’t had issues with depression in the past few years so I didn’t think a relapse was possible.
- I didn’t know guilt was a trigger for me. This situation easily lent itself to guilt.
- I didn’t know how weak I would be mentally by being physically run down.
- I allowed the negative self-talk to go on because I thought it was just part of grieving.
- I wasn’t watching for any warning signs because I thought it was all just grief.
With what I know now I would have:
- Taken better care of myself in order to have the energy to manage the self talk.
- Say what I say now to negative self-talk which is, “This is negative – you keep doing this and you won’t be able to stop. Change your thinking NOW”.
- Recognized the trigger and watched for warning signs that I was headed for relapse.
- Upped my anti-depressant dosage as a precaution.
- Seen a therapist faster. I waited a year.
If you are on a recovery journey, there’s potential for relapse. Please please learn your triggers, warning signs and the stay well strategies that work for you.
Do you know your triggers and warning signs? What are your favourite stay well strategies?
About the Author
I promote peer support and encourage people on their recovery journeys. My plan with this blog is to build a community of like-minded individuals offering ideas and encouragement from their own experiences. My master plan is to help create psychologically safe and supportive workplaces. I live in Calgary, Canada.