If you walk outside today, you’ll see flowers blooming, trees blossoming, robins hopping around the yard, and you’ll think to yourself, what a beautiful spring day. However, you’ll also likely hear many people warning you that this is not really the beginning of spring; it’s fool’s spring or fake spring.
It’s too early in the year for us to rely on the warmer weather and it’s entirely possible we could see a snowstorm before winter is officially over in late March. Fake spring is a real thing that happens every year; just when we think the winter is over, it comes roaring back on us. This concept of fake spring is not just applicable to the weather – it also applies to mental health.
Many people who have experienced symptoms of a mental illness, go through a kind of fool’s spring. They may struggle with their symptoms for a while, and eventually they decide to get help. The person may take medication to treat their illness, or they may participate in therapy. Often, people do a combination of the two, and at some point, the person begins to feel better. The person may even get to the point where they feel “normal” again. It’s often at this point that people think they no longer need the medication, because they feel so much better, or maybe they think they don’t need to go to therapy anymore, because they feel like they are “back to normal.” At this point, sometimes people stop taking their meds, and they stop going to therapy, and often, this can cause their symptoms to come roaring back just like the winter storm after fool’s spring.
This concept is hard for many of us, because we wonder, when is it OK to stop the medication? When is it OK to stop therapy? Do I have to do it forever? The answer to these questions is different for everyone. There is no single formula for how long someone needs to take a medication like an antidepressant. What’s important is that people talk to their doctor about making any changes, so that the doctor can help them make an informed decision.
Stopping a medication abruptly and without talking to the doctor first is never a good idea. Some medications need to be tapered off gradually so that your body doesn’t have an adverse reaction. You also don’t want to relapse into depression because you just spent so much time and energy to get yourself out of that place. The last thing you want to do when you are feeling better is to make yourself sick or revert right back to where you started when you were having symptoms of mental illness.
Discontinuing therapy sessions is also something you should discuss with your therapist. While experts agree that therapy is designed to have a start and end date and not to be perpetual, it is important to try and finish the plan you and your provider set in place. Your therapist may have some sage advice about how to wind up your sessions – maybe they feel like you still have some work to do in a certain area. Your therapist may also encourage you to simply cut back on the frequency of your sessions at first so that you can still maintain the practice of therapy while just doing it every other week instead of weekly.
Thrive is a nonprofit organization based in Hendersonville that focuses on helping people with mental health needs to move from surviving to thriving. Thrive’s Clubhouse is a day program for adults with severe mental illness, and part of what Clubhouse members do in the program is to work on improving mental health for the long term. Having better mental health can really help people to thrive in the community, but often there is no quick fix. Good mental health takes time and practice to maintain throughout your life.
If you are feeling the alluring call of springtime and you are tempted to stop your mental health treatments, please reconsider. Please reach out to your doctor first, and have a conversation with them to see what they recommend. It can seem like the right thing to “get back to normal” when you are doing so much better, but make sure you follow your doctor’s orders so that you don’t end up back in the harsh winter.
For more information about Thrive’s mental health and housing services, please visit www.thrive4health.org or call the office at 828-697-1581.
Travey Gruver is the Development and Communications Director at Thrive. Contact Thrive at 828-697-1581.
This article originally appeared on Hendersonville Times-News: From Thrive: Concept of fake spring can also apply to your mental health