Something that everyone who has spent a lot of time recovering from mental illness can agree on, is that recovery is NOT A STRAIGHT LINE. There are ups and downs, leaps forward and setbacks. Having the expectation that you are only going to improve is going to be it's own massive set back when you realize that it ain't gonna happen.
I've been battling my mental illness since I was 12. I've been battling it with an actual chance since I was about 23 with therapy backing me up. Still, 4 years in and I still experience relapses. I think everyone has their own pet name for it, but I call mine "Getting Bad Again."
There were a lot of times where I didn't recognize that I was Getting Bad Again. I was just living life, and it was the people around me that realized I wasn't being myself.
First it's the tiredness - I'll go to bed at 9pm, but miss the morning of work because I literally can not wake up.
Then it's the hypochondria. I have a headache, but I never get headaches... there's something wrong with my brain. What's wrong with my brain??
It moves on to - and I'm not making this shit up - behaving like I'm 16 years old again. I get super short with people, I'm stubborn, impulsive, I just want to drink/party, and I develop a HUGE CRUSH on the exact type of guy that would have driven me crazy in high school.
I'm 27 years old and married. Ain't nobody got time for this. But it's not just going to go away by itself.
How I Handle Relapses:
1. Recognize the symptoms
Like I said, it didn't come easily at first. But I took notes. Literally. When I finally did recognize that I was relapsing into my old ways, I would write down all of my feelings and symptoms and try to remember when I first started noticing them. Eventually, it became almost like a recipe - and when I had all the ingredients, I had the worst dessert ever.
2. Manage my expectations
Praying for it to just be gone when I wake up isn't realistic. I know it's going to likely get worse before it gets better so I have to hunker down and pull out all the stops. Self-care, mindfulness, reality checks, extra sleep, and most importantly - taking it easy on myself. Not blaming myself or seeing it as a failure on my part is crucial, it's only going to pull me into those negative thoughts that I used to drown in.
3. Manage the expectations for those around me
This one is seriously a life changer. This is a lot easier to talk about with your loved ones when you're Not Getting Bad Again. When you are clear headed, and feeling positive, walk your loved ones through what its like to Get Bad Again. Gently explain the emotions you experience (in my case, it's a severe lack of self confidence, insecurity, and jealousy). Assure them that it's nothing they are doing wrong, and that you require patience and understanding. It will help you both immensely in the long run if you both have a good understanding of what is happening.
4. Be Patient
Imagine it's like your (bratty) inner child is coming out again. Yelling at them and trying to force them away is only going to cause a scene in the middle of a Wal-Mart (oh, you can bet your ass I've been there, crying in the middle of the shampoo section). Instead, try to take things slow and steady. Practice self-care. Practice positive thoughts. Practice mindfulness. Treat yourself like you might treat a scared 5 year old. It will pass and you can get right back to your path of recovery.