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When We Slip and Fall

Tara Harvill
Tara Harvill, MA
Registered Marriage and
Family Therapist Intern
and Registered Mental
Health Counselor Intern
A Note from Tara 
Relapse – the etymology of the word is “who falls again.” This brings a smile to my face, as I recall a recent spill I took hurrying to a meeting. Picture this: it was a full-on, totally uncoordinated, arms and legs flailing, books-purse-folders flying, as seen on America’s Funniest Videos kind of incident.
Of course, I was not smiling at the time. In that moment, I felt embarrassed, frustrated, sad, disappointed, and physically injured (I had twisted my ankle and developed a huge bruise and knot on an already previously injured knee – yes, from another recent fall), not to mention the huge blow to my ego. As I felt my eyes well up with tears, the first place my mind went was to go home, call in sick, and wallow in my pitiful experience.
Okay, I know in the grand scheme of things, this doesn’t sound like a big deal. That’s exactly why I’m smiling now! The point is that I didn’t go home, etc. I took a deep breath, brushed my pants off (thank goodness I wasn’t wearing a dress), gathered up my belongings, and proceeded to my meeting. At the end of the day, I felt glad that I didn’t alter the course of my day as a result of that one event.
This may sound like a very trivial metaphor for relapse, but the essence of the story can be overlaid onto some of my most difficult challenges in life. After the fact, many of my struggles, disappointments, and "relapses" (times that I have returned to previous patterns of behavior, which is the definition of relapse) morph into strengths, accomplishments and life lessons. And, yes, I’m quite sure I will fall again. With each fall, though, I feel more certain I will be able to get back up!