These days, with all the horrific things going on in the world, and with the loss of Robin Williams, and when many of us are experiencing great loss and pain in our own lives, like many, many others, you may be feeling deep, deep despair. It is a horrible feeling. For me this psychic or spiritual pain that seems to attack the very core of my being and it is more painful than any physical pain I have known. If you are in that place right now, please know that there are ways out, ways that you can feel better. They are not easy and it will take all the strength you have to pull yourself back up, but you can do it. I have done it many times. It is such a hard thing to do. Give yourself encouragement, and ask others for encouragement for every step you take on this difficult journey.
You are going to have to really force yourself to begin the process of recovery. Every cell of your being will be fighting against this process. You will need to persist no matter what. I look for something, even something very small, to hang on to. I envision it for myself as a star, the first star I see as the sky is darkening into night. I hang on to that little sparkling piece of light. And I use the strength I get from that to begin to review my list of Wellness Tools.
I start with the tools that are listed in my “When Things are Breaking Down Action Plan” because those are my “heavy duty” wellness tools, the ones I use in the hardest of times. The first thing on my list is to tell one of my closest supporters how I am feeling and ask them to do whatever they need to do to keep me safe. It is not easy to do. My tendency is to hide how I am feeling from everyone I talked about this with them when I was writing my crisis plan so they know just what to do–and what not to do. They don’t smother me, but they validate what I am experiencing and keep close tabs on me.
They may also suggest some of my favorite wellness tools–like going to Fast Eddies’s for ice cream, going with me for a walk in the woods, inviting one of the small children in my life to spend some time with me, or getting involved in a favorite activity like listening to certain music or working on a creative project. They understand that the choice about what to do is up to me, and they don’t feel offended when I don’t take their advice. Or they may just stay close by–depending on the circumstances.
From this shorter list of Wellness Tools, I move on to review my long, long list of Wellness Tools (over 100 and growing)–the one that I keep on my computer and have hard copies of in key places around my home. I begin working my way through that list to find some little thing, a piece of star, that I can hang onto. It might be looking at pictures of people I love or places I have been, staring at a beautiful flower, rereading poetry that has meant a lot to me, working on a quilt for my new grand daughter, studying something of compelling interest, calling my counselor, petting my dog or taking my dog for a walk–the list of possibilities goes on and on. Finding that one little piece of star that I can hang on to is challenging, but well worth the effort. Once I have found one thing, I build on that–doing that one thing more and more or finding another thing–working myself, usually very, very slowly, back to a place where I can feel comfortable in the world again.
One of the reasons I revised the book “Winning Against Relapse” and wrote “WRAP for Life” is to update it with all that I have learned in the years since it was “Winning Against Relapse” was written, but more importantly I wanted it to more specifically address the issue of suicide prevention, and coping with and relieving suicidal thinking. It contains many strategies and examples that I have learned from my own experience and from others, and that I hope will be helpful to you and to the people you support. It includes a sample WRAP for People who are having suicidal thoughts.
I hope this is helpful to you. Give yourself encouragement; ask for help; you can feel comfortable with the world again. If you have any input or ideas at all, please send them to me using our contact us form. Please include permission to share your idea and if we should do it anonymously or include your name.
Mary Ellen Copeland, PhD, developed Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) with a group of people with lived experience who were attending a mental health recovery workshop in 1997. She is the original author of the WRAP Red Book, as well as dozens of other WRAP books and materials. She has dedicated the last 30 years of her life to learning from people who have mental health issues; discovering the simple, safe, non-invasive ways they get well, stay well, and move forward in their lives; and then sharing what she has learned with others through keynote addresses, trainings, and the development of books, curriculums, and other resources. Now that she is retired, and that, as she intended, others are continuing to share what she has learned, she continues to learn from those who have mental health issues and those who support them. She is a frequent contributor to this site.