by Mary Ellen Copeland, Ph.D
Many of you have taken WRAP classes or been part of a WRAP group. Perhaps you facilitate a WRAP group. Maybe you are a health care provider who supports people in using their WRAP or a system administrator who makes it possible for people to learn about WRAP.
Learning about WRAP is an eye-opening experience. Recently a man in a group I was leading in Japan said, “You mean I have been living with this for over 20 years and there are simple safe things I can do and steps I can take to help myself. Why didn’t anyone tell me this before?” For many people, an introduction to WRAP is the beginning of understanding that that there are many things they can do to facilitate their own recovery and wellness, that they have power and control. This can be a huge change after years of feeling totally dependent on others.
I was one of the people who took part in the development of WRAP, and may have been among the first people to develop their own personal WRAP. I know firsthand of the value of this incredible tool. But like many others, there are times when things are going really well, and my own WRAP slips into the background as I get busy with other things.
However, over the past years, I have been strongly reminded of the importance of “Living WRAP” every single day. There has been a lot of unexpected and serious illness in my family. Every day my family’s welfare is my primary concern. As I age, I have some health issues that need attention as well. And maintaining my mental health needs my attention every single day. Now I can really say that I am “Living WRAP”, not day to day, but moment to moment.
Every single day I have to think about my Daily Maintenance Plan. I ask myself, “What do I have to do today for myself to be sure I can be available to others if needed? Then I have to be absolutely sure I do those things.
Often I get a call with a new piece of information about my family member’s condition or find myself waiting and waiting for reassurance that all is well. I now have first hand experience with how to get by, using my Triggers Action Plan, as I wait and wait and wait. It is not easy but I have managed. I keep reminding myself that if I “fall apart” it is not going to help anybody and it will make it more difficult for everybody. So I pick up my knitting, find a diversionary TV program or watch a video, clean something that really needs it, talk to my spouse, read something, or use one of the other tools in my Triggers Action Plan to get me through the long hard hours and even, days.
Being ever watchful, there are times when I notice Early Warning Signs creeping in. Then I refer to that action plan and intensify my efforts at maintaining my wellness to get myself back on track as quickly as possible.
And there are times, like now, when, if I wasn’t paying close attention, I could easily find myself in the “When Things Are Breaking Down” section of my WRAP. Like the time when there was a lot of hard family medical news and I attended a friend’s father’s funeral. When I got home I could have easily fit into this category, so deep was my despair. I needed quick evasive action. So I got outside to get some light through my eyes, had long talks with several people I care deeply about, had a reassuring conversation with a family member about the health status of a grandchild, had a good meal, and went with my spouse to attend a community program on backyard birding.
When I got home I had a healthy shake. I was doing OK but not great. I went to bed and fell quickly asleep. But after three hours I woke and couldn’t get back to sleep. After using my Ipod to guide me through four meditation exercises I fell back to sleep for several more hours. I awoke this morning feeling refreshed and ready to begin another day of “Living WRAP”. If worse came to worse, and I was experiencing the signs in my Advance Directive that let others know I need help, I know they would be there to do the things I need them to so that I could recover and get on with taking care of myself and supporting my family. I also want to mention the importance to me of having a strong Wellness Toolbox that is constantly revised as I uncover new Wellness Tools.
Whenever I get into a real “pinch’, where things are really hard and my action plans don’t seem to be doing it, I get out my Wellness Toolbox, which now contains over 100 possible options, and so far, I have always found something I could do that would help. Sometimes I find it helpful in “Living WRAP” to review some of what I have written, and what others have written about WRAP in my books or here on the website.
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.