by Diane Miller
I first heard about the WRAP/Wellness Recovery Action Plan at a conference. The presenter left a contact number to obtain free booklets on the WRAP and other topics.
The books were very informative in a lot of areas and it helped me put a very rough plan into place. I gave the plan to my case manager and also showed it to my clubhouse director. He was impressed and mass ordered copies for the entire clubhouse.
Things were put on hold for a while even though I did use portions of that plan. I did not make it a daily useable tool but pulled it out for use as necessary.
Our Center for Independent Living sent 5 people to be trained in Vermont under Mary Ellen Copeland. They in turn trained small groups in which I was able to refine my original plan. I later had the opportunity to also go to Vermont for this same training.
It was an awesome experience. I loved the change of scenery and meeting so many new people. In our group we even had a woman from Alaska. Everyone was very friendly and quickly became a cohesive working team. The sessions were intense but there was time for relaxation. I enjoyed massage therapy while others chose to ski or walk. Each section was thoroughly gone over. We had to learn to think on our feet as we had to present both in breakout sessions and large group. Our first question in small group was on defending the necessity of recovery in the mental health system and was timed. It was quite daunting in the beginning and then I began to enjoy thinking, sharing ideas, and expecting feedback. I liked this because it gave opportunities to capitalize on your strengths and where improvements were necessary. It left me with a sense of being listened to, respected, and left me with a sense of hope.
I have found that this plan is continually changing and progressing as I evolve in my growth process. It’s never the same nor do I use everything listed, or do I use it on a daily basis. I like knowing it’s there when I need it. The plan was important in that it provided a vision of potential possibilities while offering a sense of hope. It was written by me with those things that I valued and was not what everyone else would’ve chosen for my recovery journey.
I started off with the Wellness Toolbox. These were events I had done in the past, had an interest in, or am doing currently. I did struggle with some pain that I didn’t realize I still held inside. When I recognized the symptoms and ended up a with diagnosis, I ended all of the old familiar ties to people and events that I once enjoyed.
The Daily Maintenance section was just a list of suggested things I did on a daily basis. I still struggle with this as some things are done on automatic pilot such as hygiene, grooming, eating, etc. Others were constantly changing dependent upon my health and state of mind at the time. I have to pick and choose my battles. Is it more important that I get out of the apartment and lose the trapped feeling or stay home and make sure all my chores and my personal upkeep is done for the day? Sometimes you don’t win because you either get stigmatized by society, busted by the darn inspections, or if people stop by to visit and criticize rather than asking if there’s anything you need help with.
Identifying Triggers was very challenging. Me, put down on paper what I consider made me weak, flawed, or vulnerable! I don’t like putting a name on those things that made me feel that way. It was very terrifying, and I didn’t feel emotionally safe or confident that this information wouldn’t boomerang on me with serious repercussions.
The next section on Early Warning Signs was also a first-time step for me. I had never really sat down to individually identify them. I just moved in a blur from A-Z, healthy to hospitalization. Go straight to hell and do not collect $200. There were no intervention techniques to prevent hospitalizations. I continually fell through the cracks in the system. When I thought about it consciously for the first time, there did seem to be familiar patterns to my behaviors and occurring symptoms.
The action plan was to inform my mom and a few close friends to watch for these things. They included poor hygiene, not eating, not talking, failure to show up for scheduled events, and isolating. I was also headachy, irritable, rude, and things became all about me. My world was narrowed down to me and anything or anyone outside of it was meaningless. I always accepted the unconditional love and support of my cat, Smokey. Otherwise, suspicions and paranoia ran rampant.
Frequently, I get overly dependent on my folks or a friend. I expect them to leave or abandon me, so I drive them away by calling them all the time or expecting them to carry me through the rough times. Life doesn’t work that way; I lost my best friend of over 12 years. As I am writing this, I should have my folks make me a tape with their voices so I can play it anytime I start getting disconnected. Good idea, Diana.
Changes for the good began to occur once things were identified, an awareness developed, and finally learning to ask for help. This helped me to recognize the next stage of When Things Are Breaking Down.
When I noticed or people brought to my attention different things some insight seemed to appear and I could put some safety nets into place. These were practical, affordable, safe, and healthy things. During this time I had to be honest with myself and do the things I could for myself. I needed to build a trustworthy support network that I could rely on for authentic help.
The Crisis Plan has been rewritten so many times and needs to be changed again as there are new people in my life and different circumstances. Out of the training I learned I could stay in my own home with supports. This would be great as I’m no longer a threat to myself. I have used these tools and I feel it’s kept me out of the hospitalization on more than one occasion. I don’t want the hospital to be my first and only choice. The hospital should only be used as a last resort.
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.