Stephanie Jack lives in Missouri City, Texas, and works as program manager of the PEERS for Hope House, a peer-operated crisis respite in Houston. Stephanie has been using and living WRAP for her wellness since April 2014.  

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

—Martin Luther King, Jr. 

We are a few weeks into the start of a new year, and I find myself still feeling quite reflective about the events of the past year. Actually, the events of the past two years. 

To say the year 2020 and its fraternal twin year 2021 have been challenging would be the understatement of the century, as far as I am concerned. The COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted the racial and ethnic disparities in health care against a backdrop of racial and social justice issues in the United States that could no longer go unseen by the larger society. But as I look ahead to the coming months of 2022, I am reminded that every generation has faced tremendous challenges, obstacles, and even pandemics, and we somehow moved forward in the face of tremendous odds and collective trauma. 

February is Black History Month, or African American History Month, in the United States and Canada. The theme for 2022’s Black History Month is “Black Health and Wellness.” This theme is everything I am, everything I sometimes struggle to maintain, and everything I am passionate about. 

There are so many issues that pertain to Black folks’ health and wellness, from the high maternal mortality rate among Black women and the generational wealth gap to the barriers and stigmas around seeking and obtaining mental health and substance use care. As I reflect on the state of my own health and wellness, I rededicate myself to the self-care practices I have developed using my WRAP and to sharing the benefits of WRAP with others in my wellness community. 

In the updated edition of the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) “Red Book,” wellness is defined as “having a purpose in life, being actively involved in satisfying work and play, being part of joyful relationships, having a healthy body and living environment, and experiencing happiness. Wellness doesn’t necessarily imply the absence of physical illness or impairment, or the lack of a behavioral health diagnosis. Anyone can experience wellness within their current life circumstances.” I have learned that it just helps when you have a plan to achieve and maintain your sense of well-being. 

This past year, I have leaned into every aspect of my WRAP, using it to help myself navigate the stresses of being an essential worker and caring for myself as I undergo breast cancer treatments. My wellness toolbox is concentrated with a few simple activities that bring me joy, peace, and balance. My wellness tools include my binge-worthy TV shows and favorite music (Megan Thee Stallion, anyone?!) and awkwardly learning TikTok dance moves. My word search book is my go-to tool during my chemo treatments—it’s a wonderful, time-consuming distraction. 

I use work-related wellness tools such as getting gas for my car the night before work or using my paid-time-off days to help me manage work stress and COVID anxiety. By having an intentional way of paying attention to myself, using my WRAP, I was able to help myself avoid experiencing a mental health crisis this past year. 

In addition to leaning into my WRAP, I also leaned into key recovery concepts such as self-advocacy, personal responsibility, and support. I reached out to people I trusted and set limits with others when I needed space. When my treatment team and I recognized I needed a break from work to attend to myself, I spoke up, and my workplace supported my time off to recover. 

I am learning to prioritize and proudly own my self-care, in much the same way star athletes Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles, two women of color, last year unapologetically stepped back from their sports on the world stage to care for their mental health. 

In February, as we observe Black History Month, I invite everyone to re-imagine your personal healing journey and to shine a light on every dimension of your wellness. Let’s commit to the well-being of all people and focus our efforts on making meaningful changes within our own lives and communities. 

As writer and civil rights activist Audre Lorde says, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”