When Things Are Breaking Down

By Mary Ellen Copeland, PhD

“When things are breaking down” is the fourth section of WRAP, after your daily plan, stressors and action plan, and early warning signs and action plan sections. To me, it is the most important part of my WRAP because it can be used so effectively to prevent a crisis where others need to step in and take over and where there is the potential for difficult scenes, injuries, and hospitalization. I have heard from many, many people that since using WRAP they have effectively avoided crisis situations. That is great news.

It is especially useful to think of this part of WRAP at this time of year when you may be having a hard time due to dark, bleak weather, holiday issues, and world events.

In developing this part of WRAP, it helps to have lots and lots of wellness tools in your wellness toolbox—some that you might like to try, and many that you have used successfully over and over again.

If you need ideas for your toolbox, I suggest the website CelebratePossibilities.blogspot.com. At that site, Certified WRAP Facilitator Carol Bailey Floyd is collecting wellness tool ideas. So far there are more than 800 wellness tool ideas listed there. There are also lots of wellness tools listed in WRAP for Life and WRAP Plus.

With so many wellness tools, there are sure to be things you can do to help yourself. That is what I always thought. With all the wellness tools that exist, there is bound to be something that helps. Yet when we reach out for help, we may not even be asked what our wellness tools are.

Your first step in developing this part of the plan is to think of all the indicators that you are feeling much worse and that things are breaking down. Remember, these are very personal. You are the one who will take action if you notice these signs.

Your indicators may be very different from other people’s indicators. They may include crying a lot or all the time, starting arguments, being belligerent, not sleeping, sleeping all the time, binge eating, not eating at all, smoking (if you are not a smoker), shoplifting, using street drugs, constantly thinking of suicide, intentionally hurting yourself, being rude, obsessing about past indiscretions, being confused, and not taking care of your responsibilities.

This is a serious time. You really want to feel better and avoid a crisis, so develop a strong comprehensive list, and add more things to it as they come up.

The next step is to develop an action plan that you will put into effect for yourself when you notice the signs you have identified. This action plan needs to be very directive and include things you must do. For example:

Things I must do every day until these signs subside:

  • Do everything on my daily maintenance list.
  • Take three mental health days off from work.
  • Ask a family member to take over my household responsibilities.
  • Ask someone to stay with me while I am going through this time.
  • Eat three meals each day.
  • Avoid sugar, alcohol, and street drugs.
  • Drink eight glasses of water.
  • Spend at least 2 hours doing a creative activity I enjoy.
  • Spend 1 hour reading a novel.
  • Listen to music for 1 hour.
  • Play the piano for at least 15 minutes.
  • Exercise for at least 20 minutes.
  • Contact at least two of my supporters.
  • Call my counselor, tell her what is going on, and ask for her advice.

The real trick is doing these things when you need to do them. Often when we are in “when things are breaking down” mode, we are not thinking straight. If you are already used to using your WRAP as a guide to daily living, it will be easier for you to implement your “when things are breaking down” action plan when you need to.

When I developed my first WRAP, I showed it to several family members. It included taking three days off from any work or household responsibilities. They said they didn’t believe I could do it. So, I did a “dry run.” I tried following my “when things are breaking down” plan. The first time I failed. It seemed impossible for me not to work and not to do any chores. So, I tried it again. This time I was successful.

How will you know for sure that your signs that “things are breaking down” have subsided? Go back to the beginning of your WRAP where you have written down “what I am like when I am well.” Look over that list. Is that what you are like? If not, you may need to continue to use your “when things are breaking down” plan until you can honestly say the way you are feeling matches your list of “what I am like when I am well.”

Take care of yourself this holiday season!

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