Have you been given a dire prognosis about your future because you experience mental health issues? Have you been told medications are the only treatment and that your “symptoms” will persist throughout your life?
I am concerned that the word about RECOVERY from mental health issues being possible has not reached all the people who need to hear it, particularly healthcare providers. Recently I read an article in a magazine devoted to content from people who share their life stories. The author was convinced that the ups and downs of moods that would sometimes be considered psychosis would plague them for the rest of their lives, and would interfere with their relationships, parenting, and career. I expect there are others who have gotten the same message.
I got that message from healthcare providers more than 40 years ago. At that time, I was told that my severe and debilitating ups and downs of mood were a brain disorder, that I would never get better, even with all the drugs they were prescribing, and that, as I got older, I would get worse. One care provider even told me that I should make a banner for my bedroom wall that said, “I am a manic depressive” so that every morning I would be reminded of that “fact.” That was supposed to be my affirmation. No one suggested that perhaps I was trying to do too much, that I had too much stress in my life, that the trauma I had experienced had anything to do with what I was experiencing, or that there were things (wellness tools) I could do to help myself.
Actually, their insistence that I “give up on life” served as a great motivator to me. I tend to be oppositional. I wouldn’t take a prognosis like that lightly—nor believe it—even back then. I knew my mother had severe mental health issues, that she resolved them herself, and went on to lead a rich and rewarding life. I felt certain there were many others who had recovered, either somewhat, or fully, and I was determined to learn from them what worked. With the support of several vocational counselors, I was able to study hundreds of volunteers who shared their recovery journeys. As I began to share these stories, and the skills and strategies that I learned from people who were working on their recovery, I got pushback from the mental health system. I was told that recovery from mental health issues was impossible. I was accused of giving people “false hope.” I persisted.
Fast forward about 40 years. Recovery is now a word that is commonly used relative to mental health issues. People all over the globe are developing and using Wellness Recovery Action Plans (WRAPs) and other recovery skills and strategies to feel the way they want to feel and do the things they want to do. They are getting better and better and better. Now, instead of getting dire predictions about their future, many people are directed to resources that work. Recovery and hope are words that are commonly used in reference to these issues, but apparently not often enough.
Clearly the word about self-help and recovery has not gotten out far enough or I would not be reading articles like the one I just read.
The clear message that I want to get to you, especially if you have a mental health diagnosis, are experiencing mental health issues, or are supporting someone who does, is that there is lots of hope. There are many, many, many things you can do to help yourself. One way to start your wellness journey is by referring to one of my books such as WRAP for Life, WRAP Plus, or just plain WRAP. These books are filled with the wellness ideas I learned from people in my studies.
I am retired now, and the mental health recovery work that I started so long ago is now being carried forward by Advocates for Human Potential, Inc. (AHP) and the Copeland Center for Wellness and Recovery.
Having been on a recovery journey for a very long time, I want to report to you that my life is now filled with a richness I never believed possible. I have been happily married for more than 25 years (after two unsuccessful attempts), I have a wide circle of friends and supporters, and I have a list of hundreds of wellness tools that I use constantly. Anytime I realize I am not feeling quite right, I always have a wellness tool that will help. And I use WRAP as my guide to daily living. Like my friend Carol Bailey Ford who has a blog, Celebrate Possibilities!, where she has collected more than 800 wellness tools, I believe everything I do is a wellness tool.
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.