The tagline on my email says it all: “Be a hope receiver today to be a hope giver tomorrow.” But I didn’t always have hope. Far from it.
From the time I was in high school in the early 1970s, all I wanted to do was die. I didn’t believe in suicide because of my faith, so I was not actively trying to end my life. But despite beginning my recovery and working as a peer support specialist, I felt like I wanted to die for more than 20 years.
That began to change in 2003 when I attended a conference in Lansing, Michigan, where Mary Ellen Copeland spoke about WRAP. Michigan didn’t have WRAP groups at that time, but I knew I wanted to attend, so I went back to my agency and wrote a proposal to bring WRAP to Michigan. That helped fund my participation in a WRAP correspondence class, and I began to buy every WRAP book I could get my hands on.
WRAP is about so much more than mental health. Learning that I can take care of myself, rather than expect doctors to “fix me,” has changed my life as a person with bipolar disorder. Learning that everyone is struggling with something and that WRAP can help them, too, has changed my life as a spouse, coworker, and friend. For me, WRAP is an approach to life.
What I Needed to Hear
I first learned the self-care tools that would become the basis for WRAP in the mid-1990s, not long after I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I accompanied a friend to a seminar in Newport, Rhode Island, where Mary Ellen Copeland was speaking for Mental Health Month. My doctors had told me to prepare for a life on disability. In that one hour listening to Mary Ellen, my hope for my own future was restored. Here was a person “like me,” talking about lived experience I could relate to in a way that made me feel like a person, not a patient.
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