I’ve often said that when WRAP is the question, “yes” is the answer. WRAP has taken me across Ohio, around the country, and home again. In the process, I’ve learned that approaching life in a spirit of “yes,” with WRAP as a guide, opens possibilities available to anyone, at any age, anytime, and anywhere.
I first learned about WRAP at a Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance conference in 2002 and soon after signed up for my first workshop. Within the first 15 minutes of that workshop, I knew that WRAP was going to be life-changing for me and knew I also wanted to learn how to share it with others. Anytime I heard about an available WRAP training or workshop, I jumped at the chance. It just made so much sense and was a natural fit for daily living.
At that first workshop, I turned a corner in my life when I created the “What I’m Like When I’m Well” portion of my WRAP. I thought, Wow, I’m not defective, and nobody else is either! The list that describes what I’m like when I’m well—friendly, curious, outgoing, enthusiastic—is who I am. I can overcome any obstacles, including any diagnosis, because the heart of me is always what I’m like when I’m well. That’s powerful and life affirming. WRAP’s emphasis on wellness, not just on occasion but as a way of life, still makes me want to shout, “Hallelujah!” If something triggers me, I don’t have to lie on the sofa all day. I can take a walk, go to the movies, or call a friend. I’m empowered to be in charge of my health and my life.
Taking WRAP on the Road
WRAP not only got me off the sofa, but it also took me across the State of Ohio, to cities and towns large and small. As a WRAP facilitator, I met people from all walks of life and learned that WRAP truly is for everyone, no matter their challenges or life circumstances. I learned after the fact that one of the most vibrant, engaged students in a training I facilitated was illiterate. This young man couldn’t read WRAP, but he could live it. He said “yes” to WRAP and to life. I met a married couple who said their relationship was on shaky ground until they took home the easel pad sheets from their initial training and put them up all over their bedroom. This revitalized their marriage, they said, so they returned to become facilitators!
I also served as the Ohio project coordinator for WRAP research being conducted by Judith Cook, Ph.D., at the University of Illinois, Chicago. I recruited and trained facilitators, enrolled participants, coordinated data collection, and organized meetings. And that was only the beginning for me.
I accepted a position as the director of programs for mental health recovery and WRAP, which was beyond my wildest dreams! I was so honored that Mary Ellen Copeland had confidence in me. Because of that, I began to develop confidence in myself. Develop a webinar? Sure. Give a keynote? Of course. Travel the country? No problem. I had WRAP in my pocket and Mary Ellen as my guide, and for four years I was paid to live WRAP and share with others the life-changing heart of WRAP and WRAP-related materials.
Inspired by the power of wellness tools and action plans, I developed a blog devoted to the challenge of itemizing “1,000 Fun Things to Do.” So far, there are more than 700 ideas listed. One of the amazing things about WRAP is the fun interspersed throughout it. Even in the worst of times, our supporters can help us remember that wellness tools and action plans are still possible and can help empower us to get better.
If home is where your heart is, my heart was always with my Dad, Sherman Bailey. I knew that losing him would be difficult, so I came up with a great idea. I wrote a “Bye Bye, Papa” WRAP. I didn’t want to fall apart like I did when my Mom died. I gave copies to my family and supporters so they would know what to do and what not to do. I knew that I didn’t want to be alone for at least a week and that it would help to reach out to others who were mourning my Dad’s passing, too. Chocolate was also part of my action plan! And it worked. My father was nearly 97 when he died in his sleep in 2014. I never succumbed to deep grief. I am grateful for my Dad’s long and healthy life, and I have WRAP to thank for helping me coordinate my reaction to his passing with dignity. It otherwise might have been a devastating and debilitating experience. I promised my Dad I wouldn’t fall apart, and I didn’t!
These days, I’m off the road but still doing WRAP right here in Akron, Ohio. I give WRAP overviews at crisis centers for teens, at a long-term teen residence, and at a homeless shelter for women and children where I have also presented to staff. I’m thrilled to be settled in my community, and I’m so happy that Mary Ellen has found a way to scale back, too. It does my heart good to know that she found a new home for WRAP and that she can have more time to enjoy her family and friends and get some much-deserved rest. She was a mentor to me and to thousands of other people around the world, with loving kindness as her signature approach. Godspeed, Mary Ellen—thank you for your many years of hard work, courage, and inspiration.