by Ken Braiterman
As you learn more about recovery — and I hope you do — you will learn that being well is different from not being sick. It’s about being satisfied with the person you are, the quality and balance of your life and relationships, and your connections to the community. Medication can be a vital part of your recovery, but it’s just one of many recovery tools. Diagnosis is not what you are; it’s a difficulty you have to deal with sometimes, with medicine and other things.
This group is about being well, and about those other things. A heart patient does more than take medicine or have surgery. He adjusts his way of life, and some of his attitudes, to deal with his newly discovered difficulty. He loses weight (or tries to) and exercises more, for example. He doesn’t think of himself as “sick” (God forbid). He continues to have a normal life, setting and achieving his goals, trying to have a successful family and career, and a supportive set of friends and acquaintances. People with emotional difficulty do the same things. You’re not born knowing how to do it. You come to places like this, read books, talk to people with similar challenges, not just mental health professionals, but mental health clients (consumers), survivors, and ex-patients, like us. Find out what helped us get well while you make your own personal wellness plan.
We’re mostly veterans of the Wellness and Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) created by Mary Ellen Copeland and several other consumer/survivor/ex-patients. WRAP has many imitators now, which teach the same skills, but for me, WRAP is the easiest to learn and follow, and it teaches values, ethics, and recovery principles that are most helpful to me.
Here are a couple of elements of that recovery philosophy: Don’t define yourself as a sick person. You’re a healthy person with a health issue to deal with, like a person with high blood pressure. Sometimes, your issue becomes a difficulty, and gets in the way of being the person you want to be, and living the way you want to live. WRAP shows you how to make plans to get through those difficulties before they become a crisis.
Begin exploring the recovery resources on Mary Ellen’s website, (http://www.mentalhealthrecovery.com). Explore other recovery resources too. The Internet is loaded with them, and so is the library. For me, Mary Ellen’s work was the best place to start because you don’t have to be particularly smart to understand, create, and follow a WRAP plan. I wish you all the best. Your recovery journey might be long and difficult, but it’s also interesting as heck if you do it the right way, and approach it in the right frame of mind – as a healthy person who has difficulty sometimes.
Ken BraitermanWriter, Mental Health Recovery Trainer