I had a major need for WRAP long before I discovered it, but better late than never! For four decades, I walked through life in survival mode, weathering the dark times as best I could without a roadmap to guide me. To be honest, when I first heard about WRAP, I thought, “Ugh. Another self-help guide that tells me what I already know yet can’t seem to put into motion. Yawn.” What I didn’t realize was that WRAP was exactly what I’d be yearning for—a realistic action plan to keep myself well, recognize my triggers and early warning signs, and, most importantly, a permission slip to engage in self-care.
I have dealt with mental health issues since childhood, but it took me decades to realize that not everyone in the world felt sad or anxious every waking moment of their lives. When I finally opened up to a few people and, to my astonishment, found they were relatively happy, at peace with life, and even liked themselves, I was stunned. What I couldn’t figure out was how they got to that point. Were they always this way? Did they know something I didn’t know? Was there a secret club where people went to find peace of heart? And, if so, how could I get a membership? I began to have hope that a sense of emotional wellness was possible, but I had no idea how to find it.
At age 30, I adopted a 5-year-old girl from an orphanage who came with a beautiful smile, a kind heart, and a brain affected by fetal alcohol syndrome, mental health issues, and years of neglect and abuse. Her issues mirrored so many of my own that raising her felt like peering through the looking glass into my own soul. Together, we embarked on becoming a family and finding mental and emotional wellness, but I became completely absorbed with caregiving, leaving my self to fall by the wayside.
Each day was a crapshoot. Would she be triggered by something and spiral out of control? Would I be triggered by something and feel hopeless and deeply sad? How could we keep ourselves stable, well, and out of crisis? I simply didn’t know. When she eventually hit a point of full-blown crisis and required hospitalization, I was completely unprepared. I mean, you can’t plan for that kind of thing. …Or can you? We were living life in survival mode, as a series of triggers, reactions, major crises, and brief moments of respite, over and over and over again—like a zooming merry-go-round with no way off. If only I’d known about WRAP.
After reading the WRAP Red Book, I embarked on the WRAP Workbook. My skepticism quickly turned to excitement as I began creating my own Wellness Toolbox and thinking about what could go in my daughter’s. In the past, whenever I noticed my, or her, early warning signs, I simply panicked and shut down. By creating my Daily Maintenance Plan, I quickly realized that whenever I feel sad, anxious, or triggered, I lose all hope and avoid doing nearly everything on my list of necessary tools for wellness. That was eye opening. In fact, in some cases, I was doing the complete opposite of what I should be doing to regain balance, including withdrawing from all social contact, not leaving my couch, and eating pints of ice cream. As a single mom raising a disabled child, I felt it was my duty to be completely independent and that asking for help was a sign of weakness. Thus, it was both scary and comforting to read that peer support and self-advocacy are fundamental WRAP principles. This showed me that not only was my fierce independence unnecessary, it was also unhealthy.
Creating a plan was overwhelming at first. I am so used to caretaking that I honestly hadn’t thought about what it felt like when I was well or what I needed to do for myself each day. But here was a blank workbook, sitting empty in front of me, forcing me to delve a little deeper and think about myself. Completing my plan has been a revelation of the best kind.
I’m still in the early stages of my WRAP journey and still discovering ways to ensure personal responsibility for adhering to my Daily Maintenance Plan. I am so looking forward to hearing and learning from you. My hope is that together we can inspire each other, discover new ideas and ways of creating and maintaining wellness, and share our experiences as peers. What an amazing gift to have a pathway that empowers us to act, rather than simply react, and to truly place ourselves at the center of our wellness journey.
I would love to hear how each of you stays motivated to keep up with your Daily Maintenance Plan when you aren’t feeling your best. Was there anything that helped you at the beginning of your WRAP journey? Did you develop your WRAP on your own or with a group? What advice do you have for those who may be struggling with sticking to their plan? Let us know on Facebook or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll share some of your tips in future articles.