We Can Recover from Mental Illness

There are stages in the recovery process of mental illness similar to stages in the grieving process. But wait. Did I just write the words “recovery process”? There must be something amiss here. Something’s gone awry. Recovery? Can there be recovery from mental illness?


I completed my first week of training for a new job recently. For those just stumbling across this blog, I’m becoming a Certified Peer Specialist in mental health. I have three more weeks of classes and then a three-month internship. It’s intensive and tiring. My brain hasn’t been used this much in years.

The first week felt so good. I grasped and really appreciated so many things. There was so much information to absorb. I was humbled and excited to be a part of it. I am learning to help myself recover and then to help others by sharing my own recovery story.

We are learning about WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan developed by Mary Ellen Copeland, PhD) and how to maintain our own wellness and recovery. It has many parts, and I want to get to it. First, let me say the program is not mine. I did not originate it. You cannot learn it from me in this single blog entry. If you are truly interested in wellness and recovery from mental illness, then I encourage you to follow the link and order Dr. Copeland’s book and join a WRAP group.

We all possess tools to help us stay well. Physically, we have hunger and thirst to remind us to eat and drink appropriately. Mentally, we have needs for social interaction and friendship. I believe we have innate yearnings for nurturing. We search for love and acceptance. When mental illness strikes, it skews the core of those desires and things get out of whack.

We often require medical intervention to set things aright, but there is much we can do on our own. For my own early recognition of self-help, you can read this blog entry from two years ago. The Wellness Recovery Action Plan puts it all in much greater detail and to much greater effectiveness.

Beginning, we each create a daily maintenance plan. Importantly, we are asked to start by taking a good long look at ourselves when we are well. Encouraged by a long exercise of listing exemplary attributes, we can begin to feel the hope this whole program engenders. My list includes things like out and proud to be gay, sober, getting exercise, taking medication, and many other things.

The daily maintenance plan goes on to list vital things we do each day to stay well. Some items are repeated from the previous list, but that’s OK. I added things like checking in with close friends and family and supporters. The whole notion is to build a list of daily activities I can do to aid my recovery and wellness.

Then there is a list of things I do to keep well, but not daily. Simple items like buying groceries appear on this list. I also put down hiking and writing letters.

After the daily maintenance plan, there are five more sections of what is called the wellness toolbox. I’m not going into detail here about each of those pieces, because I don’t want to give the impression that this is something that can be easily transferred in one sitting. My own WRAP toolbox took days and is still a work in progress, and it will take me many more days of classes and study to learn to teach others how to make their own.

The point to be taken away from this post is the hope that the program brings. Persons with mental illness can recover. We can be vital advocates in our own plan for wellness. We are not pawns of any system. We are not defined by our disease.

To paraphrase something I wrote a few entries ago, I am an active participant in my own wellness and recovery today.

17 thoughts on “We Can Recover from Mental Illness

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