WRAP’s Daily Maintenance List

Mary Ellen Copeland’s Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) has seven parts:

  • The Wellness Toolbox
  • The Daily Maintenance List
  • Triggers/Trigger Action Plan
  • Early Warning Signs/E.W.S. Action Plan
  • When Things Are Breaking Down and its Action Plan
  • Crisis Plan
  • Post Crisis Plan

All sections of an individual’s WRAP are vital, and the Daily Maintenance List may be the most important. It is referred to often in the action plans that accompany the other sections. When we experience a Trigger or feel an Early Warning Sign, we are reminded to check our Daily Maintenance List for ways to return to a calmer frame of mind.

A Daily Maintenance List has three parts. First is “what I’m like when I’m well.” This part allows us to recognize we have times of stability and good mental health. It gives us the opportunity to feel good about us. We are encouraged to list our strengths, such as cheerful, bright, energetic, introverted, talkative, etc. These words become part of our WRAP’s foundation, reminding us that we can be well. It’s a great way to feel better about us, and that’s no easy task on some dark days.

“Things I do for myself daily” is the second part of the Daily Maintenance List. In this part, we are encouraged to write down actions we perform everyday to remain stable and healthy. Here, we can list activities such as the small pieces of personal hygiene, like brushing our teeth or showering. Taking our medication as prescribed might be an important part of this list. Other daily necessities might include meditation, exercise, drinking plenty of water, chatting with friends, etc. The important point here is to keep the items specific and relevant to daily life. This section needs to be read once a day. Doing the things written here will help stave off feeling poorly.

The final part of the Daily Maintenance List is “things I might do for myself daily.” In this section, we are encouraged to jot down things that aren’t absolutely necessary but may be important. The list might be made up of some of the following: make an appointment with a caregiver, call a relative, clean a part of my house, etc. These extras are important, but they might not have to be done daily to maintain stability and calmness.

Why is having a thorough Daily Maintenance List important? I believe it grounds us. It gives us a center to attempt completing every day to stay well. It’s that simple and that complex.

Staying well is not easy for us with mental illness. We need all the tools we can get, and the Daily Maintenance List in one’s WRAP is an excellent beginning.

Completing a Wellness Recovery Action Plan can be a truly life-changing experience. It changed mine for the better. Here’s a word of caution, however. It is not to be taken lightly, and it is strongly suggested that all of us seek out a knowledgeable WRAP facilitator to complete the Plan individually or in a group setting. Writing WRAP can bring up negative emotions and memories, and having a calm trained guide there to ease one through these painful moments is key.

There is much more information about WRAP on Mary Ellen Copeland’s superb website.

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Shout It from the Mountaintops!

I sit right now in front of a blank screen on my computer, and my fingers refuse to move. My brain sputters. I have false starts. Ideas flit to the surface and recede. Through it all rides exuberance. I giggle.

Stunning.

Exhilarating.

Rapturous.

In about a week’s time, this blog will be three years old. However, that’s not the cause for celebration. While it’s a worthy milestone, I’m excited for another reason.

You see, I’m drawing a blank.

I’m stumped.

There’s nothing there!

That’s right. Nothing!

Sh! You can’t hear it? If you stop up your ears and shut your eyes, what do you hear? When you have a brain without mental illness, you hear nothing or your heart beating or maybe loud noises from passing traffic in the street outside your window gets through your fingers in your ears. I think you understand what I mean. There are everyday sounds, natural ones.

To people with mental illness, a quiet mind is often unattainable. Indeed, a book that is a pillar in the field of mental illness is called An Unquiet Mind by Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison. I highly recommend it.

Quiet.

That’s what I’m up against today, and it’s glorious!

In the first days of this blog, I wrote my “Thoughts in Hell“. I had horrific thought patterns, which I had faced for many years, too many years. In more recent years, I’ve battled other burdensome thoughts. I’ve experienced visual and aural hallucinations, which are controlled by medication.

Mostly, I’ve dealt with negative self-talk. This voice was not small. It was big and ever present. When I wasn’t wholly engaged in an activity, the voice would pipe in and say, “You’re worthless.” Any spare moment was opportunity for it to deride me with hateful sayings like “ugly, fat, and bald.”

Today, it’s gone. Vanished. I’m clearheaded.

What’s most surprising to me is how quickly it seems to have left. It was not present while I was at the job training, because I was too busy. Normally, it would rear its ugly head and shout something at me even in those times when I was in my room alone or ambling the hallways, but this time it was quiet.

I’ve been home more than a week, and it’s roared at me a couple of times. Really, it’s been maybe three times, and each of those times, I’ve looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “Really?! Nah! I’m okay. I’m good and getting even better.”

Why? Why did this change happen so suddenly? I honestly have to give the credit to our training. The Wellness Recovery Action Plan or WRAP by Dr. Mary Ellen Copeland has turned my thinking on its head. I came home from the job training and began putting my Wellness Toolbox together. I’ve got a 3-ring binder with some lists and important information. There’s a list of my attributes when I’m well that I can look at when I’m not well. I put in pictures of my children and a favorite picture of me acting in a play. I’ve got a pen to remind me that I like to write and that I’m good at it. There’s a small stuffed animal that I can hold and cuddle when I’m feeling blue. In the next week, I’ll be gathering the last of the items for my Wellness Toolbox. I’m going to put in a funny book since I love to read, a deck of cards, and some candy wrappers because I like chocolate. On the front of my 3-ring binder, I put a print of a big rainbow flag, the international symbol of gay pride. I’m out and proud to be gay.

Friends, my head is clear! Shout it from the mountaintops!

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?

Yes!

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.