sit. stay. good boy.

The Stranger 04/07/2011

I sat down to do my WRAP a few months ago.  My Wellness Recovery Action Plan.

The idea is that you describe what you’re like when you’re well, what helps you stay that way, what your triggers are and what you plan to do when you encounter triggers to prevent spin-off effects; then what your early warning signs with an action plan for what to do if you notice them emerging; also what happens when you’re feeling much worse and again what helps in those instances.  You also make a crisis plan, identify supporters and how you agree that they will support you/what you would like them to do for you, identify people who you don’t want involved in your care/treatment and people who need to be notified, your current meds etc.  There are a whole bunch of different ways of a similar process.  Mary Ellen Copeland’s Wellness Recovery Action Plan is the one that I have been using – and hence describing (see link to website).  The point is then to read it regularly – she recommends daily and to stay on top of your management plan and to know yourself, to recognise when you are not yourself; to be watchful and vigilant for triggers, warning signs and symptoms and to act immediately, instinctively.  Also she recommends to have a couple of others who check in with you regularly to help out and give you their perspective or who will tell you if they notice that things don’t seem right.

I think that almost the hardest part of the process to complete was the first question.

“What am I like when I’m well?”

It had been a long time since I had been well for longer than a few months at a time.  What’s more, I have changed.  I am not the same as I once was.  This battle – this relationship with my dog has changed me.  What am I like?

I was in my mid twenties when I had surgery for a massive aneurysm.  Somewhere over the period of the next five years came the prodromal and early symptoms of Depression without being diagnosed until I was almost 30.  I have been wrestling to learn self-management skills until reasonably recently.  It has been a long time since I was truly healthy, although between brief periods of mood change or minor undiagnosed episodes in my twenties until my eventual breakdown with depression I’m sure I was fine.

My point?  What am I like when I’m well?  I don’t know anymore.  What’s more, it always feels like such a silly question to ask other people.  I mean – asking people to help me to identify what I’m are like when I’m not well … that makes sense because I know that my insight is not at its sharpest.  But well?  Shouldn’t I already know that?

Not that I was ever good at describing myself.  Always self-critical, I was never particularly sure why people wanted to be friends with me after leaving school when I had hadn’t had many friends at school.  But that’s school for you – start school somewhere awkwardly and the perception sticks with you til you leave.  Even as an adult I struggle to have a clear picture of what I am like.

What am I like when I am unwell?  What helps when I am unwell?  These questions I can answer reasonably these days.  I have even thought to discuss some of this with others or take notice of comments that they make.

But to know myself well.  To know the self that has been changed by this dog of an illness, by periods of chronic pain, by a swollen blood vessel in my brain waiting as a time bomb for its final burst – but found before it could; the self that has been altered by periods of self-imposed hermit style living apart from the workplace.  This is a person that I must relearn.  This is a person whom I have lost and who has changed while she has been away.  She is a stranger.

I need help to know this person.  Friends.  Family.  Memories.  Time to explore the things that interest me again, to develop new ones.  To reflect.  To do.  To explore.  To discover. To learn.  To grow.  To live.


9 Responses to “The Stranger”

  1. i did a WRAP at one time. i found it really helpful. I didnt really stick to the whole ‘going back to it’ thing when i needed it, but i learned an incredible amount about myself and the processes behind my self destruction. it was good for reflection, and for learning about myself. It simplified all the mess in my head and really made me look at things in black and white. i hope it helps you. it seems to be making you think already xxx


  2. Viv Says:

    Curious how we seem to have run parallel lines, including the brain incident (I didn’t have surgery, just a bleed)
    I don’t know who I am anymore, after 39 years of intermittent depression I am not even sure I have an identity. A wellness plan seems a good idea and yet, I have never planned. I’ve never had the chance, as I lurch between one extreme and the other and sometimes bob gently in the middle. In the middle, I am boring.


    • I think I have felt boring when I was just hanging on. Now that I’ve been stable for a while I’ve been able to explore a few things and start picking up new interests and having some fun again. There was a time that I questioned whether I’d ever get back there again. I still have to be watchful, but learning the triggers, warnings signs etc and planning responses ahead has made a big difference. I used to lurch all over the place – it’s easier to control my balance now. But it’s taken a lot of time and work and support.


  3. I am working on the same type of plan…I will definitely have to check out the one you mentioned because I have been trying to make one up on my own and need some guidance. Wishing you the best and you muddle through it all. I know how you feel.


  4. I’ve not heard of the WRAP, but it sounds like a great tool. Even without having an experience like your with brain surgery, I’m not sure what “well” looks like. My sister said she never realized that you were supposed to be able to breathe through your nose until a doctor told her–she had always breathed through her mouth because she was always congested. Having been in a cloud for so long, it’s hard to remember what it’s supposed to be like without dreary days. Thanks for sharing your struggle and the hope you’ve found.


  5. noreasonstolovelife Says:

    I never heard of such plan but it sounds like a good thing to do. But that question is really hard. Define myself? Being able to know what i am? Who I am? No, I can’t do that. I remember the last time I was truly happy and that’s where I want to be again someday. Did you do it? Were you able to answer that question?


    • Eventually I made a start. I’m still defining it. It’s one I keep meaning to sit down and talk to a couple of other people who know me well about, but that’s a wierd question to ask so I’ve put it off for a bit. I told one friend that I wanted to talk to her about it and a couple of other questions I wanted her feedback on and she said that she’d get back to me. We’re planning to set up some time pretty soon.
      I don’t think I will ever have a full definition of myself, but a general description – yeah, I think that’s possible. Part of what I am doing now is finding the new things that I’m interested in and what is still there of the old me and finding a new place for myself. I figure that I’m not going to be the same as I was all that time ago, especially after such an experience and even without it – so I need to just use what I know of the old and the new and see what I can work out. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m at a point now where I’m enjoying a lot of what I do and hating the same sort of things that I have always hated. I’m going back to work very soon and getting really excited about that – but I know that when it comes time to do stats (ie recording what I’ve done with my time) it won’t take long for me to start hating that …


    • even if you struggle with this question, it’s certainly worth having a go at the rest


  6. Says:

    Thanks for finally talking about >The Stranger | livingwithablackdog <Loved it!


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