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.