WRAP: Wellness Recovery Action Plan – Day One

Hello! I have just returned home from the first day of a four day course on Wellness Recovery Action Planning, and I thought I’d share some of my thoughts about it – before I forget them!

I’ve been attending Recovery College courses since April 2017, which was early in my recovery from severe depression and anxiety. Over the last two and a bit years, I’ve learned a lot about mental health, wellness, recovery and myself. When I saw that a WRAP course was running nearby, I almost didn’t sign up for it because I thought: I’m doing well now. I’m a good way into my recovery journey. This course might have been helpful two years ago, but I’m not so sure how helpful it would be today. But, I did sign up for it, mainly because I always learn something helpful from Recovery College courses and have never regretted going. So, today I went along to Day 1 of Seminar 1, and I’m really glad I did because from what I can tell, it will help me reflect on all I’ve learned since early 2017 and act as a welcome pit stop on my recovery journey.

So, onto the course itself …

At the beginning of the day, we thought about what we wanted to get out of the course. For me, I’d like to reflect on my journey so far. I’d also like to refresh my knowledge, review my wellness habits and think about where I want my mental health to go and how I might get it there. Basically, I want to consolidate my recovery and wellness. As well as developing a WRAP for my mental health, I’m also thinking I could develop a WRAP for my physical health, which has taken something of a backseat to my mental health. I’m pretty sure the principles of WRAP will be applicable.

So, what is WRAP?

If you’d like a brief (4 minute) overview of WRAP, then watch this video by Mary Ellen Copeland, the creator of WRAP.

In a nutshell, there are seven sections of WRAP:

  1. Wellness Toolkit
  2. Daily Maintenance Plan
  3. Triggers
  4. Early Warning Signs
  5. When Things Are Breaking Down
  6. Crisis Plan
  7. Post Crisis Plan

And there are five WRAP concepts or themes:

  1. Hope
  2. Personal Responsibility
  3. Self-Advocacy
  4. Education
  5. Support

Today, we started looking at Hope and the Wellness Toolkit. I’ve written a lot about Hope, and I’m running the Finding Hope Challenge at the moment, so this session was well timed for me! We discussed the concept of Hope being something that we can lose, but that it’s also something we can regain. We also talked about how it can be a good idea to align our hopes with the stage we’re at in our recovery. When you’re feeling hopeless, having someone tell you that it will all be okay might not be helpful, as the idea is just too far removed from where you are, but setting your sights on getting out of bed might be more realistic and helpful. That’s not to say that having Hope for the future isn’t important. In fact, when we can’t see beyond the now, having supporters who can hold that hope for us can be really important. Now might be all about surviving, but eventually, now will be more about thriving. The message of today’s seminar was: there is much to hope for!

You can get well and stay well for long periods of time.

You can work toward and meet your goals.

You can lead a happy and productive life.

You don’t need, nor will you benefit from, dire predictions about your future.

Your supporters and care providers need to:

  • encourage you
  • help you to feel better
  • assist and support you in staying well.

As a group, we looked at some symbols of Hope and each chose one that spoke to us. We then shared with each other. I chose the symbol of a shell because the beach and the sea is something that gives me a lot of hope. I talked about sea glass, about how glass goes into the sea all broken and jagged with lots of sharp edges, but after it’s been tossed around in the sea, all its sharp and jagged edges are worn away until your are left with a beautiful, frosted pebble. To me, that’s very Hopeful.

After that, we moved on to the concept of Personal Responsibility and shared ways in which we take responsibility for our recovery and wellness. Things that came up included: taking medication, eating, sleeping, saying no, going on courses. This led us onto a rather unruly game of Pictionary, in which we took turns to draw pictures of things that contribute to our wellness and invited the other students to guess what they were. Mine was a paintbrush and pallet – no surprise there!

At the end of the day, we started to think about the concept of having a Wellness Toolkit in which we keep our Wellness Tools – things we do to keep ourselves well, and things we do to help us feel better when we’re not feeling well. This week’s homework is to read handouts about different Wellness Tools so that we can talk about them in the next session. The topic I chose was Relaxation and Stress Reduction Exercises, so next week I’ll be sharing my notes and some personal examples with the other students – and with you too.

So, that’s it for now. I’ll be back next week with my thoughts on WRAP Day 2.

Thanks for stopping by! xxx

The Finding Hope Challenge 2019

Hello! Today I’m launching the @crafting.out.loud Finding Hope Challenge 2019. For detailed info, please watch my YouTube video below, but the basics are as follows: over the course of July we’re going to journal about all the things that give us hope, that feeling of positive expectation, the things we look forward to, so that by the end of the month we’ll have built up a ‘hope bank’ from which we can make withdrawals during times when our hope needs a bit of a top-up. Also, I’ve created another craft along kit to go with this challenge. Again, details are in the video. I do hope you’ll join me in creating this really useful wellness tool. xxx

Art Journal Process: The Voice of the Oppressor

For today’s video, I created a spread in my art journal. It was inspired by the discussions we had at Recovery College on Monday. The course was called ‘Creating Recovery’ and we talked a lot about barriers to creativity. Two things that came up for a lot of us were Perfectionism and Criticism. To find out more, feel free watch the video. Thanks for stopping by! xxx

EllieBeth Designs UK: Hazard Planning

Hello, again! It’s me, Natalie, back with another post for the EBDUK blog. If you read my last post, you’ll know that my planner has become my mental illness recovery companion: a creative tool for managing my life, an authentic record of the wellness journey I’m on, and a daily dose of colour, light and hope. In today’s post, I’d like to share one of the way I use my bullet journal to increase my mental resilience and help me rediscover wellness: hazard planning.

Hazard planning is something I learned about at Recovery College during a workshop on overcoming the obstacles in our lives.

Read more …

Crafting Out Loud: Mind Fundraiser a Success!

If you’ve been here before, you may recall that I’ve been busy making cards to sell at a fundraiser for Mind, the mental health charity. Well, today The Crafty Cuppa Club (a monthly craft group that I help run) held a Mind Craft-Til-Noon. We invited people to come along as usual, but instead of paying the normal £2 fee, we asked them to donate some money to Mind. We also sold some crafty makes, including my cards. Here are some photos from the event:

In total, we raised £188 for Mind, which is fantastic!

Thank you to everyone who came along and supported the event, and an especially big thank you to everyone who made cakes and helped set up and clear away. You’re all stars!

Thanks for stopping by! Back soon. xxx

Mental Health Monday: What Is This Thing Called Recovery? Part Three

Hello, and welcome to another What Is This Thing Called Recovery? post. This week, I want to talk about some more of the recovery themes I’ve embraced over the last year, and how they are playing out in my life on a daily basis. (Catch-up on parts one and two.)

In my last post, I talked about the umbrella themes of Hope, Agency and Opportunity. In this post I’m going to give you a brief run-down of some of their sub-themes and what they mean to me:

Turning Point of Acceptance

One of the Recovery College course facilitators often points out that he thinks this theme should be Turning POINTS of Acceptance, rather than POINT. I completely agree. I think acceptance is an ongoing process, just as recovery is an ongoing process. I’ve had to accept that I was ill, that I needed help, that I needed to go into hospital, that I was ready to come out of hospital, that I could recover, that I could take responsibility for my recovery, that I could live a satisfying and contributory life even within the limitations imposed on me by illness, that sometimes I can’t manage to do everything I want to do in the way I want to do it. Every day, I have to accept that the only certainty we have in life is that uncertainty is part of life!

Valued Identity, Relationships and Roles

Mental illness can deeply undermine a person’s identity. It did for me. Before I began to recover, I frequently questioned what the point of me was. I felt useless and burdensome. Part of my recovery has been examining and rediscovering who I am, who I believe myself to be, and what I can, and should, contribute to the world. I now know that I have to be creative, I have to make things with my hands. I also know that just because I’m able to do something well, doesn’t mean I need to do that something. The Recovery College runs a whole day course on identity which I’ll talk about in my next post, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

Purpose and Active Participation in Life

This theme is sister to Valued Identity, Relationships and Roles. Our sense of purpose and the way we participate in life comes from, and informs, our identity, relationships and roles. Knowing that I need to be creative, and that it’s okay to not do everything I once did, has freed me physically, mentally and emotionally to explore new avenues of expression and contribution. Making and selling cards, telling the story of my recovery, working on design teams … I could never have imagined this two years ago, but it’s where I am and where I want to be. Recovery has made these things possible, and these things are making recovery possible.

Support

Where do I start? There are so many people I want to acknowledge that this paragraph could end up sounding like an Oscar acceptance speech! Obviously, there’s my husband and my children, my mum, sister and brother, my amazing parents-in-law, my best friend, my church family, my online friends, the hospital staff, my GP, my community support worker, the pharmacists, God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit … I’m bound to leave someone out. The point is, I’m not doing this alone. It’s a team effort.

Self-Management and Responsibility

I wrote in quite a bit of detail about this topic in my Regaining Control – It’s Up to Me Post, so I’ll encourage you to have a read of that, but in short: I am taking responsibility for my recovery by choosing hope, by living intentionally and mindfully and by getting into and maintaining daily habits that promote wellness. I can’t really go into any more detail here because that’s what this whole blog is about! Just have a rummage through my other posts …

Choice and Information

I don’t think I’d be where I am today without all the information I’ve acquired over the last year or so. Everything I’ve learned about recovery, I’ve learned in hospital workshops, on Recovery College courses, through the wise counsel of family and friends, and through my own research – mainly via TED Talks on YouTube. It’s all this information that has equipped me and allowed me to make informed choices about my care and my recovery.

Individuality and Creativity

I’ve touched on this already, but I think it’s worth saying that recovery is a very individual process. We are all different, so everyone’s recovery nitty gritty is going to be different. What helps in my recovery might not help in yours. Not everyone is going to find purpose, meaningful occupation and a sense of utility through designing and making greetings cards, but I firmly believe that everyone is creative – it’s God-given. It’s just a matter of finding the time, energy, support, materials, inspiration, channels that you need … not a tall order then!

Seriously, though I’ve come to realise that loss of creativity is one of my mental illness early warning signs. About a year before I became really ill, I stopped creating and struggled to write anything. That should have rung alarm bells, but I didn’t know then what I know now. Anyway, my creativity came back slowly. It began in hospital with fine-liners and colouring books, and continued with zentangling and then with card-making and now with writing on this blog, design team work, planning, journaling, bible journaling, scrapbooking and making YouTube videos about it all. As I have recovered, I have become more creative, and as I have become more creative, I have carried on recovering. Creativity isn’t just about arts and crafts, though; it’s about problem solving and health management and work and, well, the whole of life. Creativity is an approach to life.

Spirituality

I’m not going to go into detail about Spirituality here because I’ve got a whole blog post planned on the topic, but I will say that I believe we are all spiritual beings, that there is more to us than flesh, blood and bone, and that we need to nurture this facet of ourselves. My faith has played a big part in my recovery, and I believe that God has been with me throughout. It’s important to me that I don’t dress up my struggles to make them more presentable and palatable to the world. I don’t want to share my stories as if they are complete, all wrapped up in pretty paper and tied with a flashy bow. Recovery stories are messy and difficult to contain, and so are faith stories. My recovery story and my faith story are intertwined and inseparable and require a lot more room to tell properly, so stay tuned!

So that’s it: a whistle-stop tour of some common recovery themes and the part they’re playing in my life. Next week, I’ll be back with a post about mental illness and our sense of self. Until then …

Thanks for reading! xxx

You can read more of my Mental Health Monday posts here.

Mental Health Monday: What Is This Thing Called Recovery? Part Two

Hello! and welcome to another Mental Health Monday post! Last week, I shared some of the recovery concepts I’ve embraced over this last year. In this post, I’m going to talk about some of the details and how I’m manifesting recovery in my daily life.

First-up, there are a few posts that have already addressed some of this, so I’ll link them here and you can have a read if you like.

Probably the simplest thing would be to tell you just to rummage through this blog, but I want to try to distill it down for you! This week, I’ll talk about some common recovery themes and add a little detail as I go.

Hope is a central aspect of recovery and, the Recovery Movement goes so far as to say that recovery is probably not possible without it. Hope is what sustains motivation and supports the idea that an individual can live a fulfilling life even with the limitations caused by illness. I find hope in the everyday – in birdsong and blue skies, in the sound of the sea and the smell of fish ‘n’ chips, in the laughter of my loved-ones and the paint in my pallet, in the rising of the sun and the setting of the same. I keep a gratitude log and, every day, I write down a few things I’m grateful for. I surround myself with sights, sounds, smells, sensations, colours, work and people that nourish me, and I remind myself that I’ve made it through difficult times before, and that God is with me. This too shall pass, and I’ll be all the stronger for it.

Agency is another aspect of recovery. It refers to people having a sense of control over their lives and their recovery. It’s about people taking control of their own problems and the service they receive. It is about self-management, self-determination, choice and responsibility. Realising that I could be in the driving seat of my recovery was a big turning point for me. My wellness wasn’t solely in the hands of the medical professionals – I could make decisions for myself and direct my care. This has manifested itself in a number of ways, from telling my doctor and pharmacist that I wanted two months’ supply of medication at a time, rather than one, to feeling okay about resting and not doing things that I know will tire me out thus making me more vulnerable to unhelpful thinking. I don’t go to church every Sunday because sometimes I need to just be on my own and recharge. I don’t often go out in the evening because staying home and journaling is more nourishing and revitalising than going to a connect-group or the pub. If I’ve had a busy day, I write ‘rest day’ in my planner on the following day and then stay home. I say yes when I want to say yes, and no when I want to say no. Having a sense of agency is empowering – it says that I am the expert on me, and I know what I need, and I don’t need to feel guilty about making sure that my needs are met.

Opportunity is the third main aspect of recovery. It links recovery with social inclusion and people’s participation in wider society. As a general rule, those of us with mental health issues want to be part of communities: to be valued, to contribute and to have access to the same opportunities as everyone else. I realise that what I wrote about Agency makes me sound like a bit of a recluse, and in many ways I am, and always have been. I’m your classic introvert: likes people but finds interacting with them draining and needs a lot of post-socialising down time to recover. However, there are times when I want to stay home, but know it will do me good to get out, so to maintain a balanced life, I go to church most weeks, I try to get to my husband’s gigs once in a while, I go to parties with the proviso that I might only stay an hour, I meet friends one-to-one or in small groups for coffee and a chat. And I enjoy it! I’m always glad I went. I feel included and part of the world around me.

As far as contributing goes, I’ve cut back. Before I was ill, I was a busy bee. I was heavily involved in church: co-running a monthly craft club, administering the church website, occasional preaching, delivering all-age talks, teaching Sunday school, leading an Alpha Course small group, singing in the music team, co-leading the youth group and running a toddler group, and while all of those things were enjoyable and fulfilling in their own way, my life was very skewed. What with looking after my home and family as well, I didn’t have much time or energy for what figuring out what it was I actually wanted to do with my life, let alone actually doing it. If one good thing came out of my recent episode of mental illness, it’s that it made me stop, drop all my commitments, and take stock. And, very, very slowly, I’ve taken back some of my church-related jobs: I still help with the craft group, I still manage the church website, and I sing, once a month, in the music group. That’s it. It’s a healthy level of contribution for me at the moment. This last year has also given me the time and energy to figure out how I really want to contribute to the wider world. Right now, that’s arting, crafting and making greetings cards – spreading a little joy – creating papercraft projects for a couple of design teams, and sharing about Recovery on my blog, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. I feel as if God, through the gradual unfurling of my creativity and recovery, is slowly unfolding new meaning and purpose in my life.

So that’s where I’m at the moment. I hope you’ve found something helpful here. Next week, I plan to write on some more recovery themes and how they’re playing out in my life.

Thanks for reading! Back soon. xxx

You can read more of my Mental Health Monday posts here.

Mental Health Monday: What Is This Thing Called Recovery? Part One

What springs to mind when you hear the word recovery? Perhaps it’s that room they wheel you into after you’ve had an operation. Perhaps it’s getting your breath back after you’ve run a race. Perhaps it’s a road rescue truck, towing a conked-out car.

Recovery is one of those things we usually don’t think about until we need to, until we’re ill, exhausted, broken.

When I had post-natal depression in 2005/6, it was all about getting better and getting back to my old self again. I never really considered that there might be more to recovery than that – maybe that’s part of the reason I was so vulnerable to depression this time; I didn’t make any real changes to my life once I was better the first time. But thanks to the mental health unit I was admitted to in 2017, and to The Recovery College, I’ve learned that recovery is about much more than just getting back to the way I was before, and it’s not about being rescued.

What Is This Thing Called Recovery? was the third Recovery College course I attended. As it happens, it was almost a year ago to the day. Over the course of three-ish hours, we dug into the concept of Recovery and what it means with regards to mental illness. We looked at what clinical recovery is – the amelioration of symptoms – and we looked at what personal recovery is, and that’s what I want to focus on in this post: personal recovery.

With illnesses such as depression and anxiety, you might say that someone is clinically recovered when they no longer feel depressed or anxious, but for many people with long term mental health issues, some or all of their symptoms may never go away completely. And even depression and anxiety can linger in lower levels for years. Does that mean that all these people can’t recover or be in recovery? If so, what hope do they have? Well, one of the many turning points in my recovery was realising that personal recovery is not about the the amelioration of symptoms; instead:

A person with mental illness can recover even though the illness is not ‘cured’. Recovery is a way of living a satisfying, hopeful and contributory life even with the limitations caused by illness. Recovery involves the development of new meaning and purpose in one’s life as one grows beyond the catastrophic effects of mental illness.

– Bill Anthony, the father of the Recovery Movement (1993)

When I first heard that, it blew me away, and I knew that my recovery had to be about growing beyond the catastrophic effects of depression and anxiety, about developing new meaning, new purpose, and about living a satisfying, hopeful, contributory life, even though I might still be experiencing the symptoms of depression and anxiety. I realised I didn’t have to wait to be cured or fixed before I could get on with my life – I could start living again right away!

Moving on: one of the actvities we did on the course was to come up with as many words as we could to describe recovery. I jotted them all down in my bullet journal. (Click on the image for a closer look.) See how positive, exciting, hopeful those words are? And they were all suggested by a bunch of people living with mental illness. I think that’s pretty amazing!

Anyhoo … throughout the course, many more quotes about recovery were shared, and you know how I love my quotes, so here are a few more:

 

Recovery is …

… a journey, not a destination.

… about having a satisfying, fulfilling life as defined by the individual.

… not fixing what’s broken; it’s finding wholeness, meaning and purpose.

… a reconnection to self, others, nature and spirit.

… a willingness to forgive, openness to reconciliation, a search for peace.

And here’s the biggie, the one that this blog is all about, the one that’s defining my recovery:

Recovery is not managing illness; it’s discovering wellness.

I know this post is a bit thin on details, but I just wanted to share the concepts I’ve embraced over this last year. In my next post, I’ll talk a bit more about how I’m manifesting these concepts in my life.

Thanks for reading! Back soon. xxx

You can read more of my Mental Health Monday posts here.