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

Your Hope Bank

Hello again! So, if you’re thinking of joining in the ‘2019 Finding Hope Challenge’, what kind of ‘Hope Bank’ are you going to make? I thought it would be good if we could think of as many different ideas as possible … I’ve made a jar in the past, but this time I’m using a travelers notebook insert for mine. I’m also thinking of doing some flash cards on a key ring. Let’s share ideas in the comments. 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

How the Light Gets In: A Talk On Creativity and Recovery

Hello, lovely friends! It’s Monday morning, and I’m just back from the EllieBeth Designs UK Annual Event where I gave a talk called ‘How the Light Gets In’. It was about the role that creativity has played in my recovery from mental illness. Over the next few days, I’m going to be gathering and processing my thoughts about everything that happened this weekend (Spoiler alert: it was fantastic!) and will write a post (or posts) about my experience soon, but in the meantime, I shall share the notes from my talk below. Thanks for stopping by! xxx

~How the Light Gets In: Creativity and Recovery~

Hello, lovely friends! It’s really good to be here today … Thank you so much, Rachel, for inviting me to lead a workshop.

For those who don’t know me, my name is Natalie, and I describe myself as a Paper Crafter, Media Mixer, Memory Keeper, Bullet Journaler, Storyteller, Depression Survivor and Wellness Explorer. On a day-to-day basis, that means I art and craft in my she-shed or shoffice, and make lots of YouTube videos in which I share my creative process and talk about my recovery from mental illness.

Some of the things I make in my shoffice, I also sell, such as greetings cards. I also do design team work for various paper craft companies. I was actually on the EllieBeth Designs design team for six months last year, and stickerating my bullet journal is still one of my most favourite things to do of an evening – I guess we can all relate to that!

So, over the next 40-ish minutes, I’m going to talk to you about my recovery from mental illness and the role that creativity has played in it. On the practical side, we will be creating some journaling cards using simple watercolour techniques. Now, I don’t want you to go away thinking that creativity has been the be-all-and-end-all of my recovery. Being creative is not some magic pill that will make it all better. I could just as easily give a talk about the role that mindfulness has played in my recovery, or the role that bullet journaling, or medication, or family and friends, or hope, or the NHS has played. Creativity is just one of many facets, but it’s the one I’m focusing on today.

So, let’s start at the very beginning …

In one way or another, mental illness has been part of my life for the whole of my life. Not long after I was born, my mum developed Post Natal Depression, and she’s experienced more bouts of depression over the years. And when I was a teenager, my dad began suffering with anxiety and depression, and on two occasions he had to be admitted into a mental hospital where he needed treatment with Electro Convulsive Therapy or ECT to get better. My own first ‘official’ bout of mental illness presented as Post Natal Depression after my daughter was born in 2005. To cut a long story short, after six months on antidepressants and a handful of visits from my health visitor, I was beginning to feel a bit better, but in reality, it took me years to feel as if I were on an even keel again, and I never did feel that I got back to the old me.

My most recent dalliance with the black dog, came toward the end of 2016 in the form of severe anxiety and depression, which was triggered by a relentless series of very stressful events that my family and I were going through. My mental wellness and resilience hadn’t been great for a while – I’d lost my creative mojo, my sense of purpose, my love for life – so when these stressful events came one after the other after the other, I just couldn’t cope and, again, to cut a long story short, at the start of 2017, I actually spent nearly six weeks as an inpatient at a mental hospital.

Now, being admitted into a mental hospital might sound like the end of the world, but in fact, for me, it was the start of my recovery. In hospital, I felt safe, and I was given the time and space I needed to begin to heal. My consultant found the right medications for me and eventually got me on therapeutic doses. The psychologists there also ran workshops on mindfulness and wellness and how the brain works, which opened my eyes, just a crack, to the idea that there were things I could do myself to build my mental resilience and move my recovery on.

It was also in hospital that I started to get my creative mojo back. About a year before my mental health crisis I’d stopped creating – no painting, no drawing, no writing – I used to write short stories and had quite a few published, but everything just dried up. I now realise that  is one of my early warning signs. My creativity is one of the first things to go when my mental health starts to slide. But in a mental health hospital there are many empty hours in between meeting consultants and attending psychology workshops. It’s eat – sleep – medicate – repeat. One of the things my fellow patients and I did to pass the time was colouring. We’d sit in the dining room with a box of felt tips and a stack of grown-up colouring books and just colour. At first, I couldn’t see the point, but as I started to improve mental-health-wise, I started to get bored and decided to join in, just to pass the time – I had no idea it would take me anywhere but it did.

Over time, colouring-in, led me back to doodling, then doodling led me back to zentangling. After that, zentangling led me back to watercolouring. Eventually, I asked my husband to bring me in my paints, and once I was discharged from hospital, I started making and eventually selling greetings cards, and that has led me to all the different things I do now, to what I’m doing today, leading a workshop of my own at a day all about self care and creativity.

I’ve bought a couple of things to show you today.

A page from my bullet journal

I started bullet journaling in 2016 before I became unwell. I bullet journaled all through the start of my illness and only stopped when I was admitted into hospital. When I came out of hospital I started bullet journaling again. I call my bullet journal my ‘Recovery Companion’ as it charts, very clearly, the different stages of my recovery as well as being a tool to help me recover.

For a long time now, creativity has been part of my daily routine. I record whether or not I create something in my bullet journal’s wellness habit tracker. Early in my recovery, this was important because it gave me a sense of achievement at a time when I didn’t feel as if I was good for anything, and it’s still important today because, as I said, loss of creativity is one of my early warning signs, so tracking it, helps me to be mindful of the state of my mental health as well as reminding me of the importance of creativity in maintaining my wellness.

So, what’s all this got to do with journaling cards? Well, when I was mentally ill, I journalled a lot – you know, dear diary stuff. Sometimes it was helpful, but eventually it became detrimental, as all I was doing was ‘worrying on paper’. As I got better, though, and my creativity started to come back, I started journaling again, but more wisely this time. Rather than ruminating on paper, I’d just brain dump on paper. Often, I’d take something finite, such as a journaling card and limit myself to it filling it. That way I couldn’t spend hours writing myself into an anxious mess. So, I’ve created these for you today, four little finite spaces on which you can journal in any way you like. We’re going to decorate the fronts which leaves you the back to write on.

I’ve drawn some pictures on them and added some quotes to the front to hopefully make them uplifting.

We’re going to start with the Leonard Cohen quote:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There’s a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

Has anyone heard of Kintsugi? It’s a Japanese art form in which gold dust is mixed with resin and used to glue broken pottery back together again. In Japan, people actually break pottery, just so they can have it repaired in this way because the repaired piece is considered more beautiful and more precious than the unbroken original. That’s what this quote and the card I’ve designed means to me – the cracks in our lives let the light in. Although I’d never choose to go through what I went through, now I can honestly say that I’m glad I did go through it because so much light has come out of such a lot of darkness… I love the life I’m living right now. I’m really excited about the future. And I hope that my story has let a little light into your life too.

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More posts about mental health, recovery and wellness.