I wrote it almost three years ago and hoped I’d never need it.
However, I am darn glad I did. Creating it was a big part of one specific weekly session I attended at On Our Own. There was a workbook each of us was given during the first meeting of the group. The leader went through a section of the workbook during each session.
The class size was as small as four some weeks and as large as nine other times.
Everyone who attended understood what the different pieces looked like. I can only speak for myself, but it seemed like everyone who attended one of the sessions had experienced some form of crisis. I do know I have.
We started every group session by having someone share five objectives, talking points, reminders?
- Hope, life can get better
- Personal responsibility, “It is my job to get better”
- Education, learn what to expect, what questions do people have about depression?
- Self-advocacy, you are your own best advocate, you have the most at stake
- Supporters, Doing things for people
Some in attendance could recite these from memory while I did not know they existed.
The workbook was written as a complement to Mary Ellen Copeland’s work creating and teaching WRAP. The idea is to create a Wellness Recovery Action Plan that you can use when things are not going as well as you had hoped. There are several steps to the plan, including a list of what you look like when things are going well.
My “what I’m like when I am well” list includes:
- I feel positive and energized
- I look forward to the day
- More active
- Not anxious
- Playing board games with family
- I smile
As I write, I am trying to remember the last time I smiled
Ok, so I have put on that forced smile, the “everything is fine” face that accompanies my concealed depression. With high-functioning depression, I can step into a situation and “turn it on.”
The cost of doing this is a significant loss of my energy, which is finite each day.
My next list is “what I need to do every day to stay well.”
- Self-care – make time for me
- Get out of the house
- Don’t procrastinate – do it today
- Go to work
- Spend time with family and supporters
For now, I will skip the next page and a full session devoted to my list of triggers.
So now, on page five of the workbook, I am facing My Early Warning Signs. As the Copeland WRAP book states:
Early Warning Signs are things that you notice about yourself that let you know you are not feeling well, signs that you do not feel the way you want to feel, or that things are not the way that you want them to be. Early Warning Signs are things that only you may notice.
My early warning signs list includes:
- Losing interest
- Feeling bad for no reason
- Catastrophizing and then ruminating on it
- Not sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling emotional numbness
- Anger and Paranoia
- Irritable for no apparent reason
On the bottom half of page five is My Early Warning Signs Action Plan. Here I made a list of the wellness tools from my wellness toolbox of the things I can do to help myself feel better and make my life be the way I want it to be after noticing early warning signs.
My Early Warning Signs Action Plan includes:
- Do not isolate
- Reach out for support
- Avoid triggering situations and/or people
- Attend On Our Own
- Do a little task for 15 minutes
- Use my checklist
- Try to challenge negative thoughts and rewrite them as positive
It feels like I am somewhere in the early warning signs situation. I am proud of myself for being able to recognize where I am. Before I focused on learning all I could about my depression, I would ignore early warning signs. I was in denial that anything was amiss, and I couldn’t bring myself to face whatever it was.
So, I would just wait and hope it got better.
And sometimes it would but sometimes it only got worse. This morning, I am looking at everything I wrote in the summer of 2019. And I have additional resources to look at, review, and implement. Plus, I have a support group, something I did not have (or know I had) in the past.
Today I am not in the “When things are breaking down” area.
As I look over my signs that things are breaking down, I am thankful that I can recognize where I am. Using the lists and tools I have accumulated; I can work on getting back to see my list include ‘what I look like when I am well.
Before WRAP, I could have slipped into crisis, ending with signs that others need to take over.
I have been to the abyss and know that I want to avoid that in the future. Using my Wellness Recovery Action Plan is one of the best ways I have personally found to keep from circling the drain.