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December 6, 2013
Pebbles, Potholes, and Perspective
Creating a Wellness Toolbox
by Sarah Hancock

This past week my van died. I was stuck on the side of the road. When I turned the key, nothing happened. Not even a click. Nervous that I wouldn’t have the money to fix it, I called my insurance company and requested a tow. Sitting on the side of the road, I wondered where on earth we would find the money to get the van fixed.

When the roadside assistance arrived, he discovered that my battery was no good. He jumped the van, sending me on my way, instructing me to not turn off the van until I was sure that I could replace the battery.

I drove it to a local warehouse from whom I’d bought the battery, knowing they could fix it. When I pulled in, they informed me they couldn’t replace the battery because they only fixed tires. Those warehouse men were obstinate! I sat in the driveway, incredulous and fuming.

I called my dad. Dads can fix anything. He instructed me on how to remove my battery. Only problem? I had no tools.

Frequently, people with chronic mental illnesses encounter the same problem — no tools. For that reason, part of creating a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP), is creating a wellness toolbox full of tools; the tools are a collection of coping skills.

Coping skills are unique to each individual. The idea is, the more tools a person has, the more capable he is to deal with a wide variety of circumstances. Although you wouldn’t use a hammer to build a bike, it would be the perfect tool for building a bookcase.

Wellness tools can be used for two purposes: maintaining wellness and regaining wellness. Writing down these coping skills allows people to refer to the list when they need to regain wellness. Often times at that critical juncture between wellness and mental unraveling (decompensation), all conscious mental preparation flies out the window in the face of symptoms.

First people should brainstorm all the things they need to do on a daily basis to maintain their wellness. It can also be things they like to do or are interested in learning how to do. Additional tools allow for a wider variety of adaptability.

As I mentioned before, Wellness Tools are different for everyone. For that reason, it’s great to create your WRAP Wellness Toolbox in a group of peers because it allows people to brainstorm tools together.

Let me share with you some of mine.

Creating a Wellness Toolbox may seem simplistic to many. However, I cannot even begin to explain the value of having these tools written down in an easy-to-access WRAP helps solidify it in my mind.

Likewise, many people with whom I’ve spoken feel the same way. When symptoms arise, it’s often difficult to focus on what needs to be done. It’s nice to have a ready-made plan of things to do so that the effort of remembering what you need to do isn’t required.

When I sat in that warehouse driveway, I had no tools. I felt like the one of those foolish virgins without oil, scrambling to figure out how I was doing to replace my battery now that the time had arrived. Calling my dad allowed me to stop, think, and figure out what I needed to do.

Gratefully, I was able to talk the store manager into letting me use their tools to remove my battery and replace it with a good one. By the time I finished, my nice office clothes were covered in engine grease.

I’m a wimp. Lifting that battery out of my car, taking it to customer service, waiting in line, exchanging it for a new one and then lifting in the new one wore me out. But I did it! On my own! I have to admit, I felt proud of myself, much the same way I feel when I advert mental unraveling.

Wellness maintained. Wellness restored.

Tune in next time for my fourth column on Wellness Recovery Action Plan.

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