When, in 1998, I went as a voluntary patient to Cornhill Mental Hospital in Aberdeen, I hoped that, at last, they would somehow “make me better”! How naive could I be! I went there because of many episodes of severe depression, but I did know that I was really, what I called “Manic Depressive”, only the “high” side had never been a problem for me. I had read Kay Redfield Jamison’s “An Unquiet Mind” and thought that, like her, I would get Lithium and that would solve everything! They did, indeed, diagnose me as “Bipolar” tell me that I would never get better, and that I would be on Lithium for the rest of my life.
I had no idea of Recovery, certainly no thought of taking responsibility for my illness, I was Bipolar, so I could spend, spend, spend, but I did know that I wanted to find out more and get support. Such was the stigma of mental illness that, as long as I was a teacher and hoping to go back to my teaching, nobody, not even my C.P.N. told me about the existence of a local mental health association, teachers wouldn’t go there!
As an avid reader I began to read all about Manic Depression and I bought and read all the books written by a Mary Ellen Copeland. She had, at that time, written several books, especially her two workbooks, on ways of coping with depression and manic depression. Unbeknown to me, the mental hospital in Aberdeen sent my diagnosis to the school! From then on, the management of the school, where I had taught for nearly 20 years, as a language teacher and a Guidance Teacher, and the Education Department, decided that I must go. I was sent home from school in the first week of the new Millennium, January 2000, never to be allowed to return again, even to collect my many books and materials. I was, of course, devastated.
The very next day I was sent to the local organization, the Orkney Blide Trust for support and there I got involved in working to have the mental health services in the Orkney Islands, where I live, improved. At the time we were at the bottom of the table! The Manic Depressive Fellowship had an A.G.M. in Perth, which was not far away, and I attended this. I was so excited when I heard that Mary Ellen Copeland was coming to Scotland on 14th September that year to give a training day in Glasgow. I got a place on that and went down to Glasgow with all my books to be signed! I was so impressed that she wrote a different message for me on each one! That day was very important for me as it was the start of my studies of Recovery and WRAP and also the first time I met the wonderful writer!
I did the Correspondence course and wrote my own WRAP plan before Mary Ellen and Ed came back to the UK in October 2001, this time to Birmingham, where they very kindly invited me to join the group doing the week long Facilitator’s Course. I love learning and studying and know that courses can be a trigger for sending me “high”. I had just heard that my retirement was official. By the end of the course, when it came time for me to give my talk on Wellness Tools, I think that Mary Ellen would agree that she has never seen a presentation like that, it went completely over the top, but I don’t think that she’ll ever forget it either! I am pleased to say that I recognized that and I decided to go out to Vermont the following year and “do the course properly”. This time, even when it was suggested that everyone in the course would give up part of their Wellness Plan for a day I was able to say that I knew how important it was for me to stick to my plan, no matter what! I loved these times studying WRAP with others and getting to know Mary Ellen and Ed. I was delighted to be able to spend a day with them a few years ago when they came to Scotland on a cruise! Since 2002 my life has not always been easy. 2005 was especially hard for me: my younger son got married in Japan (his wife is Japanese) as his wife was pregnant, but she lost the baby, our first grandchild. Only my husband could go to the wedding because of the cost and my older son and I had to stay at home and look after the business. Then, at the same time as my dear Mum died, after a short illness, I had to leave my husband (married 1972, only man I ever loved, childhood sweethearts since we were 10 years old!). He was drinking and I was being mentally, physically and sexually abused, but I thought that I could not live alone. At that time, with all this happening, my family, in their grief, could not cope with me, I was left homeless, living in a B&B (this was winter, and no cooking facilities), I spent Christmas Day alone, with no food, apart from porridge and a bottle of sherry because I had just been moved into homeless accommodation. The mental health team were not even supporting me, but I managed to get through all this, thanks to my WRAP. It really has been a lifeline for me!
In March 2007 I was given a very fine little house in town (to rent) and I am very happy here. My older son lives nearby with his father and comes to see me at least every Friday. He would be my main carer, at 39 years old. I have support from the Mental Health team, a good team nowadays, I have a CPN, who sees me regularly and a Support Worker, who sees me weekly and takes me out. I am not too happy about the medication I am now on, Sodium Valproate and Quetiapine, especially the latter which has made me put on a lot of weight, but I am going to have to address these issues in my WRAP. I have two lovely and very lively grandchildren in Japan, but, thanks to FaceTime, I can talk to them and have regular contact with them. Our son is very good at sharing birthdays, Christmas special times with us this way, in fact I even play board games now with both my sons, one here and one in Japan, using FaceTime. Because of my WRAP I was able to go to Japan twice on my own and I celebrated Erik’s first Christmas and birthday with him in 2010/2011 and Isla’s first birthday there in 2013. I used my WRAP to plan the journey and the visit. I just do not think that I could have gone there without! I even had the opportunity to teach again, this time Japanese adults, of about my age, who became my friends and took me out for special meals, which was a good respite from looking after my grandchildren, much as I love them, quite tiring.
The past few months have been hard for me. I have too often been suicidal, I am, unfortunately, a rapid cycler and it does not take long to make me plummet there, but, I have asked for, and received, support, when necessary. With my Support Worker’s help, we have identified special Wellness Tools for these times and, at a suggestion from Mary Ellen in a recent newsletter, we are calling these tools, “Power Tools”. Today my CPN has been suggesting that we’ll draw up a special plan for these times and I am intending to use Mary Ellen’s plan from “WRAP for life” when I am feeling stronger.
As you can see, WRAP has, undoubtedly, changed my life. I would say that the times that I have been unwell recently have often been when I have “forgotten” to follow my Wellness Plan. WRAP has given me hope, made me take on responsibility for my wellness and not let others control me and my illness. I shall ever be grateful for the difference that Mary Ellen has made in my life, indeed, in the lives of many people all over the world!