Wellness Plan – Early Warning Signs

The next step in the WRAP Plan is to list the signs that indicate I need to take action before things get worse. They are changes in the way I think, act or feel, so they are observable, either to myself or others.

This section of the Wellness Recovery Action Plan requires that I face my fears about the initial red flags which indicate an episode is possible. It’s more than just Stressors; it’s actual changes in my thinking and behaving. This is a key part to the WRAP – to recognize these signs as serious and do something about them before they get worse!

These are behaviors or attitudes that point to a potential problem – perhaps a descent into a mental illness episode. For me, indicators include things like listening to my music really loud – perhaps to drown out my spiraling negative thoughts. I apologize a lot, and have excessive guilty feelings. I have a strong desire to speak to my old-time long-term therapist, Ted. I find it hard to concentrate, even for a short TV sitcom. I begin to think “What’s the point?” which is an elusive question, as I don’t define “it;” I guess I just feel fatalistic. I desire to be alone with my self-blaming thoughts. I have trouble making decisions, feel easily overwhelmed, and have a lack of energy.

The Wellness Recovery Action Plan book (copyright 2018) suggests that I review this list of early warning signs regularly, perhaps even daily, so that I become familiar with them and can respond before things get worse. A list like this can be an inventory of emotions and behaviors to note. If I am experiencing several of them, I need to ask myself what’s going on, and why I’m feeling out of sorts. And I need to put the next part of my Action Plan into place.

The wellness tools I will use if I see these early warning signs are:

  • Tell my husband, sister, and friend
  • See my therapist
  • See my psych doc
  • Listen to my music playlists that are encouraging and uplifting
  • Have a coffee date with a friend
  • Rock in my glider
  • Try to interrupt the spiraling thoughts with the truth of God’s Word
  • Email, maybe even FaceTime, my old therapist.

Other actions might be to take a walk, or do some stretching exercises.

In the future, I might make this into two lists – one of actions I must take, and one of actions I might take, when I observe these early warning signs. And I can always go back to my Wellness Tool Box and pull activities from there to help me avert a depressive episode.

On the mend

I met with my psych doc this morning – a follow-up to last month’s med increase. I scored a 4 on the PHQ-9, which is still mild depression, but better than last time I saw him.

I told him that I could tell I was on the up-swing. I’m not feeling hopelessness anymore. My husband and I are dealing with a major life event, and it didn’t send me plummeting; I’m handling this stressful situation without succumbing to great distress.

I’m able to track a whole Netflix show – that’s improvement. I’m reaching out to relationships again instead of wanting to isolate – I joined a women’s Bible Study. I haven’t gone back to volunteering, but I hope to soon. I’m sleeping through the night again, instead of the 2-hour-middle-of-the-night insomnia.

I’m still struggling to concentrate when reading. I’m trying to follow Noom, but can’t seem to stay in my calorie allowance, so I’m a bit discouraged at my lack of self-discipline. That’s an improvement, though; before, I didn’t care.

I’ve mentioned my new therapist and our difficulties in timeliness. But I’ve decided that I really like talking to her, so I’m just going to build in some extra time around our appointments, knowing there will probably be some delays. It feels good to have that decided.

My husband and I have some major changes coming up in our near future, and I need to manage those with gentleness. I’ve asked friends to pray, and we’re following God’s direction for our next steps. I know that if I’m seeking His will, He will direct our path. Today’s blog post from Fresh Hope was very timely – about managing a mental health diagnosis in the midst of change. Just what I needed to hear. Thank You, Lord, for those reminders.

House for sale

My old house in WI is for sale again. I think this is by the people who bought it from us four years ago.

Friends told us, then we found it listed on Zillow. The advantage there is that we could see the MLS pictures.

Wow. That was hard. Everything was different.

New paint colors. I mean, every wall in that five bedroom house had been repainted. The vaulted living room wall. The cozy family room. The tall kitchen. Every bedroom.

New flooring. Beautiful wood kitchen cabinets – painted! A new walk-in closet, though I can’t quite figure out which room that is.

A workout room in the old hobby room. A study where my son’s bedroom used to be.

Each bedroom reconfigured. Strange large paintings on the walls. New bathroom fixtures and shower curtains.

Everything that could be changed… was.

They really made it their own. And erased us in the process.

I was surprised by how sad I felt.

Why would I have that emotional response? I mean, it wasn’t my house anymore. We sold it to another family. And they made it their own.

Maybe it just felt like the end of something. Not that we can ever go back in time, nor should we. Life moves forward.

But change is hard. And this was hard evidence of change.

The evergreens in the backyard had been replaced. There was a trampoline near the gardens.

It had all been redone.

Have I been redone? Am I different than I was four years ago? Yes. “Time marches on.”

And so part of me still grieves the move from WI, all these years later. It was the end of an era, of parenting kids at home. The start of our empty nest. Life with just the two of us now. First in FL, now in VA. What would make me think that WI would stay the same? We didn’t.

Change – a certainty

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”  – Benjamin Franklin

And change. Change is for sure.

Our life is about to change again, as my husband starts a new job and we relocate to a new state. I know, we just got here. We’ve been in Florida for barely over a year, and we’ve loved it. But change is inevitable, so off we go to Virginia.

And it’s ok. We’ve discovered in this past year that we love the beach and the palm trees. We love eating our meals outside and opening all the windows in the house. We love sunsets and egrets and dolphins and alligators.

And I bet we’ll love the next place. The town is just a few miles from both Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive and The Blue Ridge Parkway. It sounds beautiful, and I’m looking forward to checking it out. There will be lots of mountain biking and hiking trails and historical sites. Another adventure with my husband. Another part of the country to see and explore.

Change can be difficult for me – I’ve never really liked it. It helps when I call it “adventure.”

I choose to assume that I will manage this adventure well. I am not worried about a depression relapse. I have this past year’s experience to know that settling in will take me some time – more time than I think it should – and I hope this will help me be more patient with the process. I will make friends. I will find a church home. I will learn my way around town. I will make my house into a home. These things I have learned.

And I have learned to trust God at another level than I trusted Him the last time we moved. I have learned – again, and on this deeper level – that I can trust God with all of these details. He is deeply interested in me and my relationship with Him, and He is continually at work in my life. His desire is His best for me, and He longs for me to put Him first in this move and everything else in my life.

The only thing that doesn’t change is God. He is immutable – rock steady, solid, unshakeable. He doesn’t shift like shadows. Everything that is true about God – that He is love, just, holy, caring, present, Savior, Wonderful, Light, life – these things are true about Him always. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Hebrews 13:8 So while my life circumstances change, my God does not. And there is great peace in that truth.