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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Department of Health and Human Services
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

Last Updated: 7/7/2008

SAMHSA’s Resource Center to Promote Acceptance,
Dignity and Social Inclusion Associated with
Mental Health (ADS Center)


John Jay McDonald's Story

I'm one of those lucky people who are very much recovered in a conventional sense. I've been rock-solid stable on the same medications for nine years, with no mental health problems whatsoever. There hasn't been a whisper of a voice, not a hint of paranoia or anxiety; and my socio-phobia, well, that has just disappeared.

But recovery from mental illness is only the beginning. All it does is bring those of us who have mental illnesses up to the level that everyone else started from.

Nine of the most stable years of my life have passed by, and I did nothing with them. I still haven't looked for a better job, and I don't socialize with my coworkers or anyone else. I have spent those years coasting - not trying to pursue my dreams, not trying to socialize, not pursuing an education.

The reason is that after spending most of my life fighting mental illness, I still don't realize just how much my illness has devastated my life, in so many subtle ways, unless something brings it to my attention.

My participation in the WRAP [Wellness Recovery Action Plan] group has forced me to face the consequences of having a mental illness for three decades. I was too busy fighting my illness to really notice all of the "normal" events and experiences that I have missed out on.

The experiences that most people have had - college, career, promotions, marriage, children - all of these experiences are foreign to me and to many of us in recovery.

I am 48 years old. I have never dated, kissed, or made love. I have not had successes in college or career. I still don't know how to socialize well because, at an age when most people were learning these skills, I was fighting just to function, suppressing all of my emotions, avoiding any experience that would trigger the almost physical pain of anxiety, embarrassment, or anticipation of this pain.

This is not the picture of a real life - or a complete recovery.

Seeing others like myself in the WRAP group, and hearing that many of the issues they feel they need to address are similar to mine, has made me more determined to resolve these problems.

Without the WRAP group, it might have been several years before I could bring myself to face these issues. Several more years of my life would have been wasted.

Innovative programs like WRAP are going to be needed more than ever as genetic engineering brings more effective medicines to bear on mental illness and more and more individuals attempt to begin having real lives.

Conventional recovery is only the beginning. The real battle is to continue dealing with the major consequences that mental illness has had on the lives of these apparently recovered individuals.

John Jay McDonald

Developed by mental health recovery educator and author Mary Ellen Copeland, M.S., M.A., WRAP is a series of self-initiated strategies that promote mental health maintenance and well-being. With its emphasis on hope, personal responsibility, education, and self-advocacy, WRAP dovetails with the recovery philosophy.

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This Web site was developed under contract with the Office of Consumer Affairs in SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services. The views, opinions, and content provided on this Web site do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of SAMHSA or HHS. The resources listed in this Web site are not all-inclusive and inclusion on this Web site does not constitute an endorsement by SAMHSA or HHS.