Hope Through NAMI & WRAP®

By Sharon Orchard

My name is Sharon Orchard, and like thousands of others in New Mexico, I live with mental illness. I have dealt with these illnesses for as long as I can remember, but I grew up in a time where very little was known about mental disorders and in a small town where even less was talked about. It has been over two decades since I was diagnosed formally, yet, until last summer, very few people in my life knew, much less understood. 

My parents are still married after 50 years and live very close to me and are still very active. I have one older brother who is married with three girls of his own. My three children are grown, now all living on their own and doing very well. They have always been beautiful, healthy, bright and very talented. How was it that with all of these wonderful people in my life, building beautiful memories and having amazing experiences, some days I struggled to even get out of bed? There were many periods of time when I found it difficult and almost impossible to see purpose and meaning in my life. It seems like it was only months ago that my big home was bursting at the seams with my kids and their friends. Suddenly, I was living alone in a quiet one-bedroom apartment. I was overwhelmed by the feeling that I was no longer needed and could not see a future. It was a very dark, empty, and lonely feeling that eventually overcame all that was logical to me, and I ended up in the behavioral health unit in the hospital. 

My family and friends were shocked, scared, and confused. So was I. It was the first time that my parents actually saw my illness. It is real, it is physical and I needed help. In the hospital, I decided to take responsibility and attend every group that had been offered. I needed to know that I could get help. I went to a group session for NAMI. I had never heard of NAMI before. I watched a NAMI video presentation about people with mental illnesses. It was the first time in years that I felt hope. Hope! I listened to every word, remembered everything I could before being sent back to my unit. I told my mom about it when she came to visit. I found out when the meetings were held and on my third day out of the hospital, I went to my first NAMI group. My mom went with me and found out there was a group for families that was meeting the next night. 

I learned I was not alone and there was more I could do to become well and stay well for longer periods of time through the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP®). Fears, anxieties, and feelings of helplessness started to diminish. In each passing week, it became easier and easier to breath. My mom attended WRAP® meetings with me every week. After eight weeks, my daughter started coming to WRAP® with me and found that this plan isn’t just for people with mental illnesses, this was a tool that could help her as well. I decided I wanted to become a WRAP® facilitator and give back some of what had helped me and my family. I found meaning and purpose. 

I know that there is still much work to be done. I have new strength and motivation in believing I can achieve wellness. I understand my value in my roles as a sister, a mother, a daughter, a friend, and a facilitator.  When my family needs me, the best help I can be for them is to be well. Openly communicating honestly with my doctors, therapists, family, and peer groups, I can achieve and maintain wellness.

NAMI and WRAP® have paved my road to recovery and wellness.


Editor’s Note: While WRAP® is not a NAMI program, NAMI Albuquerque supports and hosts these meetings at our NAMI Albuquerque facility. See HERE for more information