Remember the old Timex ad slogan — “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking?” You know, the commercials where they put Timex watches through the most outrageous torture tests and yet, somehow, the watches still survived? Well folks, that’s me. My whole life has been one big Timex commercial and I’m happy to say I’m still ticking too. In mental health circles, that’s called resilience.
Psychology Today explains resilience this way:
Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes. Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient, among them a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after misfortune, resilient people are blessed with such an outlook that they are able to change course and soldier on.
Until I started therapy, I never considered myself to be resilient. I didn’t even know it was a thing. I just did what I had to do to survive, and I never considered it could have gone any other way. But now after having multiple mental health professionals mention how shockingly resilient I am, I do find myself wondering…
How the heck am I still standing? After all I’ve been through, how is there any of me left inside?
I began to make a mental list of all the things that have happened to me in my life:
- I am a child of divorce. My father left home when I was 5
- I was raised by a mother who did her best but could not handle life
- I was the victim of ongoing sexual abuse by a family member from an early age
- I was raped by the father of some kids I babysat when I was 14
- I became pregnant from the rape and had a baby at 15
- I had a piece of my heart ripped out when I gave that baby up for adoption
- I became a single mother at 18
- I married an alcoholic at 21 and had 3 more kids
- I caught my mother having sex with my alcoholic husband when I was 8 months pregnant with our third child
- My mother married the alcohol ex-husband and for many years treated me like the evil ex-wife
- I married a second time at the age of 26, had two more children, and then 3 months after the birth of our second child found out that he had been molesting two of my children the entire time
- I was held up at gunpoint at a fast food restaurant
Those are just the highlights. There’s even more than that but you get the picture. According to my therapists, any one of those things could have easily knocked someone down for good. But I’m like a Weeble — I wobble but I don’t fall down. (Yes I’m old. If you don’t know what a Weeble is, Google it! They were all the rage once upon a time). Anyway, I digress. As I’ve sat and pondered all the things I’ve endured in my life and what it is that makes me come out intact, I’ve come up with a few things that I think have made it happen:
- First and foremost, my faith in God
- I have pretty much mastered the art of forgiveness
- I am stubborn as mule
- As the Psychology Today piece proposed, I am an eternal optimist
- I have recently begun to consciously practice gratitude
- I am an analyzer. I examine the what, and when , and how, and why of everything
- I am (sometimes) able to use logic and reason to overcome unpleasant emotions
- I truly believe that life is worth living and the good things outweigh the bad
I’m sure as I continue my therapy I will begin to uncover more things that have helped me to be resilient. But for now, that’s my list. I’ve decided to turn my list into a series on resilience, tackling one list item each time. I think as I dig deeper to write about each one, it will help me learn new things about myself and grow from them. Perhaps it will help you too, to see the strategies I have employed (often instinctively and unknowingly, by the way) to be resilient.
I don’t know about you, but I’m excited about this! I have a feeling it’s going to be good 🙂 See you all next time when I start with the first item on my list– my faith in God.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9