Have you ever stopped to think during a moment of feeling overwhelmed why that is so? When we feel overwhelmed or stressed, we are exercising our resilience muscle. Think of it as a muscle that needs lots of exercise. But how do we build more resilience, you ask? We practice self-kindness. We practice self-care and self-compassion. We find ways to cope with and to relieve the stress in our lives. No one wants to walk around feeling overwhelmed and stressed all of the time.
When we are in the state of overwhelm, certain emotions arise. These can be fear, anger, sadness, and all sorts of other things. These feelings manifest in our bodies in terms of anxiety or depressive symptoms. But why do these things happen? Well, our mind and our body are trying to communicate something to us. When you are feeling uncomfortable in any way, take a curious stance. Ask yourself why you are reacting the way you are. What was it which triggered this state of being? It’s kind of like having a conversation with your mind. You ask yourself questions and then you problem-solve to find answers. I personally write emails to my therapist in my mind. Those emails don’t necessarily end up typed and being sent out. It’s like telling a narrative and it’s having someone to talk to, even if that person is not there. Other people write in journals or discover things through conversations with a support person.
The Key is in Understanding
Why is it so important to come to a level of understanding? When we discover the reasons behind the emotions, we are able to shift our focus from experiencing the emotion itself to paying attention to what is behind it. I’ll give you an example. Each time am feeling suicidal, I talk it out with my therapist during our therapy hour. He helps me to figure out what the trigger was and why I started to feel this way. Right now in therapy, we are working on figuring out what happens in my mind before I reach the point of being triggered. Once I understand this pre-suicidal process, I will begin to be able to prevent myself from reaching the point of suicidal thinking. This is my current goal in therapy. Suicidal ideation is a symptom of depression. The prognosis of symptoms of any diagnosis can improve with the help of psychotherapy and medication. This is exactly what I am doing.
Resilience is Like a Battlefield
Do you have to be brave to be resilient? Even if you don’t think you are brave, you are. You are inherently brave. Each time you step into a zone of discomfort, it’s like stepping onto a battlefield. You are willingly putting yourself out there. That is bravery. The bombs in the field are the triggers to be aware of and to try to avoid. What happens if you step on one and it explodes? Then you remove yourself from the situation, the battlefield. You get out as quickly as possible and you try to cross the threshold of the battlefield only when you are ready again. What lies on the other side of the field, which is scattered with booby traps of triggers? It’s Freedom. Freedom from the symptoms of your illness. It’s called recovery. Now, when you are in recovery you may get your foot stuck in a hole in the ground. Sometimes it’s too hard to get your foot out of the hole on your own. Sometimes you need to ask for help. Once you are out again, you are free to explore the numerous options and possibilities that life has to offer.
It’s Like Being in Prison
Being in the midst of the throes of a depressive episode, a psychotic break, or an anxiety attack is like being in prison. Someone locked you up in this cage and they took the key away. You feel like there is no way out. You aren’t even aware of the battlefield which lies ahead because all you have energy to focus on is staying alive in this prison of emotions and episodes. It’s awful. The people around you don’t know how you help you get out because they don’t have the key either. But they can try to support you. The way out of the cage is to hire a detective. They can help you find the key, although it might take a while. The detective, the therapist, cannot help you if you don’t want to be helped. You have to be willing to work with them. You have to have patience. Sometimes you have to create a new key, and that can take time. Especially if you don’t have the equipment yet with which to make the key. The neural pathways in our brains are set and stubborn. It takes time to rewire those pathways with positive experiences and interactions. Slowly, you will begin to trust yourself and to believe in yourself and that is when you are ready to put yourself out into the minefield of the journey of recovery again.
It’s About Courage and Bravery
What is bravery? It’s crossing the threshold of the outside world into the safe confines of your therapist’s office. It’s knowing that you need help and asking for it. It’s walking forward on the path of recovery even though you are scared. Courage fits into here as well. You have to have courage in order to be brave. Where did you get this from? It’s that part of you that wants to live. It’s that part of you which wants a better life and which gives you hope in the midst of sadness and pain. And this brings us back to resilience. Hope, bravery, and courage are all elements of resilience.
Resilience is also mindfulness. We need to be mindful of our emotions in order to be aware and to discover what our mind is trying to communicate to us in those moments of discomfort and difficulty. There are ways to strengthen mindfulness such as the practice of mindful meditation, something I have only recently discovered. Strengthening tools like meditation are not easy to do. Just as with crossing the battlefield, it takes lots of practice to figure out where the mines are. I practised my first formal meditation yesterday. It consisted of me sitting cross-legged on the floor with my palms face up on my knees and a straight back. I managed to sit like that for an hour, which was my goal. Did I actually meditate? For a few minutes here and there. But I am proud of myself because this is the first step in becoming an expert in this practice. The whole reason for doing this is so that I can build resilience in order to no longer feel suicidal so that one day I can become a mother. That’s my life goal right now.
You are Not Alone
What are your goals in life? What dreams and aspirations can you keep in mind as a daily practice in building hope and positivity? These are also aspects of resilience. If resilience is a roof to protect your comforting home, then hope is a part of the foundation which holds it up. Please know that you are not alone. You are not the only one fighting this battle to stay alive and to ultimately thrive. We are all in the trenches together. So reach out, ask for help. You might be surprised at what you find on the other side of that question.