The Road to Resilience

The American Psychological Association describes resilience as an adaptation in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or stress: family/relationship problems, health problems or workplace/money issues.  The Merriam-Webster definition would have us believe that resilience is an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.  Dictionary.com points to an ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy. 

Interestingly, I find my closest resonance with my ongoing health crisis not in the dictionary, or in spiritual writings, but in words from the Harvard Business Review.  Resilience was defined there as the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change and keep going in the face of adversity.  Diane Coutu eloquently explains in her writing “How Resilience Works,” “Resilient people possess three characteristics — a staunch acceptance of reality; a deep belief, often buttressed by strongly held values, that life is meaningful; and an uncanny ability to improvise. You can bounce back from hardship with just one or two of these qualities, but you will only be truly resilient with all three.  Resilient people and companies face reality with staunchness, make meaning of hardship instead of crying out in despair, and improvise solutions from thin air. Others do not.”

Though the study of resilience is fascinating, I’m not sure we will ever truly understand all that true resilience means.  This could be in part because based on the course of our individual journeys, resilience can mean different things to different people.  Many people believe that optimism is the foundational block of resilience, but only to the extent that it shapes your ability to go on….not when your optimism blocks the facts and reality about your current situation. 

I can assure you that there has been nothing buoyant or elastic about my expedition from illness to recovery from Lyme Disease, Babesia, and now Bell’s Palsy.  I looked to see if perhaps pissed off could be a synonym of buoyancy…… but alas…no.  Horror, frightened, exhausted, pain-ridden, memory impairment, air hunger?  No….none of these things are synonymous with “readily adaptable” or “buoyant” or “easy to adjust.” 

However, at no point during this time have I come even close to throwing up my hands and giving up.  If you feel despondent at yet another health setback, does that mean you are not a resilient person?  I think not.  I believe feeling the depth of despondency and hanging on to understand there is a deeper meaning to all of our experiences even when we do not understand every nuance is a definite quality of resilience. 

As someone who was raised in the Christian faith, I’ve had some interesting comments from some well-meaning (?) Christians and also from some from the belief system that we bring on our own illnesses.  Those comments alone could cause a downward spiral of self-doubt and self-punishment.  It is discouraging to do everything right in terms of recovery and still suffer a major setback.  It’s sad to look into the mirror and over the course of less than 24 hours experience a quantum leap from a normal face to one that is completely paralyzed on one side.   But the thought that I brought this on “myself” is ludicrous. I’ve never believed in the theory that we are “blessed” when we do good and “punished” when we are lacking.  I feel there are many people of faith that wield their faith like a light saber or magic wand.  Faith is not being “saved” from adversity.  Faith is how we respond when we are in adversity.

I do believe there is meaning in all of these experiences.  I believe there are lessons to be learned and many lessons that I have already learned from this journey.  I believe that I better understand the depth of my “fierceness” and the breadth of my faith.  I know that there is a grace in relaxing into the flow of the unknown and strength in learning when to say no.  I face clear choices each step of the way.  Here’s just one tiny example.  In November I had the pleasure of hosting a five-day virtual summit for caregivers.  I videotaped interviews with 14 caregiving coaches before the summit.  During that experience, I realized I had fallen head over heals with the interview process.  My intention was so start highlighting video interviews on my website right after the first of the year and began lining up coaches and consultants to interview.  My health put a temporary hold on that idea, and then Bell’s Palsy brought it to a screeching halt.  Now, I could have ranted and lamented the “why me Lord, why me?”  Or, find other things to accomplish in the meantime. 

My Spiritual journey has certainly changed throughout my adult life.  There has been a shedding of some things that no longer serve me and an embracing of new truths.  These truths are literally all around us all the time, but we need to test them to find out if they are absolute truths or only truths for certain situations. I’ve gained in strength and inner clarity throughout this process.  Teachers come to us as they are needed AND as they are desired.  Our interactions with each other can teach us about ourselves and who we truly are, and if we allow it can ultimately guide us to our truth.  I become ever more comfortable with my intuitive process as I navigate this journey.  I’ve learned to slow down, be more intentional and less the perpetual multi-tasker.  Whether these will be permanent lessons for me or not will be shown with time.  What I do know is that it will all unfold, just as it should.

 

{I have been asked by several people to please speak to the specifics of how I am approaching my healing journey.  As intentional as I am becoming generally in my life, I am intentional in my healing process.  I’ll be posting later this week to start to address some of the steps I am taking to repair the damage of the Lyme, Babesia and of the Bell’s Palsy.}

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When the Caregiver Becomes a Patient

2016 was shaping up to be a pretty fantastic year.  We were settled into the home that became ours in the summer of 2015, my husband was over the moon in love with his job, my mother seemed to be getting used to her new apartment in our home, and I was putting the finishing touches on my first book. We were finding satisfying successes professionally and couldn’t be happier personally.  And then…..our world turned upside down. 

 

In the late spring, early summer my mother began to have medical episodes that were frightening and unsettling.  After repeated emergency trips to the hospital, we were no closer to finding an answer.  It was becoming a daily distraction as I was finishing the final edits of my book. Even days when there wasn’t an “event”, I found myself waiting for the next one. 

 

Knowing that my mother was not particularly happy with her move to live with us, we had planned a week-long trip back to her favorite place; New Harbor, Maine.  After her medical events had started, I was a bit nervous about her health but comforted to know she’d be back where she is most happy. It was fourth of July week, my daughter and her beau had come from Colorado, and it felt rather idyllic.  Early in the morning on July 3, my husband and I took our dog for a walk along the back lane that ran behind our cottage.  Just before we got home, I was startled by a painful horse fly bite on my upper right arm. Little did I know that in that very instant, my life was going to be radically changed. 

 

After months of at times debilitating symptoms, last fall I was diagnosed with Lyme and Babesia (a Lyme disease co-infection).  I felt grateful to be working with a Naturopath that specializes in Lyme disease.  I try to avoid mainstream western medicine as much as possible and felt comfortable with the relationship I had established with the clinic.  I started on a therapy of herbals, essential oils, antibiotics and an anti-malaria medication for the Babesia.  I was determined to be the “model patient,” do everything I was instructed and be on the road to recovery in no time.  To me, it seemed perfectly reasonable.  I am a healthy, happy person with a strong resolve.  I had this! The medications didn’t settle very well, I was frequently nauseous but I felt confident that it was all for good.

 

But weeks later, a month later, two months later, things weren’t going as planned. My fatigue was perhaps worse not better; my air hunger made just going up the stairs a major event, the pain throughout my body was relentless.  Still, I was determined, stayed the course and “worked the program.”  I was aware that I was angry, but it isn’t my personality to focus on the negative.  Why wouldn’t I be angry?  I took good care of myself, ate healthy food, exercised, took care of others, was writing a book to help the world….why was I being sidelined from life like this?  But life is difficult.  Acknowledging that….acknowledging that “stuff happens” to good people is healthy…focusing on it isn’t, so I didn’t! 

 

Then, just before Christmas, we were out to dinner having a great time when I became aware of a growing pain in the base of my skull.  My head started to truly pound on the way home, and I went straight to bed in agony.  I slept only off and on all night, and I experienced increasing pain and pressure in my lower head, neck, ear and jaw.  Early in the morning, I couldn’t stand the pain any longer and went to the bathroom to put a warm washcloth only face.  I looked in the mirror and noticed a definite droop in the right side of my face.  I tried to not panic, looked again and smiled…..only half of my face was responding.  I then realized I couldn’t shut my right eye all the way and it was completely blurry.  A trip to the emergency room on a Sunday afternoon?  Never a good idea!  We were shuffled into a curtained cubicle while the obligatory blood work, ekg, and cat scan were ordered.  My doctor seemed more concerned about complaining that my Naturopath wasn’t ordering the right meds than addressing the issue at hand.  He confirmed my fear that I was now the recipient of a rare complication of Lyme disease, Bell’s Palsy.  Unfortunately, even when I asked about the course of treatment of prednisone, he shrugged that off and said I should just see a neurologist.  We left the emergency room with NO course of treatment. 

 

I was scared and in pain, but I don’t think the whole scope of what was happening had really settled in.  I experienced another night with little sleep and great pain; but as I got up the next morning, I realized that my face was significantly worse than the day before. The right side of my entire face was frozen with a droop to the eyebrow and mouth.  I looked like I had suffered a stroke.  I’m still trying to make my way through not only the physical pain and complications, but the fear of not recovering….80% DO recover, but far more difficult to process for me is the realization that you can do everything right and still suffer serious complications and set backs. 

 

This series of blog posts will be about my journey.  I think it’s important to write this as it happens and not wait until I’m on the other side.  We tend to filter out far too many of the raw details when time has passed and alters our perspective.  My jam has always been to be the problem solver,  the coach, the consultant.  This time I think it’s worthwhile to share it while I live it. 

 

It’s 5 am on Christmas morning as I write this.  I’ve been up since 3 am.  Sleep is more fleeting during my prednisone therapy than usual.  The house is quiet, the tree lights look even more beautiful without the ability to focus my eyes.  It’s like looking at Christmas lights through raindrops.  I have so many emotions and fears clamoring to be heard that my mind is on constant overload.  But today, my goal will be simply presence.  Presence in the moment, presence in gratitude that my son is with us, my daughter is with people that love her even if it is most of the way across the country and there is still much to be grateful for.  Making sense of what is happening can wait one more day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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