You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.
Over the next several blog posts we are going to explore the subject of Resilience – bouncing back from hardship, adversity and trauma. Each post will explore a specific way we may be able to adapt to the challenges and difficulties in our lives. Based on an article in Psychology Today – “I Get Knocked Down – But I Get Up Again”, the first tip is:
Accept What You Can’t Change
In fifth grade, I talked to a playground monitor about being bullied and being afraid I would be taken away from my parents. I told her about my brother, who’d been told he would lose the ability to walk by age 30, my stepfather who’d had two heart attacks and a severe motorcycle accident, my mother who was born with a heart valve defect. The monitor said, “Wow, your family has been through a lot.” I remember telling her, “I don’t view these things as bad, I view them as interesting.” This, to some degree, is still my attitude. You can sit around and say, “It’s not supposed to be this way,” but in the end, what good does that do if you can’t change it? —Lynne Soraya, “Asperger’s Diary”
To illuminate this approach, (I) Tom share my story about how I cope with chronic pain:
It’s 3:03 a.m., and I am wide awake. I would prefer to be asleep. I am not a night owl by any means—you can ask my wife. But tonight, like so many restless nights I contend with each week, I am in severe pain. I have lived with chronic pain since I was a freshman in high school. I am now 31 years old.
I guess you could say it all started the day before my high school baseball career. My best friend and I had just finished our final workout of the offseason. In just 24 hours we would be putting ourselves on display, hoping that all those hours of physical training, hard work, and practice would cause one of the coach’s to see the same talent in us that we saw in ourselves.
While waiting for my ride, my friend challenged me to a quick pick-up basketball game in his driveway. Reminding myself that it was our last day of summer, I said, “yes”. After missing my first shot, I ran to retrieve the ball and rolled my ankle.
Moments later my mom arrived and took me to pay a visit to Dr. Snyder our family doctor. Over the next few years, Dr. Snyder and I got to know each other on a first name basis.
“You fractured the growth plate in your ankle.”
Fast-forward four years from that moment. I am now a senior. I am lying on a make-shift bed in my parent’s living room, and it is once again, the middle of the night. But this time it is New Year’s Eve, 2000. What was supposed to be an evening filled with laughter, excitement, and wonder for most, was an evening filled with sadness, disappointment, and pain for me. Just a few days prior I had undergone a major spinal-fusion surgery to try and repair a condition called Spondylolisthesis. Long word short, I had stress fractures in my lower spine. In four years of high school I had: broken my ankle twice, suffered a concussion, and had now undergone a fusion surgery most adults twice my age avoid if possible.
Fast-forward four more years from that moment, I am now a senior in college, and I am once again in Dr. Snyder’s office.
“You fractured your elbow”.
With those words my laundry list of injuries had continued to increase. In four years of college I had: broken my elbow twice (requiring surgery both times), the big toe on my right foot, the thumb on my right hand, my left wrist, as well as two or three more concussions–I can’t remember which .
Fast-forward a decade to present day. Our family doctor is no longer Dr. Snyder, this time it’s Dr. Wood, and now we are on a first name basis.
“You have a condition called Fibromyalgia.”
Long word short, I have arthritis running through my body which causes achiness in my arms, legs, and back.
Friends and family have humorously compared me to Samuel L. Jackson’s character in the movie Unbreakable. He is born with a rare disease where his bones break easily. He can’t go anywhere or do anything without hurting himself. He too, lived with chronic pain. Unfortunately, Samuel L. Jackson is playing a movie character. I am living in real life.
Truth be told, I don’t like sharing about my pain. I never have. In fact, this is the first time I have ever shared it publically before. So why share it? I guess I’m sharing it because I know that there are many people out there who need to be reminded that other people suffer too. Sometimes it helps just knowing that there are others who are going through challenges also. Maybe for you it is physical pain–a tough diagnosis, a lingering injury, another restless night of sleep. But maybe not–maybe it’s emotional or even spiritual. And if you fall into any of these categories, I wanted you to know how deeply sorry I am for you. My heart breaks for you. Sometimes it’s nice to know that someone else cares about you in your pain and suffering. And I care deeply.
Living with pain of any kind, be it physical, emotional, or spiritual can be incredibly debilitating. There are days when I would love to wave the white flag as if to say, “I’m done with this” or “I give up”—and I’m sure you have days like that too. There are days where I have literally given our couch a TKO, and I’m not a boxer.
I guess the good news is this: we have been given so many resources to help ease our despair, comfort us from our affliction, and bring hope to our situations. We have been given friends, and family, and even strangers like me, who love us and care about our situations; friends and family who consistently show empathy, grace, and compassion in our suffering.
Pain and suffering is a part of life—I wish it weren’t so. But as Frederick Nietzsche once said, ‘that which doesn’t kill us makes a stronger’. Your pain and your suffering are making you stronger. So keep fighting, keep battling, keep hoping in something better, something brighter, something more beautiful. And know that someone else cares about you.