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Resilience – Effectively Coping With Adversity

Like most MS patients, I’ve been consumed by a disease that has changed my life. Acceptance of my restrictions, inadequacies and overall physical distress seemed impossible. I tried putting it into perspective but didn’t succeed. Your body fails and you get a formal diagnosis of multiple sclerosis; and you are confounded. And then, when you learn there is no fix you are demoralized.

Hopefully, many of you (like me) are cared for medically by an outstanding neurologist and have gotten the best available medical care. You try to get all the current information being presented from your neurologist, the medical and scientific community; learning more about prevailing medications; using different meds in the hope of retarding relapses or to possibly minimize the effects of some of your symptoms. Your doctor encourages you to go to physical therapy, as it might be helpful. And, you might be introduced to a variety of wellness programs like yoga, aquatics, meditation to perhaps help you adjust or to improve function. There is also a plethora of information about what new research is being conducted; and you go to many lectures by pharmaceutical companies and the medical profession supplying your with additional useful info. But, the bottom line is that your chronic distress; your unremitting issues; your disabilities; are with you every day. They likely include pain, spasticity, impairment to your vision, extreme lassitude, numbness, tingling, loss of bodily function, weird sensations, memory problems, other cognitive changes, and more. And, what happens is, you have to find a way to personally deal with any or all of these symptoms on a daily basis – and that is so hard.

So, when it was established that I definitively had MS, I was, for quite a while – morose. I felt I was drowning; that I was sinking in a quagmire of gloom; unhappy, emotionally depressed, and unable to cope with the physical pain, disability and fatigue. I felt reduced, undermined, and totally disheartened, physically, emotionally and spiritually – as I tried to survive my bodies suffering while accommodating to its limitations.

One day I came across two saved articles; one written by ***Rick Hanson: PhD (Psychologist); and the other by ****Dr. Richard Davidson (Prof. of Psychology & Psychiatry: Univ. Wisc.). Re-reading these articles gave me a push; a push that permitted me to think out of the box. And I was presented with a new awareness and a different approach. With new eyes I read: “You have the ability to develop resilience and you have the ability to get out of your comfort zone”; suggesting there is a certain comfort zone in continually ruminating about the distress caused by chronic illness, or the unpredictability of life’s journey. I was reminded “that even for those without prolonged pain or handicaps, you don’t always finish first. I was also reminded that not every runner in an ordinary race comes in first”. What becomes the important factor is – did you you participate, doing the very best you could. That satisfaction becomes acceptance; and that acceptance becomes part of life, even when difficulties or disappointments arise. Your choice is to cope as well as you can.

Life’s lesson shouts out that you can’t always avoid loss or eliminate pain. Even when it is difficult, it is in your best interest to decide to take action; because taking action helps you to develop the resilience you need. If you manage to do that, you’re ahead of the game. “Resilience will facilitate your ability to cope with adversity and the challenges that present themselves. But, resilience is not a personality trait; it is a way of thinking and behaving that anyone can learn”; and will help you acquire resolution and fortitude. The emotional anxiety that follows stressful events, the negative interactions, or the many distressing experiences life can inflict, accelerates negativity. And in your mind you will replay misfortunes, ruminating about these adversities over and over again. “Clearly resilience is not just about surviving the worst day of your life; resilience is not static. It is about how you handle each day and every day of your life. If you don’t have it, you can indeed develop it. It’s a wonderful upward spiral; because resilience can foster well-being and well-being can foster resilience”. The key to developing resilience comes with learning how to handle adverse and negative experiences.

Get out of my comfort zone! Develop resilience! This now made sense to me. Clearly it was time to tread in new waters; and – it became my intention to move in different directions. You might think – well, that’s easier said than done; but for me it was a beginning; and I started to examine alternative ways to adapt. After a while, I noticed I was becoming undeniably more flexible. With patience and determination I had started thinking ‘out of the box’. And then, though it took time, I became better able to manage and survive all the curve balls life kept throwing at me.

Thinking out of the box resulted in new insights and awareness. New perceptions had pushed me to get out of my comfort zone and to become more resilient; making it easier to adjust my outlook and allowing me to move my mindset from one of negativity to one of positivity. I learned that there are times when you may need to be decisive; there are times you have to take action; there are times when you have to accept; there are times when you have to pause, pace yourself and re-set. More importantly, I started to focus on ‘who I am now’; not yesterday; not tomorrow; but today’. So after many deep breaths, I had made it my intention to move forward. How? …by focusing on what is instead of what is not. In spite of the turmoil caused by my chronic disease, I made it my choice to be the best I can be right now; in the present moment.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • rayche
    1 year ago

    Hi again Ruth(lost my first reply!) only just read your article,a very inspiring and lovely piece to read. I find myself generally,being very frustrated with people, most of the time this is not right at all. ooh, perhaps its really frustration with me! Better sign off and do a loving-kindness meditation! Do you have any other suggestions or views about this?

  • RuthGeller author
    1 year ago

    Hi rayche – Thanks for the kind words. The loving, kind, meditative approach works for me a lot of the time; helping me to be centered, balanced and to move forward. It allows me to accept the frustration of being dealt a bad hand or deal with the limited awareness of others. It allows me to make it my choice to find the calm balance I need, to be the best I can be in spite of. You are in my heart, mind and spirit.

  • Jan
    1 year ago

    Yes; kudos to you, your positive attitude, and your resiliency. I myself do all that. I am, however, poor in ways at acceptance: but I forge ahead daily as best as I am able.

  • Jan
    1 year ago

    And it is also likely an attitude independent of health stuff, perhaps a key to how I am.

  • RuthGeller author
    1 year ago

    Hi Jan – You said it so well. The ability to accept the bad hands we are dealt is tough for all of us to handle. I work at staying in the present moment, letting go of what happened yesterday; letting go of anxiety about what tomorrow has in store. And how right about it being independent of health stuff. I find life’s journey to be unpredictable. We all trip and fall, (and when I do) I try hard to get up and move forward within the parameters of any limitations. Thanks for your astute comments. Ruth

  • joannmaxwell
    1 year ago

    Beautiful description of how to move forward positively! For me, it was really hard sitting in the parking lot of the grocery store and watching all the people walking in. It really was a glaring example of how much I had lost. I too had find resilience within me. My Christian faith really helped me. We all have to find our best way to move forward. I also find that what works one day may not work the next day. That is another opportunity to find resilience in new and chartered ways. It certainly keeps us on our toes (figuratively) doesn’t It?

  • RuthGeller author
    1 year ago

    Hi Joann – I know what you mean. You said it perfectly. What works one day may not work the next. So, each day I try to be in the moment, looking for the best way to move forward. I just recently became a great grandmother; so I focus on Zach (my great grandson) and that helps me focus on what is positive. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. Ruth

  • potter
    1 year ago

    Your article reminded me why I do the things I do. I bought a electric potters wheel last week, one of my first signs that I definitely had MS was when I was throwing. My right arm was in pain and wouldn’t cooperate with me. I was trying to throw a bowl on my old fashion kick wheel and couldn’t. I had just finished making a large set of dishes and decided I needed another vegetable dish. I tried to reteach myself later how to throw but my leg couldn’t kick the wheel fast enough. A good deal on this electric wheel fell into my lap so I bought it. I was bemoaning my purchase yesterday, thinking this was stupid, I probably won’t be able to throw. Your article gave me the kick in the pants I needed. I bought the wheel to keep forging ahead. Potter

  • RuthGeller author
    1 year ago

    Hi Potter – I know where you are coming from. My daughter is a potter and I fully understand and appreciate the joy she has when she’s doing what she loves. Developing resilience has grounded me, and definitely helped me be the best I can be within the parameters of my physical limitations. I try very hard to stay in the moment. Thanks for getting back to me. Ruth

  • coles
    1 year ago

    I love this! Gave me the push i needed today 🙂

  • RuthGeller author
    1 year ago

    Hi Coles – Thanks for getting back to me with your comments. It’s nice to hear when others have found the benefits of positivity. Sincerely Ruth

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