Resilience: A Key Recovery Skill

  • The February 1, 2009 Woman's Day has an article, "Bounce Back from Anything: How to Be Resilient When Times Get Tough." This intrigued me because I had wanted to write a SharePost specifically about how taking a resilient stance enables a person to do well after a diagnosis of SZ.

    My trusty Oxford American College Dictionary defines resilient as "able to withstand or recover quickly from a difficult situation." Resilience is a skill that can be learned even if you weren't born with it. I have some ideas about how to develop this skill.

    1. Utilize your support network.

    Write SharePosts here. Call a friend on the phone. Attend a support group. Aim to have a weekly outlet in which you can gain encouragement from others who are empathetic and understand what you're going through.

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    2. Be flexible and open to change.

    After you or a loved one is diagnosed with SZ, the rules of the game change. I've devoted space here to this before, yet it bears repeating: first, mourn how it used to be, and then open your eyes to the possibility of a new future. It is never the same, so deal with this fact sooner rather than later. Nobody plans to get SZ or wishes it on their loved one, and it hits with the full force of a hurricane. A mantra I invented that I discovered already exists is a witty take on "Let Go, Let God"-and it's also the title of a book I want to read: "Let Go and Let Life." I've written about this in here in different words: "Life will tell you, if only you stop to listen."

    3. Be optimistic.

    Regret is a negative energy that saps you of hope. It's more burdensome than the actual event. Expect that change will come slowly but it can come. Educate yourself, and strive to keep learning about new treatments and medications and advances in the SZ field. Worrying about the future isn't the solution because your worry has no effect on whatever the outcome will be. Sure, you might feel it protects you from any future disappointment, but be realistic. Sometimes you have no control over the outcome. Worrying could cause physical ailments.

    4. Prioritize.

    Do only what you need to do to be well, and reduce or eliminate what a good friend calls "extracurricular activities." Sure, with a degree of stability under your belt you could tackle things like going to school or moving into your own apartment. Within the first year of the diagnosis, it's like triage: assessing the right actions to take so that you're in a position to move forward. There's a difference between giving up hope and knowing realistically what you can and can't do-at this point in time. An example from my own life: I had a dream that was dashed, or so it seemed because I couldn't achieve it this year. Reframing my perceptions freed me to realize I might have to wait three more years, but that didn't mean it was permanently on hold.

    5. Focus on living your life.

    Always wondering "What if I get sick again?" was something I used to do in the early years of my recovery. It's natural to feel you had no control over the SZ and so it might return. Face your fear by taking healthy risks. The way I see it, failure for those of us with SZ shouldn't carry the same weight as it does for people who don't have our illness and face a loss or setback. I've always felt that having lost my mind, there was nothing else I could ever fear losing. It made me strong enough to try to do things that most people would shy away from.

  • The good thing about being resilient in the face of SZ is that it gives you tools to use in other areas of your life. You gain perspective. Little things hopefully won't stress you out as much as they used to. With meds and therapy, you can recover. If you are resilient, that makes it much easier to cope with the diagnosis.

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    We all have limitations, and accepting them and focusing instead on our strengths is the best solution. The SZ challenges us to be our best selves. We heal by being true to ourselves.

    Ideas? Comments? I'd love to hear from you.

Published On: January 28, 2009