I have always considered myself to be pretty resilient, so much so that friends would ask me how I can be so calm in stressful situations. My answer was always, “I bounce.” And I did. I confidently bounced back, then happily moved on through all the stress and anxiety that comes with a life fully lived – a 34-year marriage, childrearing, career changes, work schedules, money challenges, and grad school. I bounced. Until I didn’t.
The stressor that did me in came unexpectedly, almost stereotypically, with a phone call in the middle of the night. My mom, who was traveling in London at the time, had been hospitalized emergently. They didn’t know what was wrong yet, but she couldn’t breathe and was rapidly losing the ability to move her body. Within 24 hours, this vibrant, intelligent, and active woman, whom I loved dearly, became completely paralyzed. All she could move was her eyelids when she blinked, and she needed a ventilator to breathe for her. That night marked the beginning of a 6-year process of stressful adjusting and caregiving, but one particular moment stands out.
It was in the early days of her illness, before we got her back home that I succumbed to my fear – big time. I recall walking down my back hallway when I let loose with a long, piercingly loud, wailing cry. Then my attention was hijacked by our sweet yellow lab scurrying before me, tail tucked between his legs. Right in the middle of my wail, I started laughing. My intense fear had actually scared the dog! It’s such a good example of how we can shift our attention away from what’s wrong and toward something more positive when we want to feel better. Learning that I don’t have to be afraid of my own fear, that I can be both scared and hopeful at the same time, is one of the many ways I learned to bounce again. I can’t wait to hear your stories. Please share!