Self

5 Things I Learned About Resilience When My Whole Life Turned Upside-Down

Photo: Olena Yakobchuk / Shutterstock.com
Happy woman looking through train window

Did you ever have a dream? I did. And it became reality … almost.

This is a story of hope, disappointment, and choice. A story for those who keep on dreaming even if a dream can turn into a nightmare in an instant. A story for the resilient ones who trust that like John Lennon said, “Everything will be okay in the end and if it’s not okay, it’s not the end."

It's a story of perseverance and the pursuit of happiness in the face of nearly overwhelming despair and uncertainty.

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Unthinkable obstacles are scary — but also opportunities

I was about to leave for a one-year trip through Europe and Africa with my fiancé Alex and I felt on top of the world. The stars were aligned, showing us the way toward a happy future. One last stop before our big adventure: my son’s wedding. Unfortunately, Alex crashed on his motorcycle just a few days before the ceremony, and in the aftermath of a so-called “mild” concussion, he collapsed on the ground as the bride walked down the aisle.

An ambulance took him to the ER while I, confused and scared, decided to stay for my son’s special day. The following weeks were made up of hospital hallways, waiting rooms, and this terrible anxiety that arises when doctors don’t know what to do. Our dream trip was postponed, then canceled, and our own wedding became something that we would rather not talk about.

After months of hope and relapses landing him over and over in a hospital room, I feel exhausted, disappointed, anxious, and even resentful. Why did he take his motorcycle to the speed track? Why did our life come to a halt as we were on our way to happiness? Why can't we have a clear answer from the medical team?

What was I going to do? All I could do is keep on going and absorb the tough life lessons. 

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5 lessons about resilience & happiness:

1. It doesn’t have to be pretty.

I am scared. I don’t know what will happen. No clue. This week, Alex will go for another MRI, another scan, and probably a “minor” brain surgery. As if brain surgeries could be minor! It will be his fifth hospital stay, three out of state, sixth MRI, and third surgical procedure. I stopped counting the number of scans and doctors a long time ago. I know he’s terrified and even though I try to smile in front of him, I admit I’m scared too. Scared of not knowing. Scared that he might die or wake up crippled for life. Scared that our beautiful dream will stop before it even started. Scared I won’t be resilient, supportive, or courageous enough.

Wait a minute … I promised you a lesson, and instead, I am sharing my fear. But that’s probably it, the biggest lesson of all: It’s okay to be scared, to be sad, to be a mess, to have all those conflicting emotions. If you’re not able to admit your fears, you will never be able to move through them. So let me admit mine through the tears and the anger: I am scared and it’s okay.

Now, a deep breath. I have shared my truth. From here, I will rebuild. And so will you.

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2. Crappy past? Uncertain future? Time to be grateful.

The future is uncertain and the past is pretty grim. Stay in the present.

Today is a good day. I’m writing, sitting outside. The weather is fantastic, and birds are doing their job of singing joyfully. Gratitude is such a cliché and still, the first step toward feeling better.

So, I list my blessings:

  • My brother caught Alex before his head hit the ground when he fainted.
  • My son is a paramedic and told us to go to the ER before it was too late.
  • My ex-husband and his wife were extremely supportive during the wedding.
  • Friends are checking on us regularly through this nightmare story.
  • I’m healthy and able to stay present.

There is so much to be thankful for even when things don’t seem so glamorous.

 Focus on what brings you joy. Big or small things. What are you grateful for? Make your list, day after day. 

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3. Selfish? …Absolutely! And proud of it.

The events are affecting me but are not mine. My fiancé is the one in this hospital room. I understand and even feel his pain and fear, but I don’t have to take them on. Love isn’t martyrdom. My only role is to be as positive and happy as can be. So, I take care of myself. Call me heartless, but I won’t drown with him. I will rise higher and inspire him to heal.

What does self-care look like to you?

Exercise? Spending time by yourself? Walking in nature? Talking to supportive friends, asking and receiving support? Go ahead! Reclaim your sovereignty, your happiness. Unconditional love has nothing to do with sacrifice. You may not know what the future holds but you can emerge from challenging situations happier than ever before. The how is secondary. For now, trust you will.

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4. Trust especially when you don’t feel like it.

I was running full speed ahead toward a future of love and adventure when I was stopped abruptly by circumstances. I hit a wall and I feel hurt and dazed. I would love to scream at the universe and be mad, but for what? It won’t solve anything. Here I am, resenting the past, once again. So much for trust!

It’s okay, let’s try again. Learning is not linear but circular.

You hurt, you cry, you’re mad, you hope, you heal, you stumble and fall back, you learn again and go to the next level.

Hurt, cry, anger, healing.

Hurt, cry, anger, healing.

Again and again until the hurting is less and the healing so natural that there is no choice but to feel better.

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5. You will be happy!

These last few months have been intense, but I'm okay. I have survived a lot. People even called me the queen of resiliency, so it is time to reclaim my crown. I don’t have a clear path. I don’t even know if life will ever look like what I dreamt about a few months ago. I honestly doubt it.

I know one thing, I trust one thing. I will be fine. I will actually be more than fine, and I will be happy.

Focus on the beauty around you and chose to live for yourself. Turn away from what is not yours or what you don’t have a direct impact on the news, the dramas, the outcome, the weather…It’s okay to not have extra bandwidth for anything besides your well-being. Chaos might be real, but you can choose to focus on your strength and resiliency. Remember the past challenges you’ve already survived. The universe always had your back. Today is no different.

You will be happy.

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Fab is a Core Energy Coach and Hypnotherapist who works with resilient women disappointed by life and guides them from heartbreak to breakthrough so they can become the leader of their life. She is the author of Renaissance Woman: A Feminine Midlife Crisis from Loss of Identity to Rebirth.

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