Pumping Resilience

Ever see someone who’s survived a spinal cord injury and think, “oh, I don’t think I could live like that?” It’s a common feeling. Indeed, survivors themselves used to think that way too – no way I could deal with loss of body function or wheelchairs or any of that stuff.

Until they do deal with it.

Nobody expects to get a spinal cord injury and nobody thinks they could handle it if it did happen. But here’s a line from SCI: First 90 Days that resonates with survivors:

You have a resilience that you never knew was there.

Rehab psychologists know all about resilience. If you are lucky enough to find a good counselor, you may learn a few tricks to improve your resilience (be more in the moment; reframe difficulty as a challenge, not a tragedy; focus on what you can control; think positively; control stress).

Resilience is a word you will hear a lot these days, in large part due to the big success of the book “Option B.” In case you haven’t caught wind of this yet, it’s a collection of resilience stories by Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook. She never knew what sort of real grit she had until she found her spouse, David Goldberg, dead on the floor next to a treadmill. She found a way to deal with trauma and tragedy, and to transform herself. And that’s what Option B is – facing adversity, building resilience, and finding joy.

Get Sandberg’s book. And be sure to see the Option B website – it’s full of stories and videos around the notion that resilience is not a personality trait that some have and some don’t. It’s like a muscle, says Option B, and the more you exercise it the stronger it gets.

From the website:

OptionB.Org is dedicated to helping you build resilience in the face of adversity—and giving you the tools to help your family, friends, and community build resilience too.”

One of the stories in Option B is that of a friend of mine, Allen Rucker. He joined the paralysis world by way of Transverse Myelitis – went to bed fine, woke up paralyzed. It’s a rude and nasty diagnosis but Allen has found a way to reinvent himself. I invite you to hear Allen describe the process, in this blog. Option B also features a short video about Allen and his wife Ann-Marie.

For more on resilience, check out Psychology Today, which offers series of articles to help build resiliency.

— by Sam Maddox