When you are a parent of a child who struggles, all you want is to find a solution. Defiance, school refusal, rebellion, self-harm, drugs, promiscuity, learning issues, bullying, depression, anxiety, aggression – it hardly matters what the struggle is. I am the mom, I want to fix it. Violet’s reactions all came from her feeling horrible on the inside, and watching your kid feel bad is IMPOSSIBLE.
We had tried SO MANY different things. Schools, therapies, medication, affirmations, nutrition, exercise, more sleep, less sleep; the list goes on and on. With every new thing, I would become so very hopeful.
Panacea: A remedy for all diseases, ills, or difficulties; a cure-all.
Yes, this is the one, this is the thing that will work. Once we get the sugar out of her diet, she will feel totally different, she will be happy! …OR… Yesss, this is it. The medicine we have been searching for! The doctor said, it could literally clear the clouds out of her way and she will be able to see how great she is!
Grasping at every little straw of hope, I felt desperate and fragile. We would wait at the edge of our seats to see if she had SOME relief, to see if our family could be fixed. After years of trying and failing, she went to Wilderness. I genuinely BELIEVED that after 84 days at Wilderness, after being at a therapeutic school for 4 months, we would have found the proverbial “fix.”
No such panacea.
This is from a very eloquent woman friend of mine who struggles with an older son…
“Every time I think he is headed in the right direction, he turns around and spirals downward. Hope becomes something that I cling to and resent at the same time. It is a slim tree in a tsunami. The higher I climb its limbs, the greater the fall.”
Violet was gone for 6 months. She came home for the holidays. I was too optimistic. Old habits die hard. Places, people, sounds and smells can be SUCH strong sense memories. Coming home was a dunk in the old pool of turmoil.
She had an uncontrollable outburst after Christmas. We needed the therapist, and siblings, to help pull her out of it. The next day, she left for school. I buckled. I couldn’t bear the feelings caused by seeing her in that state, especially after all this work. I lost perspective and couldn’t seem to pull MYSELF out of it.
My husband tried to talk me down, “Amie, try and relax. That was A LOT to ask of her. It was a ton of pressure for the first home visit. She had one hard time, one day. Overall, she did really well. She was able to bounce back after her episode and function with the family after moments, not days. That NEVER would have happened before. That IS progress. You have to try and see the little things, or you will make yourself crazy.”
In my clear mind, I KNEW how hard it was to change behaviors and cycles. The ability to come back to the family within moments WAS serious progress. I was the one who struggled.
“Two steps forward, one step back.” Ultimately, this is still one step forward. So, how could I embrace that part? How could I experience the backslide and recover in order to continue to move forward?
Resilience: the ability to properly adapt to stressful situations or adversity; the ability to bounce back from hardship, to return to good condition.
From Day One, Violet’s school curriculum focuses on Resiliency. How do you handle adversity? Do you buckle or can you bounce back? How quickly? Can they teach you to do it faster?
Violet’s therapist shared a line with me, “Will this matter in 6 minutes? 6 hours? 6 days? 6 months?” I burned this one into my brain. Major aid for perspective.
As heart rate recovery time indicates physical fitness, “resiliency” indicates psychological health. Resiliency functions like a muscle; it can be strengthened.
There is a trial going on lead by Dr. Martin Seligman (see link). He has theorized a way to strengthen psychological fitness in a training program for soldiers. Meant to enable the soldiers to “bounce back” with increased resilience, it should help decrease the cases of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).
People with strong emotional, familial, social and spiritual fitness tend to be more resilient. Here are some areas of focus:
· Accepting Reality – Let’s not be hyper optimists thinking things are great when they aren’t and let’s not be pessimistic. No denial, or “the sky is falling,” just healthy acceptance.
· Finding Something Meaningful – Let’s try to focus on something that derives meaning for us. Relationships, family, spirituality, purpose. (See Man’s Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl – I loved this one).
· Honing the Ability To Improvise – Let’s find that knack for coming up with a new solution, a flexible way of adapting to situations.
If it works there, in the most strained of situations, why wouldn’t it work for us all?
Reality and perspective. Meaning and purpose. Solutions. Resilience. Fall off the horse, get back on and try again. Got it. Man, we are all a work-in-progress.
“More than education, more than experience, more than training, a person’s level of resilience will determine who succeeds and who fails. That’s true for the cancer ward, true for the Olympics, true in the boardroom.” (Dean Becker)
And, may I add Mr. Becker, true for families.