Okay, I’ll just admit it: I still worry about my reaction and my ability to handle a crisis. Because I have bipolar disorder, I have always seen myself as an emotionally delicate creature who is easily overwhelmed by the slightest triggers.
Recently, I was confronted with adversity. I was laid off from my job suddenly. It was right after Christmas. I had become very comfortable in my position with the company I worked for. I worked from home, made good money, felt as though I had job security, was advancing in my job, and had finally had a sense of stability. The day I got the phone call from my employer to advise me that I was no longer employed, I could feel my heart sink to my stomach.
All the questions popped up. What am I going to do now? Where do I start looking for work? How long will I be unemployed? Will I find another job working from home? Will I find another job making the same kind of money? Will I find another job that I like? And the list literally goes on, forever.
I was certain that I was would be hit harder, mentally, than those people who don’t live with mental illness such as bipolar disorder. In the long run, I surprised myself, though. Instead of having 7/7 bad days per week, I think I only had 4/7 bad days. It was if this time, I was not as as emotionally delicate the entire time.
Instead, I found myself more like a slinky. On any given day, I could be low, but then at any given moment I could bounce right back up. Sometimes I would be a slinky all day long, and other days I would slinky a little less. That is called resilience, and I learned that this piece of life is a bit powerful. It has allowed me to get up again and again, any time life knocks me down. What is really great about this resilience this is that it is something that I have developed over time. Resilience has a lot to do with my own attitude, perspective, and thoughts. It has been about being flexible and able to switch direction when necessary.
Resilience is defined as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.” Essentially, how quickly does one bounce back from their adversities? When life gets tough, how quickly do you bounce back? For me, sometimes it takes some time.
I have faced a lot of challenges and adversities over the years, yet I still struggle with this concept of resilience. It is something that has improved for me over time, but I am not perfect at it.
There are times I am unable to cope with the small things — or literally anything. I literally live on a spectrum. Basically, there are times where, I am either depressed or I am manic. Everything is either black, or it is white. And there is never any color or in between.
When I think about how I have built the bits and pieces of resilience that I have, it’s hard to pinpoint where it has come from. But, when I think about what keeps me bouncing back in these really hard times, it is really simple.
Staying out of the denial phase for me is the most important. I cannot tell myself “this cannot be happening” or “this isn’t real” or “everything will be back to normal very soon” or “nothing has changed.” That is denial. The longer I deny the situation, the longer I am to not accept it for what it is.
Trust me, I never wanted to utter the words “I just got laid off from my job and I am now unemployed.” But there was absolutely nothing to be gained from beating around the bush or pretending things aren’t the way they really are. Bouncing back and building resilience in the situation becomes easier for me when I accept the situation for what it is.
As much as we want to, there’s no skipping this step. As much as we all want to be kind, generous, optimistic, and always looking on the brighter side of things, there’s still that deep truth that sadness, loss, and grief are just inevitable.
It does not matter the type of crisis situation that people experience, there will be some kind of loss. When I lost my job, it was almost as if I lost some part of my own identity. I was questioning “who am I if I am not working on a federal student loan contract?” While others may be able to cope by distraction, I sat back and wondered what I could’ve done differently to prevent being laid off from my job. While both of these approaches are understandable, they will only draw out the pain of the moment and prevent resilience.
I believe that one should grieve over any loss. Whether that be loss of a job, pet, or a loved one. Grief is not linear. It does serve an important purpose too. It allows humans know that they are caring beings who form healthy attachments. No grief means no love.
Stay In The Present Moment
No matter how terrible things can be, we cannot predict the future. Period. Trust me, I am the type of person who desperately wants to control everything to the point that I will create this nightmare future in my head, just so that I am the one who is actually creating it.
So the important thing to do is to stay in the present moment. Stay in the right now. Even through my lay off and unemployment period, I was fed, comfortable, housed, there was natural beauty around me. And most importantly, that nightmare future that I had created in my head — it wasn’t happening. And no matter what, I wouldn’t have been able to know whether it was going to happen or not anyways. I was able to build resilience by taking control of the only thing I was actually in control of: the present moment.
This one is probably the most important. I found purpose and meaning in my life, and it was very humbling. I became grateful for the things that I had even though I had lost something that I loved.
I did not have a job, nor an income. But I still had a roof over my head, food in the cabinets, running water, electricity… the list goes on. I had a fiancé who was super supportive and encouraged me to take my time to find a job that I would be happy with, and not to rush myself into working for any company. I found that I was grateful that this wasn’t my plan or my will, but instead it the the will of my Higher Power, of my God.
This whole idea of resilience is still a work in progress for me. I am not perfect at this, nor do I claim to be. But these are the things that are helping me one step at a time improve each time my slinky seems down to bounce back up. Some days that slinky bounces pretty high, and sometimes it doesn't. But that’s okay, because I am just proud that I am not staying down. ;)