I recently heard from someone I trust that humans have what’s known as immune neglect. This means we forget just how good our psychological immune system is at recovering from the affects of what we perceive as a negative life change. We overestimate how hard and for how long a negative situation will affect us. When people go through a trauma they often anticipate that they will not be able to overcome the pain, but these studies have proven that we underestimate how quickly we adapt to new circumstances and overcome them to become even stronger than before.
Take yourself, for example. Think back to some difficult circumstances you encountered in your past. Do you ever remembering feeling like you’d never get beyond the pain? Did you get through it? Yes, you did! Life may not be rainbows or butterflies, but you ARE on the other side of that pain. Congratulations! You are strong. Multitudes of things helped you overcome that difficult and dark experience you faced but one of those things was your psychological immune system. God has exquisitely hard wired your brain to make sure you get back up from pain, if you will let it do its job. If is the key word there.
Over the last two years my life entered into what I fondly refer to as “The Terrible Two”. It started with the tragic loss of one of my best friends from college, followed by a missionary experience that felt like something out of the Jonestown cult saga which left me jobless, churchless, and penniless. Throw in a move, two tumultuous on-again-off-again romances, and the gut-wrenching loss of my sister’s husband to cancer only a few months ago. Sprinkle in a near death experience via kidney failure in a foreign country, countless additional setbacks along the way and you’ll find that these last two years have certainly earned their name.
That being said, from the end of May until about October of this year I fully and completely lived in immune neglect. I couldn’t see a way forward. I had basically given up on myself, my future, my hopes and dreams, and was teetering on the edge of walking away from God entirely. (The whole almost leaving Jesus part deserves its own post…coming soon.) I kept living in the past and re-convincing myself day in and day out that I had suffered too much in too short a time and that there was simply no way I could recover. Sure, God had gotten me through difficult times in my past, but all that was baby stuff compared to this. There was no way I was going to be able to move on. I wasn’t just bent I was broken into a million teeny tiny pieces. No idea who I was. No idea who I would become. Confused. Lost. Angry. Heartbroken. Bitter. Hopeless. When you enter into hopelessness, all pretty much seems lost. If you can’t see a reason to keep going, you lose all strength to keep going. It was an awful period in my life. One that I largely kept to myself as I moved through it.
Sometime at the start of November I had had enough. I determined in my heart to FORCE myself to believe that I was going to overcome. Just believing that was a battle. But forced it I did. I was still alive, so that was a success in itself. I realized that after surviving all that had come at me and living at rock bottom as long as I had, going up must be the only possible option and I had to fight for it. And so began my period of resiliency. When someone is walking in resilience they are readily recovering after disappointment or loss. Resilience is not a trait that people have or don’t have. It involves thoughts, behaviors, and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone. The fact is, we are hard wired to swallow everything life throws at us, process it, learn from what is valuable, get rid of everything that doesn’t help us grow, and keep moving. Life has a way of jamming itself down our throats and forcing us to swallow. Everything we do after that is up to us, and oftentimes we need a little help with the next steps…
One of the greatest decisions I made or *resilient behavior* I demonstrated was signing up for therapy. [Side Note: When I share my story and mention that I go to therapy every week people always act so surprised and unsure about my decision. Really? Is it still weird in 2015 for people to pursue a healthier mental state through the help of counselors or psychologists? Ugh.] But it’s ok. I get it. And signing up wasn’t easy for my pride to take, but the spirit of resilience made me do it. Many people are verbal processors, which means you have tons of thoughts all jumbled and bouncing around in your head but can’t make sense of any of them until you talk it out. If you’re anything like me, you have tons of thoughts and pain but rarely vocalize it to anyone. And the few people you do try to talk to only make things worse or try to fix you. So, you might need to get with a counselor. FYI, a lot of men are verbal processors and don’t know it or refuse to admit it 🙂
I have had some of my greatest revelations and breakthroughs as a result of talking through stuff with a couple of professional listeners who don’t know me and won’t share my junk with anyone else. (And they ask the right questions!) There is so much freedom in that room and it is an absolutely healing and elevating experience. I highly recommend it. It is okay to ask for help. If anyone you know has been through something traumatic recommend counseling to them!! Every community has professional counselors and most churches do as well. However, I do encourage people to go to someone who has an actual degree in the field. Trust me on this. Therapy was one of the ways I began to see hope for myself. The more the weight of all the unspoken pain began to leave my mind and body the more I began to feel free to dream and move forward again. To see how far I’ve come from where I was just this summer floors me and ever renews my confidence in God’s handiwork within us to live victoriously if we let ourselves tap into the spiritual, mental, physical, and human resources around us.
I’m not where I want to be just yet, but I am surely no where near where I used to be. I’m on the road to healing. If you can relate I’d love to hear your story! And if you have any questions about therapy please contact me. You can email me in the “Contact Me” page above, share your story below, or message me on Facebook. Get back up and keep going!
Hugs and kisses,
“37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:37-39