by Kelly Harrigan
Pop quiz time: What do perseverance and resilience mean to you? Perseverance is about not giving up. It is persistence and tenacity, the effort required to do something and keep doing it till the end, even when encountering resistance or difficulties. Resilience is a person’s ability to recover quickly from unfortunate circumstances or illness. That may resonate with traumatic brain injury survivors.
As humans we set goals for ourselves, both short- and long-term. It’s easy to become frustrated, angry, or defeated when we don’t achieve those goals quickly. Sometimes our goals change, yet the memory of what we desired remains. We may feel thwarted when our success feels incomplete or we fall short of our self-imposed target, causing cracks to appear in our self-confidence and self-esteem, shaking our sense of self-worth. As a TBI survivor, this may lead you to feel anxious and overwhelmed. The path of wellness is never easy and often has many routes. Perseverance and resilience are needed every minute to assist your healing.
Don’t let others define you as a person.
In our social media world, where we are constantly bombarded with the perceived success and perfection of others, you may grouse, “Yes, but I may not be the same again and I could never be a J.K. Rowling , Tom Hanks, or Serena Williams.” News flash: their goals were not attained overnight. Waving the Phoenix wand did not work instantaneously for J. K. Rowling. Her manuscript was rejected twelve times before Bloomsbury picked it up. Now, generations of fans read her books and we are inspired to summon our very own Patronus.
Tom Hanks had some major flops in his career. Yet in one of his most iconic roles, as Forrest Gump, he portrays a character who persevered throughout his life and was resilient enough to recover from life’s setbacks. T.Hanks for the inspiration, Tom, both on and off-screen.
Serena Williams didn’t become the tennis G.O.A.T. she is by sitting on the couch and eating bon bons all day. She trained hard for years and suffered defeats. Yet she kept at it and outplayed or outlasted others. These three people did not let others define their expectations or limits. They persevered and were resilient in the face of life’s obstacles.
But I want to be “ normal” again!
Normal is just a word that means what is usually expected or done. Times change. People change. Circumstances change. Change is a process and it’s messy at best. Countries, leaders, and individuals adapt and change to move forward in life leading to a new normal. Perseverance and resilience are needed to do so. As a society, right now we are adapting and moving forward through extremely trying times; our resilience to endure and overcome a pandemic and racial injustice walks hand-in-hand with our perseverance to achieve a vaccine and equality. You, as a TBI survivor, are overcoming so many hurdles daily. You can define your own “normal.”
Madonna said it best: “Express Yourself”
Allow yourself to express and feel your emotions. Sometimes having a good cry can be emotionally cleansing and put you back on track. Make like Catherine in the television series “The Great” and have a cleansing yell in the privacy of your coach, er, car. Chat with a loved one or someone you trust and tell them how you feel. If you’re not up for that yet, no problem. Write a letter to yourself and get it all out. Be kind to yourself, practice compassion for self, and ease up on your great expectations. As they say, Rome was not built in a day. Take some small action, because when you are feeling overwhelmed, doing that one small thing can help you move yourself forward.
Better start believing in yourself.
Anyone who suffers from TBI already possesses the traits of perseverance and resilience. You have spent days, weeks, months, and years, plugging away at therapies and treatments to improve your health. You continue to reach out to family and friends. As you read this article, your ability to bounce back allows you to be present in this moment. You have put in the effort to overcome so many difficult obstacles in your healing process. Within each one of you lies a fierce and strong warrior who battles each day in battles that many others are not able to face, battles in which others would concede defeat. Take pleasure in every small success on your life journey. Realize that you matter to others. Celebrate yourself.
Know that right now, right here, you are enough as you are.