Written by: Campbell Manning LPC
Very few, if any, of us will live a life free of struggle, sadness, or downright crappy news or situations. None of us are immune to negative emotions or even depression when faced with any of the above.
The ticket is not to attempt to avoid life stressors or challenges, but to come through them with RESILIENCE.
My inspiration for this blog is our six year -old Basset Hound, Eloise. For those of you who see me, you may have met Eloise, since she comes to the office occasionally now that her sister, Frances, is no longer with us. For you see, Eloise is blind. Totally blind.
She contracted glaucoma in her left eye almost two years ago and became blind within a week and, sadly, in canines, glaucoma is bi-lateral and she lost vision in her right eye late last fall. You can imagine how terrifying it must be to go from having perfectly healthy vision to no sight at all in less than a year and a half.
The FIRST secret for developing resilience is to TRUST you will adapt to the changes you are experiencing and that you WILL come through the situation. It may not ever be the same as it was before, and your life may not be as “perfect” as it was prior to living through whatever event you’re facing, but you will come through it.
When Eloise first contracted glaucoma there were horrible pressure spikes in her eye, which caused inordinate pain. She understood nothing except she was miserable. I slept on the floor with her, tried to comfort her, and murmured, “it’s alright” (I am now officially a dog liar!).
She literally had no choice but to TRUST we would care for her and help do the right things to get her through this confusing and painful time. When her other eye became blind, she handled the situation better than the first time, although she rarely left the relative safety of the kitchen, which is where one of her beds is, and is near the dog door.
We baby gated all the stairs in our house initially, but within a few weeks, she gradually learned how to maneuver fairly well around most of the house and yard. It is super important to note here that WE HAD TO TRUST JUST AS MUCH AS SHE DID. There were numerous times I thought we might have to put her down – that she couldn’t possible learn how to walk everywhere, as a blind dog, and that she would fall down the stairs and break her back or legs. The vet told us to hang on, give the process a chance – and she was right! Trust is imperative.
The SECOND secret is all about ATTITUDE. It is vital to remain as good natured as possible, to live somewhat “normally”, and to persevere.
As awful as she felt, she still wagged her tail, kissed us, and allowed us to snuggle with her. She didn’t eat with her normal gusto, but she did eat some and drank water to keep herself hydrated. She bumped into EVERYTHING at the beginning of total blindness, and I still randomly find her standing perplexed in a closet!
And she does trip down curbs every now and then, or even fall off a surprise low wall outside, or, most commonly, walk into a parked car on the street if I forget to hold her leash tightly. But ELOISE is ALWAYS …. UP to take a walk with us, she sits next to me while I cook, or watch tv. She is happy to ride in the car – and to be invited. She has readjusted her level of happiness to include simply “being” with us.
And the THIRD key to developing resilience is to use PERSPECTIVE. It is imperative to focus on what you have, not what you DO NOT have. Eloise is a hound, and they are MAJOR sniffers! But until she lost her eyesight, she really didn’t that sniff much during walks.
Now, a walk can take EMMINENTLY longer because she has discovered how wonderfully fabulous SO many things smell in the world! She seems to realize we are her family, and since becoming blind she spends more time in the room with us than she did before.
When I brought her to work with me prior to going to blind, she would whine during the day and had to sit with Bree some since she was fussy during sessions. Now, she is perfectly content to lie in her bed in my office, and just hearing my voice, makes her happy.
If you can manage to evoke a little bit of Eloise’s skills, during what I call, Negative Life Events, then it is possible to eventually allow some meaning from what you’ve endured to be discovered. This doesn’t necessarily mean you are happy the bad thing happened to you, but you can find something positive that’s come out of it. Now, I am not sure Eloise has discovered much meaning, but I have.
I learned, AGAIN, we are tougher than we think we are, that we do adapt to new situations, and pity or self-pity serve no long-term purpose and are non-productive, fatiguing to all, and only keep us stuck.
I have lived through tough situations with my kids. I get that it stinks. But, I also get that we can learn and grow and, ultimately flourish, because of them. And, YOU CAN TOO!
Like Eloise, I encourage you to be open, willing, and realize how valuable the journey you don’t want to be on, can be.
I can’t encourage you enough to be open to life, tolerate the negative, and learn how you, too, can thrive and, therefore, develop the RESILIENCE that will be helpful to your life in general!!!!!