“When we learn how to become resilient, we learn how to embrace the beautifully broad spectrum of the human experience.”
― Jaeda Dewalt
Painful experiences and emotional trauma are at the core of making us human. But what happens when those painful experiences or emotional trauma seem like they are too much, or more excessive than the “normal” person?
There are infinite things that can build resiliency, but each person has their own. No one thing can be defined as emotional pain or trauma. Each person goes through their own pain throughout their lives. It is no one’s place to tell another person whether what they are going through is “real” or not.
It is natural sometimes to hear what another person is going through and think to yourself “well that’s not even that bad“, and compare their situation to situations you have been through yourself.
Maybe you think someone doesn’t have a lot on their plate compared to you. But maybe their plate is smaller than yours and doesn’t have a lot of room to begin with. Or maybe their plate is paper, and their flimsy paper plate can’t hold as much as your sturdy ceramic plate can.
Looking at the above saying, have you ever considered it? Have you considered that when someone tells you something they are going through that doesn’t seem to compare to your pain, that that is the most painful thing they have ever been through?
I remember a time in college, my friend called me sobbing at 2am and woke me up from my sleep. I jumped out of bed terrified, and thought about every worst case scenario about what could have happened to her. When she came over to my apartment, she said “my parents are getting a divorce”. I’m not going to lie, I was so irritated because she woke me up out of my sleep, gave me a mini heart attack, and then find out it’s because her parents are getting divorced? “Omg, are you serious? My parents got divorced when I was 13 years old. It’s not a big deal“. That’s honestly what I thought in my head.
But how dare I?! What gave me the right to think that?! Her parents getting a divorce is the worst thing that has happened to her. That situation, regardless of how it may have compared to my life, is just as serious and painful to her in that moment as the most painful thing I have been through.
The difference between her and I, is that I have had the opportunity to build resiliency over time. Enough resiliency to know that I can get through anything. And that happening to her, began building her own resilience.
This is not a pity party by any means, but I will list out some of the things I have went through in my lifetime:
- I never met my biological father who went to prison for life. Which made me truly believe that I wasn’t worth enough for him to act right, making me worthless
- I grew up as pretty much the only “colored” person in the town I lived in when I was young, and the only “colored” one in my entire family. Making me feel completely out of place and like I didn’t fit in.
- I began getting bullied at school from the time I was in 1st grade throughout 8th grade. Tearing down my self-esteem little by little.
- I began feeling worthless, like I was nothing, Feeling like I didn’t deserve anything good in my life, that I didn’t deserve to be happy.
- Because of the past trauma/bullying, my personality shaped into always thinking I was being judged and made fun of.
- I started looking at all of the people around me who had a group of friends and a crowd where they fit in, but I felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere.
- I drifted into severe depression.
- I got into my first relationship when I was 17 years old with an emotionally abusive person. Telling me what I could wear, what I could do, telling me “thank god I love you, because no one else ever will”.
- Going to college and only making friends through drinking alcohol. It was the only way I felt like I could fit in.
- I was sexually assaulted in college after having something slipped into my drink.
- I latched on to anyone I thought was my best friend because I so desperately wanted to have a close relationship. Even though it was toxic and resulted in extreme pain when that person “abandoned” me.
The list could go on, but all of those things that happened to me, felt like the worst thing in the world at that time, and something I would never be able to get through.
But I got through it.
These scenarios throughout my lifetime built my resiliency. They built me up so that anything negative that emerges throughout my lifetime, I know I can get through that too. It built my resiliency to a point where I don’t allow anything to destroy me, because I am able to remember all of the times I stood back up.
“Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems.” – Gever Tulley
It is important to remember, that every negative thing we go through in our lifetimes, build us more and more. It builds our resilience. It builds our character. It adds more capacity to our depth as individuals so that nothing we go through overflows that depth. And if something does begin to overflow that depth, the capacity grows larger. It grows larger and deeper so that we can handle even more in the future, becoming more resilient.
You know the coolest part of building capacity, depth, and resiliency? The ability to be empathetic towards others, encourage them, and show them they too can get through anything.
The pain sucks, the trauma sucks, the falling down part sucks. I’m not going to lie about that, it SUCKS! But on the other hand, it’s a gift that keeps on giving. It’s a gift that allows us to always grow and build ourselves, and help others.