What Resilience Looks Like - Part 1

One Step Closer

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

I heard resilience described the other day as a coat hanger. Or rather, we are the coat hanger who gets bent out of shape; the coat hanger’s structural ability to be bent back into shape is what we call resilience.
The analogy is Dr. Bruce Perry’s, a child psychiatrist and neuroscientist who has spent his career studying the effect our experiences have on our brains. It’s an apt analogy. You can unwind a coat hanger to roast some marshmallows and then you can bend it all back up so that a shirt can hang upon it once again. At the same time, you can also tell it’s seen a few marshmallows. There are some bumps and warped places that are just not going to smooth out. Same for us.
Oddly, this truth feels like a relief to me. It explains a few things and re-sets expectations in a way that has enabled my ability to adapt. Specifically, it explains how I could have decided it was okay to have what feels like a flabby palate, something I’d acquired by way of pandemic anxiety induced reflux. (There she goes again with the reflux.) The upshot of this reflux has meant, upon many other distressing changes in my life, that I have spent the majority of this past year not eating most of my favorite foods. However, the very good news is that my dietary compliance appears to have paid off and just in the past month I’ve been able to add most of those foods back in. It’s just that my throat feels kind of fleshy and saggy – not the full-on swollen ball-in-my-throat sensation I have been dealing with all year but a little collapsed. A little post-pregnancy chubby. But you know what? I can eat pizza, peanut butter and chocolate! I may not be a factory-fresh coat hanger but who cares. I can get away with a glass of wine now. I will take a flabby palate. I’m good with that.
Always on the lookout for wellness material that might open something up for others, this coat hanger understanding of ourselves seemed like useful information to pass along as we take steps forward. At the same time, I worried that not being able to achieve a full factory re-set could strike others as depressing. I consulted with my sister, one of those high functioning/high performing/highly pragmatic sorts who can be counted on for a highly useful take on the world. She had a few things to say after hearing about the coat hanger.
First this:
“Well, it made you feel better.”
And then this:
“Maybe this is why I’m not just bouncing back. Why I feel so bent out of shape. I keep asking myself, What is wrong with me?” (She’s not used to feeling off her game.)
And then her insight:
“Maybe I just need to take care of myself.”
And finally, this:
“I like the coat hanger. It makes sense. And it actually makes me feel better, too.”
That settled it; I would bring the coat hanger to One Step Closer in hopes that it would offer something settling to you, as well. Maybe help you make more sense to yourself whether you identify more with me and my very clear cut response to the pandemic upheaval or whether you identify more with my sister and her hazy, not-quite-herself presentation. More to come next week in the second part of this column on resilience because Dr. Perry has something very specific to say in response to my sister’s question, “What is wrong with me?”
Speaking of making sense to ourselves, I can’t help but notice how One Step Closer is happening primarily in May, National Mental Health Awareness Month. How apt. No matter whether you have a mental health diagnosis or not, you do have fluctuating mental health, which needs to be cared for. Just like my big sis said. So do take care of yourself. Northern Light is rich in resources which are listed below.
It is now my delight to introduce this week’s three wonderful employees who get real about their own challenges of the past year! Meet Morgan Mazzei, nurse and staff developer for Acadia Hospital, Dr. Navneet Marwaha, Vice President and Chief Quality Officer for the Home Office, and Chris Ouellette, Talent Acquisition Specialist for the Home Office. Thank you so much for making our world bigger through your eyes and to all of you who have continued to let us in on your life and hold yourself accountable via this week’s Accountability Track.
The Accountability Track
Be sure to update the Accountability Tracker each week!. The Accountability Track link is the same from week to week so at the end of one week just go in and update it based on your most recent experience. Same questions, each time. As always, use your real name or an invented name if you prefer since The Accountability Track is a shared public document.
Northern Light resources for happy, healthy minds
Don’t forget, EAP is there for you 24/7.  Just give them a call at 1 – 800 – 769 – 9819.

Healthy Life Resources
Do you need support with your mental health and well-being? Healthy Life Resources is helping Northern Light Health team members like you with issues like anxiety, trauma, and stress. Ask the experts or use our mental health screening tool and myStrength self-guided app to get started. Go to intranet.emhs.org/Acadia/Portals/Healthy-Life-Resources.aspx.