At 48 I have weathered many CF storms, chasing the calm that follows a serious infection. These storms have always entailed a hospital admission and the inevitable cycle of PICC,s port,s, Iv’s, physio and rehab most often with a procedure or two (ouch) and on a few occasions some pretty major surgery! It has also provided an opportunity to connect with others and hear their stories of triumph over adversity. Why is it that some people seem to weather these storms better than others and continue to fight, and battle on no matter what?
Resilience is often a term linked with this skill, so, what is it, how do we acquire it and why does it come much easier to some people?
My reading tells me resilience is defined by “the experience of being disrupted by change, opportunities, adversity, stressors or challenges and, after some disorder, accessing personal gifts and strengths to grow stronger through the disruption.” In short, it’s the ability to bounce back after challenges, illness and disappointment. To my way of thinking, this is something that needs to be cultivated in those facing the many “CF storms”, supporting good mental and physical well-being, particularly during our most challenging times. Resilience and learning to become more optimistic can make a big difference in how we see the world, each other and ourselves, inspiring us to make better choices about our health and our lives.
Next question, how do we acquire resilience? It appears that some people are naturally more resilient, finding the silver lining to most things. I know because I am one of those annoying people and it has served me well during my most difficult times. But don’t despair; from what I understand resilience is also a learned skill and can be fostered and developed over time often due to the very challenges we face as carers, partners or people with CF.
Having CF is like being on a roller-coaster with many ups and downs, dragging you from feelings of hope and exhilaration to doubt and despair, sometimes all in the one day. CF can take unexpected turns and give rise to many complications along the way. This can be frightening and incredibly frustrating. But through the lived CF experience some of life’s greatest challenges can become the very thing from which courage and resilience emerge. Meeting these challenges provides the opportunity to live more courageously learning to meet our fears and move beyond them.
A combination of factors contributes to resilience. Studies show that the primary factor in resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family. Relationships that create love and trust, provide role models and offer encouragement and reassurance helping to bolster a person’s resilience. On a number of occasions’ I have met with the Clinical Psychologist at my treating centre. This experience has been really rewarding allowing me to explore my own feeling about my health and develop better skills in dealing with the sometimes-unexpected nature of CF.
Fostering relationships among a community of others dealing with similar challenges can also make us more resilient. But! I hear you say the dreaded cross-infection issue! It is a problem that won’t go away. As an adult with CF I manage this in a number of ways, using a range of communication tools. i.e. Phone, email, Facebook groups and when I am face to face I follow the CF guidelines for cross-infection, you can speak to your treating team or see the CFV website for more information on this. Spending time at CFV and becoming involved in community events has also allowed me to connect with some really inspiring people within the CF community.
CF can be incredibly frustrating, taking away time from friends and family, forcing us to slow down and commit to a busy medical schedule. It can be a drain on finances, relationships and careers not to mention the emotional costs. During difficult times, I try to remember that CF has NO control over my mind, my heart or my soul. The person I am, how I think and who I want to become, that is all up to me! Perhaps you don’t think of yourself as particularly resilient or courageous, maybe it’s time to take a closer look?
 Mental health promotion through resilience and resiliency education. Richardson GE, Waite P