Today I had a conversation with one of my former professors in college, and he stated to me, “You always impressed me as a very resilient person who has overcome much in your life”. As a person with a disability and medical challenges, resilience is one of several qualities that has helped me to embrace success in my life. Resiliency in one aspect means, “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity” (“Building Your Resilience”, 2012). I thought I would share a few personal experiences that exemplify resilience in my life.
At the age of 2, I was diagnosed with autism, and was not talking or verbalizing, and there were days as the years passed by I experienced distress and frustration in trying to communicate and blend into various social situations. Resiliency does involve going through some hardships. The reality is that, “the road to resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress” (“Building Your Resilience”, 2012). I had days where I would grieve and feel lost and not knowing how to blend in social situations. However, with the power of perseverance, and the support I received from home and school, I went on to establish connections with people my age, to succeed in school, college, and in employment. The keys to being resilient is being optimistic and positive as I do believe life happens for a reason. My autism I consider a strength and a talent as it has guided me to public speaking and taking on jobs that involve working with older adults and people with disabilities, and even now where I have my own blog/website trying to educate others about aging, disability, and health related topics.
During my freshman year of college, and last year, I had grand mal seizures which I had to surrender driving for 6 months in both of those episodes. However, my freshman year I worked a summer job and received assistance with transportation from family and friends, and last year I worked with the MA Rehabilitation Commission and worked on my blog/website to maintain productivity and I was determined to find employment after previous employment experiences were determined to be challenging to say the least. I have also spoken to communities about autism, and I was still determined to help others as I still kept going with my life to the best of my ability.
Thyroid disease, and having endured Graves’ disease for several years, and now hypothyroidism, there were times when I was uncertain if I was going to be able to work again, but I kept on fighting and was determined to make employment and educational opportunities work. Even days where I had some issues with symptoms associated with the thyroid disease, I had to do everything in my power to help and support those in need. Even in moments where I struggled with a job or I was laid off due to circumstances out of my control, I was still determined to do everything I can to enjoy my life, and that includes spending time with family and friends.
People have said over the course of time that I couldn’t do this or I couldn’t do that, and, while in some cases that may be true, for the most part, they were definitely wrong. I know these are not all the experiences I had in terms of being resilient, but, I would like people take the following takeaway points from my experiences, and they I believe are key to building resilience through life:
- Networking– I have found making connections with people, agencies, organizations, etc. has opened many doors which has helped me to be successful in the realms of employment and education. I volunteered with church, an autism center, district court, and participating in nationally recognized organizations in doing podcasts and writing articles.
- Wellness– I have been eating healthy and exercising and doing some deep breathing and meditation which allows for reflection about my goals and passions in my life (i.e. being a voice for others with autism and disabilities).
- Purpose- Having majored in human services, gerontology, and becoming a disability and health advocate has given me the desire and passion to serve others in need like older adults and people with disabilities, and being able to share my experiences, knowledge, and wisdom to guide those individuals to work towards achieving their personal and community goals.
- Not Giving Up- Life is not going to always go your way, and that is something I have had to accept throughout my life personally. Having been through some difficult experiences, as I get older, I am learning to embrace the simple things and learning to have gratitude for the things I have like family, friends, and the fact I am alive in general. Change is hard too, but I have found change the gateway to new opportunities that have helped me to establish my identity and to get an inner perspective of my strengths and weaknesses, and turning weaknesses into strengths with guidance and support. Again, being hopeful and optimistic is key too. I remember being laid off from a job and then I was determined to work again and started searching for jobs again, and now I have landed in a position that I am beginning to enjoy, especially as an autism peer specialist. As I said earlier, perseverance is powerful and it can help you towards achieving success in one capacity or another.
- Asking for help makes you a better and stronger person- We do not have the answers to all of life’s questions, and the simple truth of the matter is that asking questions does not make you weak. Sometimes you have to ask questions in order to seek the answers you are looking for. I remember with being new with thyroid disease, I had to ask the questions about lifestyle and treatment and what is going to help me to succeed despite the disease, or even with autism and asking for support and guidance in social situations, and that has allowed me to establish relationships with people, and sometimes the questions may seem difficult or embarrassing to ask, but I would rather ask than assume as I do believe that is the key to being successful and embracing the amazing in life.
Building your resilience. (2012). American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/topics/resilience