Resilience in Adversity: Perspectives From the Counselor’s Couch

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In Italy and Portugal, people recently sang in solidarity from their balconies to show that social interaction was still alive in a time of social distancing. Spain continued this amazing outpour, as social media followers were invited to show their support for public healthcare workers by applauding and cheering from their balconies and windows every night at 10:00 pm. This loving demonstration of togetherness and hope has been duplicated in other countries as such as France, Lebanon, India, and Germany. During a time of social distancing, people have developed creative ways to socialize and cultivate hope from a distance.

Across the United States, for example, many people show solidarity by parking their vehicles, police cars, ambulances, and firetrucks outside of hospitals, as they turn their lights on and honk to show support for all the hospital workers sacrificing their own health and time away from their loved ones to continue practicing their calling. These random acts of service have inspired many to push the big, heavy rock from that dark and cold cave that has blocked us away from the ray of sun that illuminates us with hope.

Marriage and family therapist Linda Graham defines resilience as the capacity to bend the wind, go with the flow, and bounce back from adversity. In her book, Resilience: POWERFUL PRACTICES for BOUNCING BACK from DISAPPOINTMENT, DIFFICULTY, and EVEN DISASTER, Linda explains how the brain creates new patterns of response to life events, known as neuroplasticity. Think about any event in your life that brought fear, worries, and uncertainty. We are currently all living in an event that stirs up feelings of fear and uncertainty. What can you do?

A few times in my adult life, I experienced moments of uncertainty and fear related to my health. Shortly after high school graduation, my life turned from hopeful to fearful. During the summer of 1999, after a few months of being hospitalized, I was diagnosed with lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus). The fear of the unknown and uncertainty—anxiety—grew bigger in my thoughts. Each day, my anxiety worsened, as I feared the worst each time I visited my doctors. Anxiety turned into years of depression, as I missed out on many activities a young adult would normally experience such as attending college, going on dates, gathering with friends, and playing recreational sports. At age 22, I was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure. I was placed on dialysis and was in the process of getting on the transplant list.

After four years of living with lupus and then being on dialysis for end-stage renal failure, something changed for the better. The nurse manager at my dialysis clinic asked me if I was in school or working. “How is it possible for me to work and/or go to school if I’m on a dialysis machine three times a week for four hours?” I said to the nurse. In the most polite and compassionate way, she encouraged me not to let dialysis define how I write my future. Five months later, I was off dialysis altogether.

Undoubtedly, I was never given the opportunity to develop resilience in my early life. As a 22-year-old, the concept of resilience was new. Fortunately, our brain is capable of learning new patterns of coping, which changes the way you handle unexpected events. So I reenrolled in college and earned my bachelor’s degree in psychology. A few months later, I began my master’s degree in marriage and family therapy. Through my long, darkest hours in an isolated and sheltered world, I managed to break free and allow the light to shine bright with rays of illuminating hope.

Many in my field have specific reasons for becoming a counselor. I entered this field because I knew I wanted to be a source of light to those who were stuck in darkness. I wanted people with chronic medical conditions to know as they travel their own journey, they would not be alone. My resilience grew from knowing I could do something special with my medical condition like become a source of encouragement for others experiencing a similar situation. After years of living in fear and uncertainty of which road I would travel, I found my personal resilience. As I look back at my own journey, I can rejoice in the problems and trials I endured knowing I found a way to persevere and pay it forward.

The desire to practice compassion, gratitude, trust, and other positive, prosocial emotions redirects our attention away from stress and worry, as well as reverses the impact of anxiety, depression, learned helplessness, and loneliness. How do you feel after showing gratitude and compassion, especially during difficult times?

In the past month, I have seen my fellow colleagues throughout AdventHealth spreading the fruit of the Spirit like a beam of light blasting from the grey clouds. To all the healthcare workers working during this trying time, including the nurses, doctors, respiratory care specialists, imaging specialists, pharmacists, pharmacy techs, phlebotomists, dietitians, dietary services aides, transporters, chaplains, and volunteers that help during redeployment: I thank you for sharing your love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness. Your resilience is inspirational.

I also appreciate the many men and women working the cash registers and stocking and restocking our local grocery stores. Many thanks to the men and women still preparing our meals at our local restaurants, as well as drivers who come to our doorsteps to drop off our orders. Speaking of drivers, let’s not forget about the truck drivers who drive hundreds of miles to deliver many food products and essential items to our local grocery stores. You, too, are a shining example of perseverance.

In closing, I want to share two verses that remind me of how powerful resilience is: “We have all been given a gift from God’s great variety of spiritual gifts. Continue to use them well to serve one another.” (1 Peter 4:10)

“For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So, let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” (James 1:3-4)

We all have an opportunity to redirect our path and our thinking. Let’s do it together!

Guest columnist Kelly Londono
Guest columnist Kenny Londono, MS, LMFT is a Clinical Psychotherapist at the AdventHealth Wellness Center Celebration

Lifestyle Clinic.

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