What a dangerous word.
“Wow he’s so resilient”
“The resilience in your children is incredible”
Thing is, the last 18 months my children weren’t always resilient.
To be resilient you need to have a secure base, safe friendships and social competencies. To have talents and interests and positive vibes and having an education.
My children had none of these.
Education didn’t happen in this house during the first lockdown, because I was hardly here. Surviving was our priority. Their secure base was no longer. Friendships were via a screen with people who couldn’t begin to understand how they felt. Brownies had stopped and anything vaguely fun didn’t happen. As for positive vibes…? I don’t have to explain that one.
So without this solid foundation, they stood no chance at being resilient.
They were scared.
They were stuck in flight with no way of getting back down.
Ellis got his head down and carried on with grit and determination. But resilient? Definitely not.
Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress. As much as resilience involves “bouncing back” from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth.
My kids did no ‘growing’ only ‘getting by’.
I feel angry at the word. I feel it has done more damage than good to my family.
Mental health is now talked about more and more people have an understanding of it and it’s effects. But I feel that word has been changed to mean something else entirely.
To some, it means fighting through tough times, without a thought. Getting your head down and not moaning.
What happens when you reach the end?
Mentally, you are back at the beginning, realising you didn’t stop to breathe. Stop to take it all in and process what was going on. But you are at the end, that was the goal, so that’s enough, right?
Now you are left with emotions that you don’t know what to do with, thoughts and memories that cut deeper the second time around.
But that’s OK. You reached the end, crawling over that finish line, an empty shell of the person who started.
Things need to change.
Resilience, when used right, is powerful.
It’s trusting yourself to make decisions when forced to do so. It’s finding another way to reach your goal when things get in your way. it’s processing what’s going on while simultaneously believing in yourself that you will be ok.
My children are now healing. They are processing. And it’s bloody hard.
From the outside, we look ‘normal’. They are happy. We all are.
But we’re forever broken.
Iris sleeps with the radio on now as she developed a nervous cough, followed by a phobia of sickness. This escalated this summer into an almost eating disorder where she was controlling what she ate, when she ate it.
She is 6.
It was horrendous.
Tonight, I heard her crying in bed so I went up. She is getting good at talking about her feelings now, with constant encouragement from everyone who loves her. She told me that on the radio was an advert which said if you have a cough it could be cancer.
She asked me if she had cancer.
Again, she is 6.
She was terrified she would have to face what she saw her brother face and she didn’t trust her coping ability so lost control.
In that moment, like when I had to explain to her that he had cancer, I had to put a front on.
I had to be what she needed.
I reassured her that cancer actually is very rare and normally, children don’t know other children with cancer. She was shocked.
“So how did Ellis get it if it’s rare”
What could I say to that? That he was unlucky? Would that reinforce her fear?
So I just simply said, he just did. Sometimes, it just happens.
“Would it happen to me?”
Probably not…. Was the only thing I could say. I have never lied to her, not once. I’m not going to start now.
We spoke for a while about how amazing the doctors and nurses were, how I instinctively knew something was wrong and how all the signs pointed to it.
With her phobia, lots of her thoughts are irrational, so I am trying to hardest to explain things over and over until she understand the logic behind it.
It’s been exhausting since December 2019 when he was diagnosed.
And I’m scared it always will be exhausting.
But we are coming resilient.
We are processing, figuring stuff out and reflecting on decisions that we all made has led us to where we are now.
We are OK.