What does “resilient” mean?
The actual definition of the word is:
- (of a person or animal) able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. “babies are generally far more resilient than new parents realize”synonyms:strong, tough, hardy
For myself, the word has become a Label. I carry the word with me, every time I share my story:
I come from a childhood and teen years of struggles with abuse, attempted suicide, eating disorders and a huge “gift basket” full of souvenirs. But IT’S OKAY. Why? Because I am resilient.
Or, am I?
I won’t lie. I don’t talk to many people in my world about my past, because I prefer it stays where it is. Once you talk about it, you breathe life into again and allow it to get into your brain and your heart. You have no control over how it haunts you. So, I leave it behind me. This is also Okay.
Through my 40 plus years of life, I have been dealt shitty situations which were never in my control, and I refuse to play the victim. Where it is applicable, however, I will choose to share tidbits of my experiences in order to help others understand the emotions and torment that come from dealing with abuse. My daughter, who is now 25, knows the basis of my story. I only shared it with her so that she could help a friend who was in a very similar situation to mine. It was warranted to share with my kiddo at that time in her life because I felt she would be able to understand my family life and why her grandparents on my side are not really part of her life. It also gave her further understanding of the lessons I taught her through her childhood. I pushed her to be strong, brutally honest, and transparent.
I have been working in Children Services over the past 5–6 years. My role is a protector and mentor for child care workers and the children they work with. I also conduct investigations in child care programs to ensure safety, compliancy and overall developmental needs of children. It is the path I chose, to leave a small footprint behind me, in hopes of ensuring less children are abused. I pride myself on it, even though at times I feel like somewhat of a hypocrite.
When I completed my secondary education, it was with the goal of helping children and ensuring that their needs were being met, in any capacity. My mission was to make sure that children who I am connected to, will never suffer the way I did. My main drive was to try, little by little, bit by bit, to make a safer, more caring world for children. But, when you look back on the way I grew up, you could ask me, “What the hell do you know about keeping children safe?” Hence the hypocrisy feeling. My experiences don’t exactly detail a deep knowledge of what happiness and growth in childhood looks like. That’s why I went to school. My daughter and I are the only two people in multiple generations in my family to attend post secondary fields and graduate with degrees.
Over this past week, our work team attended a full day training course on Trauma and Childhood. With this training came a quick questionnaire about our childhood and the level of trauma we have dealt with.It was meant to obtain our feedback of the relevancy of the course for childcare staff. Essentially we took the training as beta testers.
I was seated at a table with 6 colleagues, and for the most part we were all pretty open with our results. The 10 questions were very specific, such as ; Has an adult ever physically harmed you? Has anyone in your family ever been arrested? Have you ever seen a parent sustain an injury by another adult? And more queries of the like.
As I looked around my table of colleagues, their scores were typically 4 and under. The one lady who scored 4 was mortified and in tears. She sat quietly while the table buzzed in quiet conversation. I could barely lift my head to look into any of their eyes. I scored a 9/10. The ONLY answer I didn’t get a point for was “are your parents divorced?” (They are still married after 50 plus years)
As I sat and listened to the murmurings around me, it was all I could do to stay in my seat and not walk out of the class. I felt my body fight back emotions as I shook and struggled to keep the building tears behind my eyes. This was not the training I was looking forward to. The facilitator, who is also our acting manager, looked around at the emotional status of the room and intuitively called for a break . I pulled myself together and quietly pulled her aside, while the other ladies shuffled out for a coffee. I know the instructor quite well, and as I swallowed hard, I approached her and stood patiently to wait, as she spoke to another colleague briefly. At this point, I was wishing the floor would open up and swallow me whole.
“I almost walked out of the room”, I blurted out as tear sprang from my eyes. The teacher looked at me with a stunned look on her face. She leaned over her table, and asked me what I said.
“I said I almost walked out of the room. This is a tough, emotional course. I scored a 9”. She stood quietly, looking over my face and she reached her hand out to touch my shoulder. I knew by admitting that I scored such a high number, I was revealing a lot of skeletons from my childhood closet. It made me the most vulnerable I have been at my place of work, and as I stood there, I asked myself why I didn’t just lie about the questions, so I could better “fit in” with my fellow team mates.
Her response was the exact same words I have heard my entire life. “Yes, Christina. But look how resilient you are”. There is that word again. It’s the same word that therapists have used, the same word that my in laws used when they heard my story, and the same word my own daughter used when I shared my experiences with her. It’s a powerful word, and in some ways, I think it’s a misnomer when it is used to describe me.
There is the saying from Spider man: “With great power comes great responsibility”. In my world, “With great resiliency, there comes great expectations”
People look at you differently when you are labeled as “resilient”. They look at you with expectations to tell your story to help others. They look at you with the expectation of “you have gone through so much, why can’t you manage more?” They look up to you with the expectation that you must have more compassion and understanding than most people. They expect that you are tough, strong and can take on anything they hand you, because you are RESILIENT.
They are wrong.
I managed, over many years, to move past my shit. The definition says “ recover quickly”. That is so not the case for me. It took me years of working through my struggles and even today, there are still certain “triggers” that make me feel worthless as a human. There are still scents or sounds that make me revert to my terrified childhood with clear photographic images of being abused, in multiple ways. There are still situations where I could easily resort to my old eating disorders because I feel heavy or bloated. It is a continual battle of my own internal wills. So, resiliency is a label that I am unsure I am worthy of.
I know I do my job well. I know that I carry a deep empathy and compassion for others, especially children. I know I am tough as hell when I need to be, but I am also weaker than most. I know that I can take on hard challenges and put triggers behind me, but it is not resiliency that makes me do this, it is the need to be a good, positive role model. It is determination and drive, and passion. It’s striving to break a vicious, destructive cycle that only people who have suffered abuse understand. It is a fight to be a good, decent, caring human being.
If I had one wish, it would be to teach children how to use their voices to tell ONE INTENTIONAL person if they are being abused. It would be to teach children what is right and what is wrong and what is abuse. I wish I could reach out to families who struggle with cycles of abuse, addiction and emotional trauma, and help them to move past it, so their children would be raised in a safe, loving home. It is the wish that every single child who suffers from neglect, abuse, or emotional trauma would find that ONE person who will make their world better.
If I had one super power and could teach anything, to others and to myself, I would have the power of RESILIENCY.