Resilience

How do you define resilience? Dictionary definitions state that resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; resilience has also been defined as toughness.

Another definition of resilence is the ability of a subject or object to spring back into shape, or elasticity. So, how do each of these definitions apply in the context of coping with chronic illness?

Chronic illness, of course, is not anything from which you can ever truly recover. It is ongoing, relentless, and open-ended. Nor can we spring back into shape when we have a chronic illness; our baseline shape is permanently altered from what it originally used to be.

So, what does it mean to be resilient in the face of chronic illness? I think that it refers to having the courage to re-invent yourself. It means being willing to set aside preconceived ideas of how you wanted your life to turn out, or of how you thought it should be.

It means being able to develop a quality of life that is truly meaningful, even it it flies in the face of what is commonly defined as success in our culture. It means that you truly value your everyday activities. You discard thinking of your activities as mere consolation prizes for the type of life that you really wanted to have.

Resilience means that you cherish your personal ability to participate in life to the extent that is possible. This excludes comparing your achievements to those of others, as well as to what may have been personally possible prior to chronic illness. Resilience means finding meaning in your suffering, so that it is never truly in vain, nor ever actually wasted.

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