When children begin to learn to walk they constantly fall down and have to keep trying again and again, but with persistence, encouragement and support they learn how.
Recovery from depression involves persistence too, but it isn’t easy because the life of depression is about surviving in the moment and any success, eg managing to actually get out of bed and brush your teeth, is clouded by numbness and becomes almost immediately irrelevant due to trying to survive minute to minute.
But I wasn’t a child when I was trying to get through my episodes of depression. I was a teenager and a young adult and I had a skill (that we all possess) in my mental tool box that, unbeknownst to me I had been gradually strengthening throughout my life.
This skill is resilience and if you break the word down into its parts they mean:
“Re” – again and again
“Silience” – the kind of unnoticed excellence that carries on around us in everyday activities that is unremarked upon.
Perhaps we could say resilience it is the repetition of little everyday activities that in their own right, might not be flawless but are still beautiful achievements.
To me this is an accurate description of what I had to try and do every day to recover. Trying to celebrate even the smallest of achievements. Trying to repeat and grow them gently but consistently, so they could become solid foundations for me to build a more positive life on.
Resilience is about accepting a failing, learning from it and persevering to improve the situation.
It is knowing that ultimately you are the one that has the power to help yourself by showing a positive response to negative change.
As the child learns to walk, neural pathways that strengthen resilience are created. The same happens to the rest of us whenever we manage to nudge ourselves past the edge of our comfort zones. Overcoming the situation is the by-product of resilience.
Suffering and loss are a natural part of the human condition. Yours is the choice as to whether you wish to succumb or surmount these situations and resilience is a tool that can help you through.
However, we are not born resilient. It is a mental muscle and like any muscle you need to work it to make it stronger and more effective.
I would not wish my experience of depression on anyone but in the same breath I can also say, it has given me an amazing gift, the opportunity to develop this mental skill making me stronger and into the person I am today.
My wounds from self-harming healed long ago, but the scars tell a story of resilience and survival. I choose to see them now as gifts that remind me what I am capable of.