I have been thinking a lot about resilience lately. If you know me or have interacted with my family, then you can imagine why resilience has been on my mind as of late. In this small town, if you do not know me or my family, then perhaps you do not know the adversity I face. I like the saying “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Being resilient does not come naturally to everyone. Most of us have to learn it. It is adjusting to change, or stress, or loss, or trauma. It is the ability to withstand and recover from crisis. The Community Resilience Initiative defines resilience as coming to terms with a traumatic experience.

Being resilient does not mean that you don’t hurt. You are still experiencing pain. It does not mean that you handle a trauma all on your own. Friends, family, and community all have an impact on how an individual responds to adversity. There are different degrees of resilience as people learn to adapt. It is a crucial life skill.

I have witnessed people in our community show tremendous resilience. I have seen mothers survive the death of their child. I’ve seen families cope with life-threatening medical issues. I know resilient people who have lived through abuse. It is awe-inspiring to hear a person’s tale of resilience, because most of us wonder how that person did it. How did they survive?

One of my all-time favorite trainings during my time at public health was about building resilience (Protective Factor Framework with more info at www.cssp.org for strengthening families). At the training, one of the presentation slides was on the building blocks of resilience. It looks like a pyramid with blocks on the bottom for communication skills, coping strategies, hope, and a belief system.

So, what challenges have I faced? Divorce and multiple hospitalizations for my child are a just a few traumas I’ve experienced. Using communication skills I was able to tell my close friends and family about what was going on in my life. I cope with things like using humor and time gardening. I have taken to drinking kombucha. I believe that things will change and that we can live our best lives if we keep working. And I never stop hoping.

But there’s more to that pyramid. I recognize challenges — school is hard, people don’t know what to do for us. I acknowledge feelings — I’m scared I am not doing this right or doing enough. I problem solve. And then I get my stuff together, make a choice, and do something. Or, gather resources, make positive choices, and take action.

I know that I am resilient. I wish I didn’t have to be, but I certainly have never been alone. I’ve had friends show up in an emergency room or drive us home from a hospital. I’ve had family show up on my doorstep when I’ve called for help. I’ve been to counseling. My work place helped me with the family and medical leave act. Coworkers give me gestures of hope and caring. I have had absolute strangers show me kindness.

Learning to be resilient means we bounce back. We can learn to be more resilient. We know that strategies like learning to calm down, having a sense of belonging, and establishing a relationship with a caring adult, are all ways to be able to bounce back from traumatic events.

You can be more resilient right now. Take action. Check out resiliencetrumpsaces.org to learn about more strategies (42 strategies). And, you can help others and our community to be more resilient. Volunteer to be a mentor at Youth Services. Work with your place of employment to understand how trauma impacts clients, customers, and patients. There are others doing this work in our community, too. The Resilience and ACES Task Force is a group of service providers and community members who meet each month to work toward building a more resilient Kittitas County. Come to a meeting and find out how you can get involved; contact KCPHD at 509.962.7515 for more information.

Looking for resources to learn more about trauma and resilience? Take a look at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s webpage at www.cdc.gov/ace/index.htm. Check out the book Trauma Stewardship by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, or watch her Ted Talk. And keep an eye out for the upcoming Building Resilience Film Series from the Resilience and ACEs Task Force, where you can view trauma and resilience related films for free this spring.

Kasey Knutson is the Special Programs Coordinator at the Kittitas County Public Health Deptarment.


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