Resilience isn’t something I typically associate with having a mental illness. Resilience is the ability to “bounce back” from stressors. It’s how well you handle difficult situations with your thoughts and behaviors, according to the American Psychological Association.
While some people may have a natural high resilience, many of us have to work at it. There’s no shame in that.
I certainly didn’t feel resilient when my mental health took a deep dive into depression. A year and a half was spent just surviving. I felt weak and hopeless. I certainly wasn’t “bouncing back” from anything.
It’s taken three years for me to call myself resilient. The funny thing is, I was resilient in my deepest depression.
If you’re struggling with your mental health or are feeling vulnerable against what’s happening in your life, here are 5 signs you’re still resilient.
1. You’re surviving.
When your mental and emotional pain is unbearable but you choose to keep living, you’re resilient as hell. It’s easy to feel like you’re weak when you seem like you’re only hanging on by a thread. But the opposite is true. You are strong. Living despite your mind telling you to die is arguably the strongest thing someone can do.
This isn’t to say those who attempt suicide or die by suicide are weak. I attempted suicide in 2016, and I occasionally still deal with suicidal thoughts. My past experience has made me more resilient in the face of those thoughts.
Surviving can be exhausting, and sometimes we reach our breaking point. If we can hold on for just a little longer, we may surprise ourselves with what we can handle.
Breathing is resilience.
2. You’re looking for ways to feel better.
Searching for ways to handle your depression or other mental health issue shows an effort to move forward.
This could mean medication, therapy, meditation, exercise — anything you’re using to manage your mental health or illness. They don’t have to be traditional ways of coping or recovering. It’s about the motivation to keep going.
Bonus resilient points for looking for ways when you’d really rather curl up in a ball.
3. You’re reaching out for support.
This may include therapy but could also include confiding in a friend or family member.
You don’t have to handle depression on your own, even when you feel isolated. If you have someone in your life who is supportive, try to let them in. If you don’t have anyone you feel close enough to, you could look into a support group.
Resilience may be individualized, but that doesn’t mean it’s cultivated without others.
4. You’re accepting where you’re at in life.
If there’s one thing I have fought, it’s accepting how I’m feeling instead of desperately and impulsively trying to change it.
This is different from looking for ways to feel better. When I refuse to accept my current situation or mood, I’m prone to turning to unhealthy and impulsive coping skills. Thankfully, I’ve learned how to accept changes in my mood and use healthier coping skills instead of running away from myself.
Change is going to happen, and if we can accept that and work through it instead of against it, we’re practicing resilience.
5. You’re handling hardships better than you have in the past.
This is the primary reason I believe I’m resilient now. I don’t turn to unhealthy coping skills as much as I used to. I utilize therapy, meds, support group, and the people in my life to work through the rough patches. This isn’t a fool-proof system, of course. But I’ve come a long way in the last three years.
I’ve realized that my lows aren’t more shallow than they’ve been in the past. I’m the one who has changed. While there are moments I want to abandon all I’ve worked for because it’s so damn hard sometimes, I don’t.
Think about what you’ve experienced or felt in the past. You made it passed that, albeit probably with some scrapes and bruises. With time and practice, you might realize you’re doing better than you think. One thing that seemed insurmountable before, isn’t anymore.
I used to believe I wasn’t resilient because I still experienced depression. I thought a mood episode meant I lost what little strength I had. I was wrong. My mental illness doesn’t negate my resiliency. If anything bipolar disorder has made me more resilient.
While I may not have had much resilience innately, I’ve cultivated it. And I’m damn proud of that.