Michaela Haas, author of Bouncing Forward: The Art and Science of Cultivating Resilience, tells her story of traveling and living in Asia in her early twenties, becoming very ill at 26, and being bedridden for eight months. She describes her mind and body falling apart and says it took her years before she could become a functioning member of society again.
She eventually found a good doctor who put her on medication and had her change her diet. She left her husband, moved back to Europe, and surrounded herself with more understanding people. She also sought professional help for the first time in her life.
She had to learn to trust herself, her body, and her relationships again. She found help in a community of people similar to her — those who have experienced chronic fatigue and long Covid.
Her advice is to not give up. No matter how dark things are, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel (a trope, but true). Reach out for support, and keep reaching out until you get the help you need. Mindfulness meditation and the habit of gratitude are practices she committed to that helped her bounce forward. They might help you too.
Tanya Frank, author of Zig-Zag Boy: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood, describes the day in 2009 when her son Zach, a Merit Scholar at UCLA, came home and began acting uncharacteristically suspicious, fearful and distressed. After not sleeping or eating, she took him to the emergency room the next day and learned that he had experienced a psychotic break.
Thirteen years later she is still working through it. When she was in the States, she trained to be a docent at an elephant seal colony in California, where she was living. The organization was remote, off the grid, and it forced her to try to forge a new identity.
She returned to England, where she, Zach, and his older brother were born and where she had family and friends from childhood, in hopes of finding kinder, more compassionate care.
She learned that there are things she cannot control. Letting go continues to be a challenge. After trying unsuccessfully to find the right drug, the right program, the right doctor who would help her son, she now holds onto hope that one day he will live a more independent life. And she realizes that her life has to go on, as she is his rock.
If you are going through something similar, she suggests you find your kin, your support system. Take care of yourself and try to be with your person without doing, finding the answers, fixing — just listening and trying not to be scared.
Yvonne Shortt has had Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) all her life, but was not diagnosed until she was in her 30s. The condition is hereditary. Since no one in her family had it, she simply adapted to her vision differences, including night blindness as a child. She had no idea that anything was really wrong until she started to experience blind spots and symptoms of vision loss in her 30s, and was diagnosed with RP. She got through it by processing it over time, sharing it with colleagues, with the support of her family, and by mutual care-giving. She learned how adaptable and resilient she is as a visually impaired person, and recommends that newly diagnosed people reach out to RP support groups on Facebook, which were very helpful to her. She acknowledges how scary it is to lose your vision and encourages anyone with RP to know that they are not alone, and they will get through it.
Donald Antrim, author of One Friday in April: A Story of Suicide and Survival, describes growing through suicidal illness by going to the hospital and staying. When nothing else worked, and after a call from the author David Foster Wallace, he consented to being treated with ECT (Electroconvulsive therapy), which he says was a miracle cure. He learned to have a high regard for doctors and hospitals, that we don’t do anything alone, and the value of patience — it took a long time to get better. His advice is to try not to be afraid of the hospital, to seek treatment if you need it, and rely on your friends and family.