The rival to resilience is depression. Each take energy as one is transforming into this belief of themselves, whether it be succumbing to believing you are destined to a life of misfortune or the opposite, believing you are here for a reason and will persevere through anything. Why do certain people become resilient, living a life of fortitude and others get eaten alive by darkness? What kind of event, if any, needs to set a person down either of these paths? Are we inherently prone to either of these paths?
I don't know.
I know that I was unprepared the first time I really needed to have resilience. It was an experience that made me question everything I knew about life, God, and our purpose here as humans.
In my 20's during college, I worked at a small, family-owned business. My co-workers and I were extremely close, spending hours solving the world's problems at work and outside of work at the local dive. It was that feel good, nostalgic, wholesome kind of comradery that 90's movies were made of.
I was in long sleeves and jeans. I vaguely recall snow; it must've been winter. I worked in the front office with a couple of other women and the owners, a father and son duo from Lebanon. Down the hall and through the door was the warehouse, where around 20 men worked. They ranged in age and background, each with their own stories.
It was the end of the day at work and the girls and I up front were gossiping about something, I'm sure.
As I replay this in my mind, I remember the warehouse manager suddenly appearing at my desk, in shock. I didn't realize he was in shock at the time, but it is so very clear looking back on it now. He could barely get the words out to call 911. I just stared at him and asked what and why; each word circling each other before it finally became apparent, I really did need to call.
"Freddy has collapsed in my office & won't wake up. I put paper towels under his head."
After some time that's all I've retained from that exchange, along with I don't know if he's breathing.
I picked up the phone and pressed 9-1-1 for the first time ever in my life. I was terrified.
The operator calmly asked me questions to which I mostly replied I don't know. Then came a question I did know the answer to; does anyone there know CPR?
I was certified in it and for what felt like an eternity, my conscious had a little debate regarding letting this sweet 911 operator know that I was the only person who knew CPR in that entire building or pleading the fifth. I genuinely considered keeping it to myself but as a child I've always assumed people could read my thoughts (projection) and I convinced myself this operator knew that I knew my CPR. My conscience and fear of this random operator reading my mind prompted me to drop?/hand off? the phone and run to the warehouse.
There lay one of my co-workers - an older man that smoked at least 2 packs a day, always had a story to tell, and a smile on his face. He had a wife he always talked about, children, and grandchildren. There were at least 10 male warehouse workers standing around him in a semicircle, not doing anything; helpless and scared, I'm sure.
However, running into that situation I didn't see those guys as scared and helpless; I saw them as weak, and I hate myself for that. I screamed at them, why in the hell are you all just standing here; do something! But they didn't move. I knelt next to this man, a man I'd worked with for 3 years and I became a robot, methodically doing each step as I'd learned it. I didn't think, I just did.
Counting compressions in my head and silently cussing the ambulance that was taking forever, I felt his rib break on number 4 of my counts. The feeling of that moment physically and mentally stays with me to this day.
Although he wasn't breathing when I started CPR, I think, in that moment and sometimes to this day I thought I had killed him by breaking his rib with those compressions. That rib punctured his heart, I just knew it. Still, I carried on, counting silently in my head, watching the clock because what else could I do but keep trying?
After 15 minutes of this the saviors of life arrived and off he went on a stretcher. I stood up, turned around to go back to the front, and glanced back over my shoulder long enough to see that same group of men still standing there, silent, as if no time had passed between me screaming at them as they stood in this crescent moon shaped semi-circle and when I broke that damn rib.
I went back to my desk, put my head in my hands and prayed. My co-workers stared at me, not knowing what to say and with my face covered, I sobbed, feeling like the freak that killed Freddy.
I heard someone ask out loud why the ambulance hadn't left yet. I glanced at the clock again, 10 minutes had passed since they'd taken him. If he was alive, they'd be gone by now.
I realized then that I didn't save him and my God, was I gutted. As tears rolled down my flushed cheeks, the obligatory you did everything you could was heard every once in a while from my co-workers.
All I heard was you failed coming from my mind.
I drove home shortly after, alone and numb, not realizing at that time how that single event would change my life forever.
His family wrote me the kindest thank you card that I still have to this day. They thanked me for being the only person to try. They asked me not to blame myself, that God was calling him home. They told me they were thankful for me and proud of me.
That card and a lot of therapy got me through that experience and I am convinced now more than ever that this was the initial trauma God knew I needed to prepare myself for the 2nd trauma (betrayal) & the 3rd (my mother's cancer).
Was I resilient before this? Probably. If I weren't, I wouldn't have done CPR in the first place. This leads me to believe that we are all resilient. Some are put through uncontrollable situations that make that resilience stronger, some sooner than others. I know for a fact you all have been or will go through at least one experience in life that tests your fortitude.
The secret is finding that strength within you.