How to Recover From a Setback
Last updated: September 2022
One step forward, two steps back
Last week, some bad news blindsided me. As soon as I hung up the phone, I wailed and the intense wave of emotions felt like a tsunami hitting land, pushing me to rock bottom. The sudden spike in blood pressure, exacerbated by feelings of anxiety, immediately triggered a migraine and a bout of chronic pain.
Using the word 'defeated' doesn't even come close to describing how I felt and what I still feel. I've spent the last 7 yrs trying to get my health to a better place. So, in this season of life, I'm eagerly anticipating a breakthrough. I'm ready to turn the page and start a new chapter.
Have you ever searched for a shred of hope or needed strength to keep going but didn't know where to start? That's where I am and it's a sad reality!
For some time now, I've been sensing that my thoughts are going down a slippery slope heading in the direction of fear, anxiety, and hopelessness. You know the famous quote from The Color Purple when Alice Walker says "All my life I had to fight". Those words resonate so deeply because my life continues to feel like an ongoing battle with very few wins.
As my thoughts and emotions start to unravel, my mental health takes center stage with old patterns of self-doubt resurfacing. I've started experiencing overwhelming feelings of sadness, irritability, and fatigue. Not from physical exertion but rather emotional strain. I have difficulty falling asleep, have lost interest in work, and have started to isolate myself from loved ones and social activities.
Paralyzed by disappointment and heartbreak, I know it won't be long before I sink deeper and deeper into a depressive state. Seeking resolve, I sent a message to my therapist requesting a session. Amid chaos and confusion, I know asking for help is an essential lifeline.
The self-help principle
Scheduling an appointment with a provider isn't immediate, so I dusted off my self-help aids while waiting for professional help. At first, I tried prayer, but I couldn't articulate my feelings without bursting into tears. I was extremely disappointed in God. My spirituality is a core source of strength for me, so when my hard work didn't produce a win, my hopes were dashed and I felt abandoned by God.
My next approach was to try to find distractions to keep my mind from inching toward the sunken place. I tried listening to music, binging a new TV series, and even picked up a book that I never got around to reading. But somehow the song lyrics or story arcs of characters conjured up feelings of comparison or regret.
Even though I wanted to sit in bed and wallow in misery, stewing in frustration gets me nowhere. Instead of rescheduling meetings and making up excuses, I showed up; some days a little less prepared than I'd like, but I still showed up and added value. In life, you have to over-deliver regardless of circumstances. The goal is to push through until you start to focus more on what's ahead than what's behind you.
From setback to comeback
Nothing good comes easy. Even though the setback knocked the wind right out of me, I had to focus on what I could control. I started breaking tasks into manageable pieces and created a checklist so I felt somewhat productive at the end of the day. As hard as it is to work through sadness, I remind myself that things will start to look up if I just keep trying.
In a text response from my mentor, she said "No matter the outcome, always remember that you've taken something away from the process. If an opportunity is for you, it's for you so keep your head up." At that moment, I remembered that I had good people around to encourage me with love, prayers, and support. I might not be able to find the right words to pray but I'm lifted in prayer by others.
Like most people, I struggle with self-doubt, unsure if I'm strong enough to get past hurdles and other life challenges. But my reality is that I can handle way more than I think. Living with sickle cell disease in a third-world country with limited medical infrastructure was no small feat, but I did it. Attending university in a foreign country while simultaneously managing a chronic illness at the age of 16 was extremely daunting, but I survived that, too.
A way forward
Life teaches you how to find the silver lining behind every dark cloud, so it's important to learn the lesson rather than play the victim. Every test in our lives can make us bitter or better, and every problem can make or break us. The choice is ours whether we become victims or victors.
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