I’m currently reading Karen Salmansohn’s The Bounce Back Book every morning to jump start my daily meditation. For those of you who may not be familiar with Karen, she was a Senior VP Creative Director at a New York ad agency when she decided to leave her six-figure salary to pursue a writing career. A few years ago, Karen was the victim of a sexual assault that caused her to spiral into a deep and isolating depression. As a means to get out of that dark place, Karen started working on her Bounce Back Book, a guide to help others “bounce back” from “adversity, setbacks, and losses.”
In today’s reading, Karen advises we find our "bounceable people". These are the people we turn to when we are most in need, or when we are in deep crisis mode. Karen also cites the work of Dr. Dina Carbonell, a research associate at Simmons College in Boston. Dr. Carbonell was part of a long-term study that tracked 400 people (aged 5 to 30) over a period of 25 years. One of the unusual things that was uncovered during this study was what seemingly appears to be a contradiction: “resilient people are often strongly self-sufficient and don’t hesitate to reach out for help.” In fact, these “resilient” people appear to be able to identify, and surround themselves with, trustworthy people who can help them to “bounce back” from adversity.
This got me thinking about what I look for in a bounceable supporter and who the bounceable people are in my life. Anyone familiar with my back story knows that I am no stranger to adversity, and that like most people I know, I’ve battled my fair share of demons. But it’s only been recently, while working with Kim, my fantastic therapist, that I’ve begun to acknowledge that I exhibit many traits associated with “resilient” people. Over the years, I’ve come to terms with serious mental health issues, addiction, and most recently, issues related to childhood sexual abuse. I don’t claim to have beaten any of these issues, but I have managed to scratch and claw my way through all of them.
I credit my resiliency to a few core beliefs and practices. First and foremost, I have always believed in labeling the problem for what it is, and speaking openly about it with other people. This is by no means an easy thing to do, but it’s been my experience that when I’m open about my struggles with addiction, depression, and sexual abuse, two things usually happen: I build a support group of people who will look out for me and feel free to question any of my suspect behavior. Also, it appears to open the door for others to speak freely about their own adversity, knowing that they’ve found a safe harbor in me. Second, after the initial denial stage, I’m usual quick to reach out for professional help, and for me, that has come in the form of my family doctor, psychiatrists, and therapists. In today’s Google society, it’s very tempting to self-diagnose and search for some quick band-aid solution on the Internet. It’s not easy reaching out for professional help, but I have found it easier than the alternative. Finally, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had a “bounceable person” in my life for the past 27 years: my wife.
Today I’ve been thinking a lot about why my wife is the primary bounceable person in my life, and I believe it has nothing to do with the amount of time we have spent together. Mary-Anne is such an awesome bounceable person because she is, for lack of a better expression, a support chameleon. At any point of my adult life when I’ve been facing adversity, I’ve always had someone in my corner who gave me exactly what I needed, and often it was not what I wanted, which allowed me to lean into the discomfort. Throughout our relationship, my wife has been my bounceable person by assuming the role of “the taskmaster”, when I needed to “do” the “do things”. She’s also been my greatest “cheerleader” at that critical point in my struggles when I really needed to be reminded of the “good in me”. At times, my wife has bravely played the part of “the questioner” when my actions, beliefs, or behaviors needed to be challenged and looked at objectively. Lately, Mary-Anne as taken on the role of “the listener”, simply being there “with me” as I come to terms with all of the collateral issues as a result of the sexual abuse I experienced in my childhood.
As Goethe so eloquently put it: “Human life runs a course in the metamorphosis between receiving and giving.” I invite you to take a moment and consider who the “bounceable people” are in your life, and whether or not, you are that “bounceable person” for someone else.