It does feel like the media and speechwriters are trying to make us feel good, but being repeatedly told that we are strong, and stoic can make us hesitant to acknowledge that we may not feel that way, and that it is not ok to have the feelings that we are experiencing and that worse, it is something to be ashamed of.
What if we are not resilient? What if we are feeling overwhelmed by anxiety? Fragmented and scared we will fall apart more- or that the mental exhaustion of all the experiences we have faced (and continue to face) grinds us down?
If you talk with a cross section of the community you will be aware of undercurrents that many people are not coping that well. They are not feeling resilient- they are feeling stressed, uncertain, surrounded by loss and grief, and anxious about their futures.
At Talking Therapy we have been providing free counselling for difficulties experienced with the earthquakes since September 2010 when we provided free sessions, and then later after Feb 22nd 2011 when we were able to access funding via Ministry of Social Development and Relationship Services. This funding is now extended until the end of 2011.
With the passing of time, and the impact of involvement in the Royal Commission of Inquiry and details from the Coroners Court, as well as ongoing land and house decisions, we are seeing more trends emerge with large numbers of people arriving exhausted, burnt out, depressed, frustrated, disillusioned, irritable and angry. We continue to see people presenting for the first time, no longer able to ignore or contain their anxiety and distress from experiencing the earthquakes themselves. Many of these have held themselves together as they have dealt with EQC issues, or relocated their business, or until their children have settled back into school routines- and then when there is more space for that person to process the events of the past year, and particularly the last six months, they have started to feel the emotions that have been “shut off’ while in almost survival mode.
What do people need in this space? They need to feel that there is support around them, that they are understood and that often these feelings are a normal response to the experiences they have had. They need time and space to be allowed to have these feelings and then experience how to cope with them. To be told that we are resilient can mean that it is more difficult to reach out and seek support, as it sets up an expectation that everyone is coping well and how come I feel different? Am I not ok?
And for many people they have always coped quite well with life and it is a difficult experience to acknowledge that they are not, let alone feel isolated and set apart in that. Understanding that what we have lived through in the last year has been repeatedly traumatic and inevitably has an impact is often not fully acknowledged.
So be aware that we are not all resilient; that our friends, family members, work colleagues and others may not be feeling strong and stoic. Try and be aware of listening to them and understanding how they are feeling, and be supportive. Let them know it is ok not to be strong, and that it is ok to seek help.
If you are worried that being resilient is an issue for you or someone close to you and would like to start to make changes you can contact Talking Therapy.