Re-Framing Adversity by Answering One Question
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Re-Framing Adversity by Answering One Question

Does it seem like bad, yucky, awful, unfair things are always happening to you and your family? Is there ever an upside to these bad things? Do you have any control over them?

How did you answer those questions? If you feel like difficult circumstances are always happening to you, and nothing good ever comes out of those difficulties and you have no control over them, you might benefit from reframing your adversity to uncover something more positive.

I am not a delusional optimist. I think that it is absolutely true that our kids with special needs often have awful and unfair things happen to them – things that impact the quality of their life and the rest of the family as well. But, as soon as we start feeling like nothing good ever happens to us or like we have no control over our situation, we’re giving away our own power.

What would happen if you re-framed the situation to find the answer to this question: What does this challenge make possible?

The more difficult your situation, the harder it is to find anything positive about it. But, that’s when it’s most important to dig deeper to find an upside.

In 2015 and 2016, my daughter was hospitalized 4-5 times for extreme constipation. These bouts of constipation were awful – as her GI system slowed down more and more, she would become more and more bloated and uncomfortable. The bloating was so extreme that it would compromise her breathing because her lungs didn’t have room to expand. It was hard to see her quality of life being impacted, and we were scared that eventually she would no longer be able to fight through these situations.

In October 2016, the situation culminated with back-to-back hospital stays. First, she spent eight days in the hospital, and we went home thinking the problem had been resolved. Just three days later, she was right back in the hospital, just as backed up as she had been before. In total, she spent 23 nights in the hospital. During that long month of October, while we spent day after day and night after night in the hospital, it did not seem like anything good could come of it.

However, during the second part of her hospital stay, the exact circumstances that made the situation so awful also laid the foundation for a life-changing turn of events. An amazing, empathetic hospitalist took time to sit with us and ask lots of questions. She got a clear picture of just how serious this situation was, and she went looking for answers that could lead to a long-term solution rather than another short-term fix. She talked with the GI team, insisting that something different needed to be done because what they were doing so far wasn’t working, as evidenced by the back-to-back hospitalizations. It was decided that a surgical procedure called a cecostomy might provide long-term results. Julia had the surgery, and it has dramatically improved her quality of life. We now have the ability to prevent the constipation, and she hasn’t been hospitalized in over two years.

We are in a much better place.

Constipation that causes to back-to-back hospital stays and 23 nights in the hospital in one month definitely falls into the category of bad things, both for Julia and for our entire family. But, when we answered the question of what did the challenge of that marathon hospital stay make possible, we realized that it was creating a sense of urgency that made a permanent fix a priority. Without that long hospital stay which led to the cecostomy, it’s very likely that we would likely still be struggling with chronic constipation and a few shorter hospital stays each year.

We all have our own different kind of special. Think about the adversities in your life – what do those challenges make possible for you? While your situation might be unfair and more difficult than others around you, try to empower yourself by finding the positive and the possibilities in your own circumstances.

2 Comments
  • Heidi b
    Posted at 05:54h, 01 January Reply

    My first read of the new year. The perfect foundation for which to build upon for the next 365 days. There are positive outcomes everywhere, we just need to open our eyes to them. Here’s to a happy, medically-boring and inspired new year.

    • Michele
      Posted at 09:35h, 01 January Reply

      Happy New Year, my friend! Looking forward to seeing the positive outcomes in both of our lives this year!!

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