The triumph can’t be had without the struggle. –Wilma Rudolph
In 2015, I hit rock bottom. Emotionally, financially, professionally, spiritually, physically–I was in a sunken place. While preparing to bring new life into the world, at eight months pregnant, my husband and I both lost our jobs. This one domino sent us barraling face forward into a continuous cascade of misfortunate events. This was supposed to be the happiest time of my life; but as a new mom, I felt buried under a ton of bricks. Everything happened so quickly–and there was no time to process what was occurring. During this time, we also lost our health insurance–which means, although I had scarring from an emergency C-section and postpartum depression, access to adequate care was unavailable. Instead of recovering from a trying labor and delivery, I didn’t rest. There was no time to rest. With a freelance background, I was up securing contractual work so that our heads could remain above water. Postpartum recovery was a two-person job–but we were both on the mend and there were no extra hands to assist. We lost our place of residence and relocated to another state, spent months in between feedings and naps looking for jobs, and became isolated from family and friends–all while struggling to figure out our new reality as parents.
Before experiencing this tumultuous episode, I’d almost never given myself permission to be in a dark place. A wildly optimistic soul, I convinced myself–through toxic positivity and Black superwoman complex–that my situation “wasn’t that bad” and that other people “had it much, much worse.” I was conditioned, from an early age, to hold the weight of the world on my shoulders. Even if I experience pain or heartbreak, I needed to tuck those feelings into the back corner of my brain. Forget about it and “just get over it.” Nothing bothered me. My core could never be shaken. Except this time, it was.
Overcoming life’s obstacles can be frustrating. I questioned the timing. We battled with infertility for six whole years before I finally got pregnant. Why was all of this happening now? Then, one day I read a post online that helped to put everything into perspective. A light bulb clicked. I realized that in life, everyone inevitably will encounter varying degrees of difficulty. It’s how we handle ourselves during these times that defines our character. I yearned to be present for my daughter and I searched high and low for ways to cope. I came across this quote:
In life, there is no such thing as losing. You either win or your learn.
I didn’t think there was any good in hitting rock bottom, but after reading the quote about a million times, I came to another realization. I wasn’t losing at life––these experiences were just valuable lessons in disguise. What am I supposed to learn from this?
Turns out, I actually learned a great deal from struggling. I also learned that there are many reasons to appreciate going through a rough patch. As I slowly put the pieces of the puzzle back together, I put less focus on the “why” and more emphasis on the teachable moment. Therefore, life’s stumbling blocks might actually be good for us.
If you’ve overcome hardships (or are currently facing them), take all the time you need to navigate these obstacles. Get professional help. Surround yourself with supportive people. I also implore you to think about the necessary lessons that could come from your struggle. Remember, there’s a rainbow after every storm.
Here are five important lessons that I learned while overcoming:
1. Sometimes a fresh start is just what the doctor ordered. I thought losing a job before giving birth was the worst possible thing that could happen; but in hindsight, I am truly thankful for the redirection. Not only did I need vital time to bond with my new baby, I needed time to recover from the c-section. Had I still been working, I would have been trying to attempt recovering while simultaneously working near full-time hours from home. Although I had been with this particular project for five years, I was too comfortable. I kept telling myself that I wanted to stop chasing a paycheck and focus on creative pursuits that would feed my soul. I wasn’t fully living in my purpose. Being laid off was the new beginning I needed.
2. There’s lots of time for reflection. When caught up in life’s hamster wheel, most people don’t really stop to smell the roses. With all that was happening, I was forced to be still–and reflect upon the past, present, and future. I had no choice but to think about how and why I needed to move forward.
3. When struggling, you gain unyielding compassion for others. During this season, the smallest and most sentimental acts carried me through. Only a few people knew that I was struggling; still, love and support poured in from several unexpected sources. I began to practice gratitude for all that I had even though the situation appeared bleak. When small acts of kindness were bestowed upon me, I looked at people in a different way. One never knows what other people are truly going through. Even if that means being polite to someone in a grocery store or offering kind words to friends over the Internet, treat people with kindness, empathy, and compassion.
4. Own Your Struggle. Don’t compare your trials to anyone else’s. You have the right to feel lost. You have the right to feel hurt. You have the right to be sad. You have the right to be disappointed. You have the right to feel anyway you choose. Own your situation. When life is uncomfortable, give yourself permission to react. How was I ever going to jump over the hurdle if I ignored or trivialized my own turmoil?
5. Learning new skills and coping mechanisms is key. In the moments when all of the drama was unfolding, I had to find the most creative ways to stay afloat. With a mouth to feed, I had to dig deep into the creativity bag. I realized that I had skills I didn’t even know I had. In order to pull through, I had to find new ways to cope. In doing so, I also saw what worked and what didn’t work. Nevertheless, this was another vital step in the process of overcoming.
The word “overcoming” is present because I’m still very much in the process. However, I’m confident that the lessons learned have aided in strength during recovery. One last thing, friends: always remember to be kind to yourself and to others who are overcoming. You are more than a conqueror. You’ve got this!
Tonya Abari is a freelance writer, editor, content strategist, and homeschooling mama. A multipotentialite and intermediate juggler of all things, you can read about her online or follow her on Instragram @iamtabari.