Resilience and EM: Does resilience arise from adversity?

Recently I climbed Snowdon, the highest mountain in England and Wales. This was my first ever climb to the summit which is 1085 metres high. I had no clue of the tough terrain when I geared up in excitement. It was an absolute adventure for a novice like me scaling on the steep rugged Pyg track, in adverse conditions with blustery weather, pouring rain and poor visibility.

As I started climbing along the slippery rocky path I realised how cautious I have to be and adapt my techniques of scrambling so that I don’t lose balance. My only focus at that point was to reach the summit. On the descent my toes went numb and my toe nails bled. Nevertheless, I had to carry on to get back. It was extremely challenging to climb a fairly steep mountain for the first time with my acrophobia (fear of heights which makes the person dizzy at high places and loose balance). My heart was in my mouth most of the time as I scrambled up the path but my focus remained unchanged. I couldn’t help but draw parallels to how I have dealt with the adversity I have faced through the journey of my life.

People say life is a journey, but I say life is a mountain: a mountain of rocky rugged terrain of failures, disappointments, struggles and triumphs. You can reach the summit, feel the joy of accomplishment and enjoy the view from the top only if you dare to tread this path. When you come across adversity you need to hang in there and cling onto the rocks of hope, always aiming to the reach the summit without ever turning back. Also remember there is always someone to cause obstacles and discouragement in life. That is when you need to remember “Believe in yourself no matter what others think of you.

One of my favourite quotes is from Winston Churchill: “A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.” My journey to the UK started 11 years ago. I was then a timid and overprotected daughter of my parents from a traditional culture. I had never visited abroad and it came as a total surprise to my friends and family when I chose to continue further studies in UK. It has been an arduous and extraordinary journey of transformation of a demure medic to a strong Emergency medicine consultant braving each day and each shift filled with acuity and unpredictability.

Whether it is crowding, the Covid – 19 pandemic or a winter bed crisis, we emergency physicians brave through and navigate difficult waters and I believe over years our resilience arises from adversity. Dieter F. Uchtdorf said “It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself, that determines how your life’s story will develop.”

Adversity and unpredictability are a part and parcel of life. No-one ever knew covid-19 would bring the entire world to a halt. Dealing with this change and accepting a new normal hasn’t been easy for anyone. It has overshadowed what we were accustomed to. The effect on emergency services and frontline workers has been tremendous as we strive to save lives every day.

However, the human race is adept in adapting since its evolution. Life’s experience will shape us and teach you to survive.

Finally, I will finish by emphasising a quote by Bob Moore “My strength didn’t come from lifting weights. It came from lifting myself up every time I was knocked down.”

Dr Roopa Balasundaram, Consultant in Emergency Medicine

8 thoughts on “Resilience and EM: Does resilience arise from adversity?

  1. A wonderful post about life and the challenges we face. 2020 has been difficult year for most of us and this article reminds us that good times lie ahead, we just need to persevere and strive on.
    Dr Roopa is an inspiration to us all. It’s been a great pleasure to have worked with her. Thank you for sharing your experience ! Looking forward to more posts.

  2. An inspirational and clear insight into the life or working in an emergency setting. As a Welshman I can very much appreciate the analogy. Thank you Roopa

  3. Excellent article, well written, inspirational. Coming from a similar background, can completely understand the challenges and the difficulties undergone. Will be a good read for budding emergency physicians. Well done Roopa.

  4. Such an inspiring post written by an even more inspiring doctor !
    Having Dr Roopa as my supervisor in my first steps in the NHS as an IMG is such a gift
    Reading this over and over again reminds me that the best is yet to come
    Thank you Dr Roopa

  5. What an inspiring and positive story! Indeed, life is a mountain, but even a novice can manage to climb!

  6. Great write up and words of wisdom. A lesson for everyone in all walks of life. The lessons here are of even greater impact and significance because they come from one of the best people anyone would dream of working with.
    We are waiting to read more from you Dr R Balasundaram.

  7. Uplifting and inspiring in this crazy time we are all living through! A wonderful example of the struggles we all face and how believing in yourself makes amazing happen! Thanks Dr R! X

  8. A good read. Motivational and uplifting particularly when life throws a curve ball at you – as it always does. Indeed, this story on resilience would apply in every sphere of life not just in emergency medicine.
    It has plenty doses of sages’ wisdom that I’ll be sticking on every wall of my house!
    Thank you Roopa.

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