Sunday, July 06, 2008

Surviving and Thriving after a Crisis

Have you suffered from an unbearable situation such as an illness, the loss of a loved one, or some other tragedy that leaves you wondering how you'll get past it, if ever? If so, you might be interested in a new book that I am reading called I Will Not Be Broken: Five Steps to Overcoming a Life Crisis. The author, Jerry White, stepped on a landmine during a camping trip to Israel when he was twenty years old. The accident resulted in losing part of his leg and he had to wear a prosthesis but learned to be happy despite the horror of the minefield. The book is his story interwoven with other tales of misfortune in the search for answers as to why some people become crippled from their experiences and others survive and thrive. Lest you think the book is a downer (okay, it is a bit), there are many positive messages in the pages and clear, concise solutions are given to the reader who may not know where else to turn.

So what are the five steps to overcoming a crisis according to the author? White states they are to face facts, choose life, reach out, get moving and give back. He states he learned these steps after thinking a lot about what happened to him and how he got through it. He interviewed other survivors who had thrived (and those who didn't) and came to the conclusion that these steps were the way to survive the bad things that happen to us, often without warning. The chapters outline what each of the steps entails and how to improve one's life.

So, if you are going through, or have been through a recent life crisis and wonder how to cope, this book might be of some value to you. If anyone else has a good self-help book recommendation for those who are dealing with illness, a crisis or trauma, let us know.



Blogger GawainsGhost said...

Well, Dr. Helen, I'll tell you my story.

When I was 17, a senior in high school, an A student, National Honor Society member and award-winning actor, six weeks before graduation, I took a short cut to the auditorium, on my way back from my after-school job, for the final performance on the one-act play, the cast of which had placed as alternate-to-state that year, the highest any school from this area had ever advanced.

I didn't know it when I turned on to this dirt road between orange groves, but the Key Club--that would be the resident redneck beer-drinking club at the schoool--had sent out 40 freshmen to steal stop signs all over the county as part of their initiation. It was dark, and effectively driving in a tunnel, I couldn't see the upcoming intersection until it was too late.

A pickup truck driving at about 70 mph slammed into the side of my two-door Toyota. The impact knocked me from the driver's seat, out the passenger window, 40 feet through the air, to where I hit the road. My car rolled over three times before landing on top of me, and the muffler burned by left leg over the knee for over an hour, before the ambulance arrived at the scene. My best friend, one of the most gifted musicians I have ever known, who was riding with me was dead, his neck broken on the rear-view mirror of the tumbling car.

Somehow, miraculously, I survived. In a coma for two weeks, I spent over a month in the hospital and underwent two surgeries. The doctors had to cut the burned flesh off of my knee and graft skin from my thighs directly onto tendon and bone. The wound took two years to fully heal.

Meanwhile, I had to go to college, where I didn't do very well at first. I failed out of the honors program at the University of Texas and damn near failed out of college altogether. The reason why was because, undiagnosed at the time, my eyeballs had been knocked crooked and I suffered from bilateral strobismus, was unable to read. But I sucked it up, never quit and finally graduated with one eye shut.

Then I had to get a job and work for two years before I could afford to go to a specialist and have my vision corrected. He cut the eye muscles and reattached them to different parts the my eyeballs to bring them into closer alignment. They're still not perfectly aligned, but 95% better than they were.

Since that time I have completed a master's degree and taught the high school and college levels. I had to resign my positions when my father was stricken with cancer to help my mother run the family business. I did that because, as hard as my experience was for me, it was even worse for my parents. And I know it.

Anyone who looked at me today would not believe that I was the same person they had seen in the hospital 29 years ago, beat up, bloodied and burned. No one thought I would live. No one thought I would walk. No one thought I would go to college. No one thought I would graduate. No one thought I would get a job. No one thought I would get a graduate degree. No one thought I would be successful.

Yet here I am, good-looking, well-dressed, financially independent, and rich. But still in a whole lot of pain. That doesn't matter though, you have to take the bad with the good.

I'm not much for self-help books, although I'm very much for self-help. "God loves those who help themselves," as the saying goes. One book I would recommend though is When Bad Things Happen to Good People, by Harold S. Kushner.

It's a good read.

11:49 AM, July 06, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Forgiveness is quite useful. Even if it takes a long time to reach that place. It is the only thing that neutralizes the acid that burns ever deeper into the psyche until applied.

Physical illness is something one just has to cope with. Even when the punches just keep coming fast and hard.

Coping with all at once requires the assistance of Breyer's Vanilla Bean Speck ice cream. Works for me.

11:56 AM, July 06, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another good title about overcoming trauma (in this case, the Holocaust), is "Man's Search for Meaning," by Dr. Viktor Frankl.

12:17 PM, July 06, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...


So glad you're okay--to have something like that happen early in life must have been very difficult. And it sounds like you could be the subject of the book I mentioned as an example of one who is resilient and viewed the experience as one to work through, not give up on.

I agree, the Kushner book is a good one.

12:45 PM, July 06, 2008  
Blogger Danny said...

I have been fighting brain cancer and also a non malignant brain tumor, plus all the collateral damage since the summer of 1996. My academic and career goals have all gone to hell.
I have read many great books that have helped me deal with the medical issues,and the problems they have caused- i.e., the fact that I havent been able to start a professional career, etc.
One good book is titled, "You Are Stronger Than You Think", by Peter Ubel MD, who is a Medical School and Psychology professor at the Univ of Michigan. Hi s book talks about drawing from the resilience the resides within all of us.

GawainsGhost- I am inspired by your story,and your inner strength, that has allowed you to achieve what you have achieved. Congratulations.
Thanks for sharing

5:28 PM, July 06, 2008  
Blogger Papa Ray said...

There is a book available that has helped millions of people through all manners or tragedy and disasters.

It is free and available almost anywhere.

It is called "The Bible."

Papa Ray

6:29 PM, July 06, 2008  
Blogger Danny said...

Amen to that, Papa Ray!!! :):)

6:59 PM, July 06, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In a similar boat, I am awaiting some new medical equipment to arrive in order to have a brain tumor operated on. I had lung cancer removed a year ago, but it seems they could not get it all. That's a wait and see what to do next. I survived an automobile accident with a broken back that has left me in constant pain and pretty much unable to do many things, but I can still walk. Many are not so lucky.

What amazes me is the number of people in this world who have been through terrible ordeals, or are left living with and through them, and continue to keep on keeping on. And as in the case of gawainsghost, flourish in spite of them. You people give me strength.

9:13 PM, July 06, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"How to Handle Trouble," published in 1993 by author John Carmody is good.

9:14 PM, July 06, 2008  
Blogger Danny said...

br549 - I am sorry to hear that you are in need of brain surgery. I hope the surgery goes well for you.
I think my transformation began the moment I realised that- that sitting around and bitching and moaning about my situation wouldnt change things for the better one jot. So, I just quit being negative cold turkey.
Best of luck,and you and your family are in my prayers.

10:55 PM, July 06, 2008  
Blogger Danny said...

br549- would you please email me at :

10:56 PM, July 06, 2008  
Blogger kjbe said...

If the 12 Steps could be boiled down to any less, they would look like this.

9:28 AM, July 07, 2008  
Blogger El Duderino said...

There are people in prison who decide to be happy and there are famous, wealthy people in perfect health who are suicidal. Attitide is everything. If Helen Keller can be famous, productive and influential I have no reason on earth not to be as well.

10:47 AM, July 07, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

danny, will do.

However, is that an "L" (el) or an "I" (eye) as first letter in the e-mail addy?


12:15 PM, July 07, 2008  
Blogger Al said...

If you haven't read it, Ghostrider: Travels on the Healing Highway by Neil Peart is an inspiring tale.

2:36 PM, July 07, 2008  
Blogger Danny said...

br549 - it is "L".

3:42 PM, July 07, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, L.

Don't know what TIA means. I'm not "up" on the lingo. IMO, I finally figured out a few months ago, seems to mean "in my opinion".

I have been on the net for 20 years, but never got into the text messaging type stuff.

Old dogs, you know.

5:09 PM, July 07, 2008  
Blogger Stephan said...

Our Story. My pregnant wife and I were on the way to a volunteer assignment when a drunk driver and his sober but asleep buddy crossed the median on the interstate and hit us. Our unborn daughter died 9 days later, my wife suffered 3 fractures and a head injury resulting in a two week memory loss, she doesn't remember our first daughter at all. I suffered 11 fractures. The doctors and nurses kept asking why we were still alive.
Before I left the hospital I was able to forgive the drunk kid who died and it was the most exquisite feeling of warmth and lightness I have ever felt.
It took a year and we finally got back on our feet again, even a good new job, but I was let go after a year and we were betrayed by those we thought we could trust. Ending with my wife in the hospital again. We are still feeling the effects. Forgiving them was harder.
Things are still hard, good work has been hard to find, I only make a quarter of what I did before. We continue we love our second daughter and do the best we can. We feel God's love often and have had many prayers answered.
The first thing is to forgive. The rest is gravy.

5:27 PM, July 07, 2008  
Blogger Danny said...

br549: "TIA" means "Thanks in Advance"

7:51 PM, July 07, 2008  
Blogger dienw said...

I thank God that He has blessed me and that through Him I overcame the blows I was given.

I have been able to overcome having been raised in an unloving family. After spending my childhood and teen years being considered stupid by my family, I paid my way through college and graduate school; I was able to attract world class mentors/professors. I spent over twenty years of my youth getting the malignant parental voices out of my head. And I find that I am more intelligent than most of my peers.

While still in college and just entering graduate school, I developed severe ileitis. The first operation failed after I had moved back to grad school. Thinking it just needed a little help healing, I searched all over Greensboro for a heat lamp to help the inflamed scar tissue: there was not one heat lamp to be found. Four months after the operation I collapsed from the store air conditioning. I quickly returned home. While I was waiting for a doctors appointment, I spent a couple days using a heat lamp. The doctor rushed me into the hospital where the next day, because I used a heat lamp, my side literally burst open. I spent all of August '73 draining out of my side wrapped in a towel for a diaper and otherwise naked on the bed. I was wheeled into the operating room weighing 112 pounds (at 6'2") and wheeled out weighing 106 pounds. I was given a less than 50% chance to survive.

The doctor said I was very fortunate as there were only two possibilities I had faced: the infection could have leaked into my abdominal cavity and killed me in a few days or my system could form an abscess shell around it. I got the protective shell.

I returned to grad school. I also got my job back at the company where I collapsed due to generous supervisors: SEARS.

Over the years, I have frequently been kicked in the butt by God in order to get my attention and each time He has gotten me through difficult times.

1:50 PM, July 08, 2008  
Blogger cinderkeys said...

I'm amazed by people who can forgive the unforgivable. I get that it's healthy to do so; that doesn't mean I know how. Kudos.

4:32 AM, July 09, 2008  
Blogger Smirking Cat said...

I like the title alone, I will not be broken. It is the attitude I have adopted in dealing with a lot of hardship and negative, hateful people. I never want to be as low as they are.

Forgiveness is not condoning behavior. It is simply deciding to move on and not hold it in your heart.

3:27 PM, July 09, 2008  
Blogger Sloan said...

A sense of perspective helps. Despite my particular issues, which aren't all that bad -- hormonal problems which leave me depressed, lethargic, and unmotivated -- there is always someone worse off than me. Namely, my father. He's struggling with mesothelioma right now. He gets chemotherapy every four weeks, for the rest of his life. He spends one week sick, nauseous, and groggy, then he's fine for the other three. He says if that's the best he can get right now, he'll take it and thank God for it. I am in awe of him.

In fact I think I'll give the ol' geezer a call right now...haven't talked to him in a while.

12:39 PM, July 11, 2008  
Blogger Ignorance is Bliss said...

face facts, choose life, reach out, get moving and give back

Pretty darn good advice for those of us who have been lucky in life too.

1:10 PM, July 12, 2008  
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