Tragedy, Trauma, and Resilience

We all will face tragedy and trauma in our lives, some of us more than others. The most severe forms are often the least expected. Though we can’t control what happens to us, we can control how we respond to it.

I have an Uncle In-Law named Sidiki. He grew up in Guinea, Africa.  As a young teenager he contracted a mysterious illness (probably polio), one day when he was walking to school he fell and never stood up again. He spent months in a hospital in a coma, and with time regained the use of his arms. But was deeply depressed by his circumstances. Africa can be a very unforgiving place for those with Sidiki’s fate.

After months of depression and contemplating suicide, Sidiki reminded himself that he had something to offer the world. He chose to build himself back up, learning not only to walk with his hands but dance, bike, waterski, and more. He was not musical before the incident but something ignited in him, he is now a very accomplished musician recognized in both Guinea and the US as a treasure.

You have to wonder where he would be if this has not happened to him, without the trauma and challenges he faced, would he have still been able to forge himself into this hero that he is today? It’s difficult to answer. Sidiki’s resilience turned a terrible sickness into the an incredible journey in musicianship and courage. Though he is a true hero, we can all make the same choices when faced with our own challenges.

He has a documentary out now called “dancing without feet” check the trailer out here!

Check out this Article in the New Yorker on Sidiki

I have another friend how suffers from a bacterial overgrowth in his intestines, caused by taking antibiotics without probiotics. Which causes him to have a very bad reaction to many foods (grains, processed foods, sugar… a majority of the average American’s diet). I lived with him for several years and watched every step from contracting this illness, researching it, and fighting to overcome it. Most of us take food and our eating habits for granted. It’s been very difficult for him to manage this problem, it requires a constant vigilance, a strict diet, and occasionally many days of fasting. There’s no days off, no opting out, no magic pill, no clear answer on how to overcome this.

This hell has transformed him into a different person. It has ignited a passion to cure himself through a profound understanding of his digestive system and how it interacts with food. He has developed a very scientific method for his diet and has an depth of knowledge that could easily be used for a Ph.D dissertation. This augmented his passion for the environment and has lead him to a promising graduate program in ecology in Switzerland. I don’t know how he will use this experience and knowledge, but the intense challenges he faced has made him a really incredible person. His journey to overcome this digestive problem inspired a blog, documenting his experiences and challenged. This has revealed a huge community of people with the same problems, and his work has helped and inspired others.

It’s never ever easy to face tragedies, pain, fear, trauma and other challenges that life brings, but life will assuredly bring many your way. But you can take hope from these stories and know that you are not alone in your battles, lean into the discomfort of your own fight, and use it to become someone better.

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