When Survival Isn't Good

I've spent significant chunks of the past six-plus years in survival mode. With all of that practice, I've gotten good at it and also learned a thing or two about it. I'll share those tips some other time, but what I want to talk about today is leaving it behind.

I'm a huge proponent of survival mode. Too often, we feel pressure to push through life-as-normal even when our experiences - whether situational or emotional - are anything but normal. We believe the lie that if we look the same and act the same as we used to, things will go back to the way they used to be and it will be like this trauma/loss/realization never happened. But the goal is not to go back to before. The goal is to make it to the other side of this thing, integrating the good parts and remembering the hard ones. Survival mode lets you catch your breath and gather yourself for the push to the other side.

Catch that? Survival mode is a place to camp. It's not meant for long-term living. It's purpose is - wait for it - survival. And you don't want to spend your life surviving.

The tricky thing is that, as survival mode lifts some of the pressure you're trying to cope with, you can forget you're in it. Especially when the challenge you face is ongoing or the darkness you've walked through has already been about as much as you can take. The relative peace of survival mode is delicious and feels like a very doable new normal.

But it's not sustainable. You can stay in survival mode as long as you need it. But eventually it will stop meeting your needs because it doesn't allow for growth or healing. That's when you need to take the rest and energy and even clarity you gathered in this oasis and use it to be brave and strike out toward your actual destination: healing and discovering your new normal in light of what you've survived.

How do you know if you're still in survival mode when it's time to move forward?

You find yourself saying "I've got this." Nope. You don't. If you think you're moving forward on your own, without help, without community, without appreciable change, you haven't really taken a single step out of survival mode. 

You find yourself ducking in and out of survival mode for an extended period of time. If this is the case, you haven't really moved on. You're still using it as your home base.

I don't know what circumstances or feelings may have driven you to survival mode, but take it from someone who has learned the hard way:

Just because you're functioning doesn't mean you're healing.

Just because you're surviving doesn't mean you're living.

Just because you can muscle through this on your own doesn't mean you should.