Blessing in Disguise: What I Learned While Living in Survival Mode


“When you are as a human being in survival mode, order disappears”
― Harry Kim, actor and director

Ladies and gentlecats,

I am glad the semester is over.

Extremely glad.

Of all the semesters I experienced thus far, this Fall semester was the most difficult. It is not because of the workload (in fact, the material was not mind-shattering hard).  However, it was the content of the material in each class and what that that content was doing to me.

Let me explain.

All three of my classes focused on trauma and trauma-informed care, which stems from the mindset that everyone suffers from some form of trauma.  This also means that we focused on the extreme forms of trauma such as various forms of abuse and maltreatment. Even in my human rights course, the material focused more on trauma and what it does to a person’s psyche.

Now folks, you know my history, but I have to admit that I have only recently sought treatment to combat and overcome my past.  So with stories of sexual abuse (or any type of abuse) slapping me in the face, I found myself not even enjoying the learning process.  If anything, I just tried to do everything to hide my discomfort–all to no avail.

Over the course of the semester, I found myself becoming more hypersensitive to my surroundings by watching almost everyone who walked into a room.  If there were too many people, I left because I am no longer able to observe everyone.  I would become overwhelmed, start crying but then would wipe my tears and tell myself to “pull it together.” If I didn’t become easily agitated about something that happened at school or otherwise, I would shut down and not say anything at all.  Because of the research course debacle over the summer, I no longer trust the administration at the college to have my best interest in mind. That distrust only increased when one of my professors allowed a student to come into her office while she and I were having a private conversation.

Even my personal life began to fall apart.  I don’t have any income at the moment, so I am not able to pay bills and rent (though I will be working in January).  So I feel very overwhelmed with that and I noticed that my sex addiction is kicking up and have sometimes acted out on my impulses.  I felt like a complete failure at life, thinking that I never can be much of anything, let alone an effective social worker.  I, once again, compared myself to the “rock stars” of the social work program and found myself lacking.

I even didn’t want to be around people or tell anyone what was going on inside of me. I told myself that no one wanted to hear my sob story and I had to suck it up and function.  No time for tears.  It’s time to do that paper…about sexually abused African American children.

It’s no wonder I wrote that paper at the last minute.

The straw broke it when my friend committed suicide, only to find out about it a month after it happened.  I’m talking about my friend’s death in therapy, with tears coming down from my eyes and wiping them away quickly.  That was when she brought up the fact that I’m not allowing myself to grieve.  And she’s right.  Because I’m in survival mode and it’s catching up with me.  Even before the semester ended, I locked myself into my room and did not come out unless I had to use the bathroom or eat.  If I did leave, it was to hide my discomfort around the fact that I isolated to that extent.

And so is my emotional and mental state.  When I was talking to my friend Colleen on the phone one day about what was going on with me, she said something I couldn’t deny anymore:

“You may have PTSD.”

I have often suspected that something was going on with me, but did not know what it was.  I studied PTSD and Complex PTSD in my psychopathology course, but thought nothing of it. But as time has gone by, I wonder if I have Complex PTSD.  For those who do not know the difference between PTSD and Complex PTSD is that the former is triggered by one traumatic event whereas Complex PTSD is triggered by prolonged exposure to trauma in general.  The symptoms include (but not limited to) identity disturbances, avoidance, blaming and fear of abandonment.  There is also emotional irregulation and the tendency to isolate from others.  I am not the one to diagnose myself, but this information and my behaviors throughout the years prompted me to schedule a PTSD screening.  I set up an appointment with my therapist, who told me I was getting a screening soon.

I am telling you all of this, Reader, because if you suspect that you have PTSD, Complex PTSD, Borderline Personality Disorder or any other type of anxiety disorder, speak up.  Talk to a healthcare professional and have him or her to refer you to a specialist in your area.  Don’t hide what is going on out of fear of being labeled “weak.”  Hiding pain and emotional/mental distress not a sign of strength, but a meltdown waiting to happen.  I’m telling now, I was this a couple of weeks ago:

Image

And this:

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But I now know I don’t have to live in isolation any longer.  I’m beginning to realize I have friends and I can lean on them when I am about to have an episode.  I have Spirit with me always and I feel that best part of this semester is seeing that I can reach out and get help.  I don’t have to keep it together anymore and it’s not my job to do so.  I don’t have to live in survival mode and you don’t have to live that way either.

Ever.

References

Think Exist (2012).  “Harry Kim Quotes.”  Retrieved from http://thinkexist.com/quotation/when-you-are-as-a-human-being-in-a-survival-mode/648487.html

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2 thoughts on “Blessing in Disguise: What I Learned While Living in Survival Mode

  1. Oh sweetie….this is so heartfelt and eloquent. I’m feeling so proud of you as I read this as you know yourself so well, your limitations and your strengths. I can’t help but think of how incredible of an advocate you are already and sorry that your schoolwork is triggering. Damn, that must be really hard to manage….

    No, you don’t have to stay in isolation…you are among friends who will sit with you while you learn to manage those ultra sensitive feelings that you learned in survival mode…they aren’t necessary now but that doesn’t mean we don’t still have them! I’m gonna wrap you up in a big blanket of love and say some prayers for you….and as always, I’m around if you need a shoulder….

    1. Thank very much! After while writing that entry, I was thinking about all the people in my life who helped me throughout the entire period. It is now starting to sink in that I am not alone and never was. Thank you for the warm blanket of love and support. I hope everything is well with you ❤

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