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How I'm Finally Moving Past Survival Mode

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I think it happens to everyone when we are battling a chronic illness, physical or mental, that we often feel we are not in sync with the people our age. In my case I can honestly say that the years between 22 and 25 were focused on other stuff (wasted, from many others point of view). Basically in that period of my life I was busy trying to survive every day without any suicide attempt, learning to speak again after my conversion disorder episode, getting used to arthritis and managing life with fewer medications or therapy appointments. I was struggling to get my psychology degree and losing people by the minute who thought I was faking or that others had it worse. It took me a lot of time (in today’s concept of wanting everything done the fastest way possible) to feel like myself again, while I tried to seek validation by being constantly busy studying or working and not showing my vulnerability.

In the last two years I started doing things that people my age normally do, with a huge effort, and I realized I was so busy surviving that I haven’t lived in so long. I had to eat in order to get my medication, my week was programed in terms of my therapy and doctor’s appointment, I had to double check every place to see if I could walk there or if my arthritis forced me to drive. My anxiety levels became higher each time and I was in survival mode almost every single day. But I had a few moments with my friends, with my family or on trips in which I started living again. I felt so unsafe in facing life’s unpredictability, and I noticed I lack a lot of skills that involve enjoying being present in the moment.

And now I’m a lot of kilometers far from home for three months, just to enjoy life. To regain confidence and trust in myself, in strangers, in life, in unknown places. I’ve struggled a lot because I felt, once I quit my survival mode, that the experience wasn’t worth it. I’m not twirling around to see which chaotic situation I can solve, or working, or studying towards helping others. For the first time in over five years I’m helping myself to live. To enjoy. I’ve found myself tasting food again, enjoying meal times, sleeping in without feeling guilty, getting to know people with my guard kind-of-down, and day dreaming about a future (a great one), which I feel worth of having. Not because of what I do, or what I have, or my degrees, but just for the mere reason of being able to get here after an incredibly hard path. I’m in vacation mode. Of what? Of getting my suicidal-arthritic-panic attack self here, to my 27th birthday. And it feels nice.

Of course it’s weird sometimes and survival mode comes up to try to defend me from my intrusive thoughts as if they were reality. I have to talk myself every day and say, “You are worth living, not just surviving.” And I’m learning to, at my age and my pace, but I’m starting to enjoy life.

So far, it’s highly recommended!

Original image via contributor

Originally published: October 11, 2021
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