You see that person. Face sunken in, hair wet from just hopping out of the shower, wrinkled clothes, and old shoes. They go to church each week. They fulfill their calling the best they know how. They don’t always follow through with everything, because life simply is too overwhelming, but saying that to someone is too embarrassing. They go to work. They go to the store. Their face seems to always look the same. They can’t seem to look at you so they plug along. You glance. You smile. And a miracle happens….they smile back. When you run into someone like this realize something. They are in survival. That smile was a gift.
This was me all of 2015. And to be completely honest this is still me sometimes. For half the year I kept everything in silence. That silent pain I didn’t know how to express. That pain that I thought no one could possibly understand. Then gradually I started talking. Just to close friends. Just to family. Then I stopped lying. I stopped saying “I’m fine” “I’m good” and I started to say “I’m surviving”…and I was.
When you are on survival mode you don’t really think. You survive. You can’t think about anything except
1) taking care of your kids [if you have them]
3) trying not to sleep too long and waking up in time to shower before you go to work [Forget putting on makeup or actually doing your hair]
4) possibly eating
5) your work…and when you can go home and relax.
You are in a weird funk. A strange dream that you can’t seem to get out of. You keep thinking you will wake up but all you wake up to is the same thing. Some people call this depression, others grief, or both. I call it survival. You just…survive.
Here are a few things I have started to do to get me out of this funky dream….
Don’t tell people you are okay when you aren’t. Don’t tell people you feel fine when you don’t. Don’t tell people you are happy when you aren’t. Its okay to simply say “I’m surviving”. You don’t have to delve into every detail of your life, but don’t lie to anyone. They can probably see you aren’t okay anyway.
This one was really hard for me at first because I was afraid to be human. I was afraid people wouldn’t like me if I actually said “I hurt, and I don’t like the situation I am in. I think I actually have hate in my heart”. But you know what! Everyone hurts! Its okay to hurt! It’s okay to say that. In fact saying it helps you own it too. No GOOD friend is going to say “well that’s dumb grow up”. A good friend or family member will say “its okay, we are going to get through this” or be genuinely concerned for you and LOVE YOU! They will listen and help you sort out your thoughts. Sometimes I talk to certain people just so they can tell me its going to be okay and sometimes I talk to others so they can tell me I am normal. And other times I really need someone to just tell me I need to go home and pray about my feelings or that I need to think a bit more. Its okay!
Going outside even when you don’t want to helps wake up your spirit! Even if its snowing you can go for a brief walk. I remember when I lived in Idaho after my mom died I would put on my coat and walk to church in the freezing cold. People would stop and offer me rides but I would decline, I liked the walk. It didn’t matter that it was snowing and ice, I wanted to walk. Those walks helped me deal with my mom’s death for years after she died.
Recent life events have taken me back to this place. The place of abandonment, loss of hope, stress, not knowing what God has in store. So one way of dealing with it is going outside. In Arizona it isn’t as cold, the sun is shining. I can walk the dogs or simply pull weeds in my front yard. In the summer it is blazing hot, but I can get in a friend’s pool. Going outside helps me connect with God. I can ask those questions, and I can feel His love. I can see all He has created and understand He is bigger than me and my situations. All I have to do is step outside.
I have had the opportunity to try various hobbies throughout my life so now I know what I like. I love to write, I like to sing, and I like to create things. Whether it is painting furniture to jazz it up a bit or creating a craft, these are things that give me a feeling of accomplishment where I can look at what I did and be happy. Developing and practicing hobbies gives someone something to do, sometimes when we don’t know what to do, and that can be therapeutic in itself.
A lot of us do not truly love ourselves. We set ourselves up to fail on a daily basis. We think our families have to act just on key, our schedule has to be perfectly planned and heaven forbid if out house looks lived in! STOP! Its okay! Relax a bit! Take a bath and love YOU! You don’t have to be perfect, your house CAN look lived in and you don’t have to have a schedule for every tiny little thing. If you are the type of person that needs a lot of relaxation, TAKE IT! Relax when you can, search when you can, and take time for you. Expect a little less of yourself, especially if you are having a hard time and things are getting overwhelming. Simplify. Its okay to eat, sleep, and relax for a while.
I have kids so this has to happen!!! I love playing with my kids! They brighten my world. Whether we go to the park or play inside together, it doesn’t matter. There world is magical just the way it is. I don’t have to have fancy toys or expensive things. Time is what matters to them. And what a great thing to teach, because what else matters? Playing helps me get outside myself and focus on something and someone else. Its a great way to get out of my head and truly love my kids and the people around me. And don’t stop at kids! Adults need play too! Find some friends and have a movie night or go blowing together. Just inviting them might help them get out and play too! And we all need a little play!
Last but definitely not least, love God. He loves you and is always watching out for you. He cares about you in a way that you can’t even imagine. Pray to Him. Lean on Him. He will always be there for you. If you don’t know how to love, or if you have hate in your heart, ask Him to help you understand why you feel the way you do. Ask Him to help you heal. Ask Him to help you learn to love. God knows all things and He knows you, and He is the best teacher, listener, and parent. If you haven’t talked to God in a while, try. He misses you and would love to hear your voice. If you don’t know how to pray, just talk. Talk out loud to God. Just say what you feel. The biggest thing I have learned this year is that it doesn’t always matter how you pray, but that you do.
Remember always that you will get through survival mode and there are lots of good things ahead. And know too that its okay to take your time through this process. It isn’t about how quickly you heal, its about your journey and addressing all the areas of your life that you feel you need to. Its about being human and realizing you have limitations. Eventually you will get out of survival mode and truly be alive. But sometimes, as I heard on Call the Midwife “You have to go on living until you feel alive again”.