Survival Mode. That horrible period in the first year that no one talks about. Where every thought in my pretty brunette head was overwhelming. I don’t mean normal stressful decisions being overwhelming, I mean the idea of ‘do I want a nap?’ Would send me into a tailspin. I remember, laying on the floor wondering if something was wrong with me because I couldn’t make one more decision. Was I having some sort of psychological break? “This feels like more than grief…” it was. The chemicals that signaled my brain “Hey! Be prepared there is danger here, can we stay or do we need to leave?” were running haywire and every decision would signal that response. Every. Decision. It is actually a pretty normal trauma response (yay! Something normal! Finally, my brain is doing something it is supposed to!) What mental health professionals won’t tell you is that the amount of cortisol pumping through your body every time your ‘spidey sense’ goes haywire can actually do a lot of damage to you.
Being in that state affects every part of you: emotionally, physically, spiritually. It can wear you down, exhaust you, and, exacerbate depression and anxiety. It is a way for your body and brain to try and protect you but sometimes too much of a good thing can be bad for you. In this case, it is not chocolate.
Real talk: It is not a dirty little secret. But, it can be life-changing, especially in your first year. there isn’t a secret to surviving it either, it is listening to what you need and asking for help.
Okay, it might be a bit more work than that.
I need you to do something for me. Something for you. make yourself a soul-warming drink. I want you to sit down somewhere comfy (or burrow under blankets, no judgments.) I want you to connect with yourself. Take big deep belly breaths, grab a pen and some paper and create a list. This is only a list that you can put together. It is going to be a list of needs. Not wants. Needs.
You *want* a pinterest worthy house. You *need* to do a load of laundry.
What are the things around you that you need to get done? Shower, eat, talk to the bank, talk to human resources, build on the little victories of getting to them. When you can and take breaks when you can’t.
Now, make notes about the things you *want* to get done but can’t. Or the things that seem overwhelming. This part might be a little more difficult emotionally. It is okay to admit that things you used to have no problem doing currently make you feel like drowning.
Now, I want you to connect with people and your community, professionals or not, and ask them for help.
There is nothing wrong with reaching out.
You are not weak for admitting to being overwhelmed.
ASK FOR HELP!
People want to help you.
Being a resilient badass does not mean that you need to do everything yourself! (my therapist would be happy that I said that if only I can put into practice what I say).
“Jane if I forward you some money could you pick up some groceries for me? The idea of it makes me want to drown, but I need food.”
“Auntie Chandra? When you come over could you throw a load of laundry in the hamper into the washer, please?”
I wish someone told me that I can call up professionals and ask for help and I didn’t need to do it myself. I was nervous about needing to pay someone for advice with the money I didn’t have. Most professionals want to see you succeed and love to hear themselves talk. Use this to your advantage and lighten your load.
Professionals who help with estate planning: financial people, real estate people, insurance people, understand the paperwork and knows it can be confusing! They understand the minute that we don’t! Lighten your load. Let them give advice. Ask Questions. Under no obligation do you need to use their services or their advice. It does give you one less thing to stress about and one less stressor for your brain.
Doctors’ offices know what is going on in the community outside of medicine. Reach out, Your health doesn’t mean physical they know it is all interconnected. They want you to be well.
“Hey Pam, could take the kids to school today?”
You are never too old to need your mom.
I bet there is a 15-year-old neighbor somewhere in your life who would love to mow your lawn.
People who never lost a spouse don’t understand a lot about what we are going through. But, a lot of people do mean it when they say “if you need anything…” but, they don’t know unless you ask!
Outside of friends, coworkers, and professionals to ask there are apps, strangers on the internet, and handymen who walk the aisles at the Home Depot who would love to help. but you do need a handout and say “hi, look…”
Why get lost in a fog of google when someone with a straightforward answer might be a call away?
Getting out of Survival Mode is difficult but possible. Even when it doesn’t seem like it. Especially when it doesn’t seem like it. Reach out. Ask for help. Lighten your load. Focus on what *needs* to be done. It is scary but you need to take care of yourself and people want to help. People want to connect. Let them.