Friday Feels: Survival Mode

On working through my issues, talking of personal stories and lessons, and giving you more insight into who I am.  This Friday Feels I talk about what put me in survival mode and how I realized I need break out of surviving and work on thriving. – #fridayfeels #personalessay #survivalmode #personalissues

Today I am introducing a new segment on the blog - Friday Feels.

I've been talking about posting some more personal pieces here, but I had no idea how that would manifest itself.  I was going through some things this past weekend and decided to write it down. And since I am applying the motto of "Just do and don't second guess" to 2018, I thought I would go ahead and post it here.

It won't happen every week, but when I am feeling so inclined to work though issues or share more personal stories or feelings, it will be on a Friday.  I feel like I'm taking a huge leap because I don't often share these types of feelings with anyone other than my husband Sean.  It may be messy.  It won't always have a tidy ending or any resolution, but I think I'm ready.

So without further ado....

It's the type of loneliness you feel in a crowded room.  It's the way you feel invisible even when people look at you.  It's the feeling of not fitting in no matter how hard you try.  It's that feeling when someone interrupts you in conversation and then seems to forget you were ever saying anything.  It's looking in from the outside of everything and wishing you were a part of something, that you belong, that you're wanted.

I know this amazing family.  They are loving and supportive to each other, even when they make huge mistakes.  They are kind and welcoming and delightful people to be around.  The parents love their children and grandchildren. The siblings love each other.  They see each other often and talk to each other often.  They are incredibly generous with each other.  They're great people.

Over the weekend, I was listening to some of these awesome people tell various stories of being at the hospital for their most recent grandchild's birth.  They talked about how the gender of the baby was kept a secret and how excited everyone was to find out when the baby was born.  It was heartwarming to see and hear the excitement they were retelling.  I smiled and laughed along with them, but about halfway into the tale I realized something.

I don't get it.

I don't understand what it's like to have parents that love you so unconditionally.  I don't understand what it's like to just have love from a parent, from a sibling.  To not have to bend over backwards to earn that love.  To not feel like you have to change your entire being to hopefully receive the love that you so desperately want and need.

I don't get it.

One of the fantastic people I was talking with said he owed his granddaughter a trip to Hawaii.  What is that?  He owes her?  I just kept thinking about how my family would never ever say those words.  I had to earn every ounce of compassion and kindness that came to me.  And let me tell you, the work outweighed the payout by miles.  I don't dislike this awesome family I know.  I love them, and I love talking to them.  It just wasn't until this recent conversation that all of these feelings hit me.  Maybe it is because I have been trying to confront a lot of my issues lately?  These thoughts and feelings are fresh, which can sometimes help me see the patterns or reasons for why I feel the way I do.

I cried all day on Sunday.  Listening to their otherwise charming conversation left me with a feeling of desolation.  I felt so lonely and isolated that I didn't even want to function.  I just cried.  It made me realize that, within my own family, I never felt good enough.  I was always told I wasn't good enough.  Nothing I ever did was good enough to deserve whatever it was I was looking for - love, compassion, kindness, understanding, empathy.  And for so much of my life I was told that I wasn't allowed to have feelings.  I wasn't allowed to talk about feelings.  I was always told my feelings didn't matter because I was a female and a child.  So I bottled everything inside.  I didn't have a choice.  Sometimes I was able to talk to my friends, but that quickly turns you into the friend that is always crying, always upset, always emotional, always too annoying to be around.

After my parents got divorced and my dad contacted child protective services about an incident in which my mom beat my brother with a belt (for like 36 smacks - I know because I counted from the safety of my bedroom), my dad took my brother and I to see a counselor.  We went into the counselor's office together, my brother and I.  It was dingy and sparse with a pale-colored wooden desk, stacks of papers, and a couple nondescript chairs.  I distinctly remember the larger than normal calendar on the wall next to the chair I was in.  See, since my dad always told me "what happens in this house stays in this house", I thought this visit to a counselor was a test.  I thought if I passed this test, I would finally be good enough. When the lady asked us questions, I sat still and quiet (and very proud of myself for not caving and saying anything).  I knew, per my dad's saying, that I wasn't supposed to talk about feelings or happenings or give any indication to anyone about what I was going through.  Instead, I stared at the large calendar on the wall and read the captions for things like "National Ice Cream Day" and "National Shake a Hand Day" or whatever other additional crazy days were noted there.  This was the first time I had ever heard they had national days for things, so that was amusing to my 13-year-old mind.  We were never taken back to any counselor, so I thought I had passed the test.

This feeling of never being good enough keeps coming up in multiple ways and in multiple parts of my life.  Having to bottle up my feelings to survive made me become the version of myself I thought most people wanted to see.  I was very happy at school. I laughed a lot - probably too much - and I tried to be the happiest "I'm FINE!" version of myself I could be.  This saved me from dealing with hurtful emotions and it made people like me more because I was happy and fun to be around.  Of course, this was all while dealing with the school version of the same emotional and mental abuse, being told I was too fat and too ugly on repeat.  Nobody knew I'd go home and sob into my pillow so no one could hear me.  Nobody knew how much I wanted to kill myself.  I hid it all well.  I have a friend from back then that I still talk to today.  I've mentioned some of these things I was going through to him in present-day conversations.  He said he never knew. He would have never guessed.  I hid it well.

Hiding it also means I wasn't dealing with it.  I have trouble to this day talking about my feelings to people in person.  That was an obvious roadblock I came across when I starting dating Sean.  I couldn't express my feelings in words at all.  It was incredibly difficult for me.  And I think that not being able to share my hurts with my friends now is part of what is making me feel so isolated and invisible.  Maybe if they knew what I was feeling they would see me more clearly.  I don't know.

I do my very best to not dwell on the past and to live as in-the-now as I can, but it has become increasingly clear that my past hurts are holding me back in the present - in ways I never even realized.  I like acknowledging where I have been to appreciate how far I have come; I've come a long way.  But until I confront these things I've been trying my whole life to forget, I don't think any progress will be made.  So here I am, talking to whoever wants to read this about how much I hurt so deep down inside myself that it sometimes feels like a deep hole I won't ever crawl out of.

There is a five year chunk of my life I've tried to block out.  My sister will ask me, "Do you remember this..?" And I don't.  I blocked it out.  I remember the screaming, the crying, the emotional/mental/physical abuse.  I remember being awakened in the middle of the night and forced to watch my parents fight.  I remember running through my house after my parents and seeing my dad slap my mom so hard she fell on the floor.  Clothing irons were thrown.  Death threats were made.  So I did what I had to do to survive.  I blocked out as much of it as I possibly could.  I saw a quote recently from a friend's Facebook page.  It read:

"The habits you created to survive will no longer serve you when it's time to thrive.  Get out of survival mode."

And I broke down.  I can't keep blocking out these things forever, just to survive.  I want to thrive. I deserve to thrive!  I'll be damned if I let my shitty family and all their shitty behaviors keep me from being my best self.

Just writing these thoughts down, even with the anxiety-inducing idea of sharing them, makes me feel a little lighter.  I've often relied on writing to ease me of some of the emotional pain I've had to carry. But if you are out there going through the same thing, I just want you to know you aren't alone.


  1. Thank you for sharing some of your story. It makes my heart hurt to know you had to go through all this as a kid and that you are still struggling with the I'll effects. I think it takes a ton of courage to be vulnerable like this. Sending warm thoughts. And if it helps at all to hear it from a stranger on the internet, you ARE enough.

    1. Thank you so much. It definitely helps - stranger or not. I was so nervous to share, but people have been so positive and understanding. It is so helpful to know I have positive, supportive energy around me.
      I certainly thought I would be over this stuff, or have moved through it, as I approach 40, but the ill effects are definitely more lasting than I imagined. I am glad though that I've made it to a point where I can see the effects for what they are. For example, the negative voice in my head that has always told me I wasn't good enough, that I was too ugly and worthless, isn't really my opinion of myself. I can see now that it is the voice of my mother that was just ingrained in me. Knowing this has made it easier to silence that voice. Progress is its own little victory. :-)
      Thank you again!

  2. I just kind of randomly stumbled across your blog, and I just wanted to tell you, you're not alone. I feel like that is an important thing to say because it is what my anxiety-driven brain likes to tell me in those kind of moments. I was in therapy for years after living with an abusive step-parent. I know all too well the need to people-please, the feeling of jumping through hoops to earn the love and approval of those around you. There are few people in life who ever showed me that unconditional kind of love. One was my Grandmother, who was a daily presence when I was small but after we moved away, I rarely got to see her. In some ways, one was my Mother. However, she was always the person I did the most bending for, especially in the last few years of her life. My siblings are 10 and 18 years older than I am..."hoops" are an understatement when it comes to earning their approval or respect. Or even just their recognition. My sister and I have been closer in the few months since my Mom passed, but it's already waning.

    Because of my step-mother, I've had weight issues since a very young age. I couldn't control what she did to me, but I could control food. Not eating it, purging it, binging on it. My self esteem was absolutely nothing, and it was compounded by the kids at school. It was so bad that I left school at 16.

    I still have trouble processing and voicing emotions. I think I'm stunted in that area, though I've been trying to grow and having a supportive and loving partner has helped exponentially. She puts up with a LOT from me and loves me regardless.

    My rambling and wordy and probably scattered point is this...You're not alone. The voice in your head is wrong. You're beautiful. You're worth the good things, and don't deserve the bad things. It's a reminder I need now and then, so even though I don't know you from Adam, I'm reminding you, too. :)

    1. An, thank you so much for taking the time to comment and speak to me. Your words mean so much. I hate that you had to go through the things you did, but there is some solace in knowing that other people understand, that other people get what it is like to live with these thoughts and feelings. It has been exhausting lately trying to keep reminding myself, and it truly helps when I hear it from someone else too. Thank you so much.