I’ve Got This!

drawing of a woman holding her hands to her ears so she doesn't have to listen to her voice of survivalI was one of those people for a long time. You know the ones who think they can figure out everything on their own—no need to share my thoughts with anyone else because other people are not helpful. I mean, other people never helped me when I needed it the most. Other people denied my truth that kept me trapped within the cycle of parent-child abuse. The voice of survival was powerful back then.

Through all of the years of feeling that I needed to rely on only myself, I learned to interpret the world through the voice of survival. A considerable part of the voice of survival was (and is) to see me as my savior. There was no other way for me to survive except to fold in upon myself, to become my knight in shining armor.

Never on My Own

Yes, other people in my life helped me immensely when I needed it the most. One person, in particular, provided me a safe place to live and tried to help me quiet the voice of survival. It didn’t work as well as she or I had hoped.

But I didn’t know how to do that then. I was still so very raw from having to fight against the barrage of verbal abuse that my mother had subjected most of my life. I had no idea what it was supposed to feel like to be safe. It was a foreign concept to me then. In some ways, it still is to me now.

Do I Really, Though?

I became so good at listening to that voice of survival and convincing myself that I had this. Whatever ‘this’ is. Life? I guess. I never asked for help. Nor do I show that I need it. I push through because I think I have to. I don’t tend to open myself to other people, even to know that I need help.

Case in point. It is now over two years ago that my husband told me that I needed help. I think he had been trying to figure out a way to help me and realized that he couldn’t. It was what I needed to hear at that moment. I knew that I was wallowing. I could feel the darkness coming over me.

I could not admit that I was struggling with anyone. And I certainly could not admit that to myself. I couldn’t live in a world that I couldn’t rescue myself. Until I had to shift my perspective and realize that no one does anything alone, yeah, try telling my voice of survival that.

Help, Me

My voice of survival does not allow me to ask for help. I think that voice is probably my amygdala or critter brain, as my therapist and I call that little area of the brain. Trying to convince my critter brain that everyone has helped, that everyone needs help, including me, is no easy feat.

I know from reading the stories, listening to podcasts that most people helped get to where they are today. No matter what the situation, the goal, or the dream. Those dreams did not come to fruition in a vacuum. There is always someone supporting, standing next to, and providing words of encouragement. I know that. Trying to solidify that into my head, I repeat it over and over. But it doesn’t want to stick.

Over time I realized that I need others’ help. Okay, over time, as in just the other day, I realized that I need other people to help me through this process. My therapists (current and former) have been a massive part of helping me to see that I can’t nor do I have to do this alone. The different perspective that she provides is an invaluable part of my healing.

Voice of Survival

drawing of a woman talking with her amygdala or critter brain telling her critter brain to relax as the critter brain states that there is danger everywhereI thought once I figured out where that voice was originating from, I could simply turn off that voice. Yeah, that is not how that works. That voice is essential to my general well-being. The amygdala is the oldest brain structure and is the one that has kept us alive for thousands of years. I need that voice, but I don’t always have to listen to it.

What I discovered is not listening doesn’t mean trying to drown it out. It means acknowledging that my critter brain is chittering away about something. I need to look at that something to see if it is necessary to go into several survival modes. Most of the time, it isn’t survival as in life or death, which was the amygdala’s original role.

Shh Voice of Survival

What does that look like, you ask? What I do is within my mind, to identify the situation, acknowledge what about that situation makes my critter brain want to react. Then I talk myself through the problem.

Much of the time, I envision my critter brain looking a bit like Chicken Little, running around yelling that the sky is falling. At first, I want to react because HOLY SHIT, THE SKY IS FALLING! But then I take a moment. I realize that the sky is not falling. And then I take a breath. I tell myself that the sky is not falling. And I take another breath.

Eventually, I have worked through and calmed my voice of survival.

Sources Cited

  1. Joan Rosenberg, Ph.D. (April 2, 2019). What Makes it so Hard to Ask for Help? Psychologytoday.com. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-mastery/201904/what-makes-it-so-hard-ask-help
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