Perseverance And Fighting On
CW: mention of suicide (no details), mention of trauma (no details)
Perseverance is for many linked to concepts of hope and motivation. People want to show to themselves and the world that they can get something done. You challenge yourself or you accept a challenge. You don’t want to give up but push through so you get that medal, that promotion, that applause. Perseverance is not a must for most people. It is okay for them to give up sometimes. They can pick another challenge. Life goes on when they don’t succeed. But for some of us, to persevere means to survive. Without constantly fighting, we would drown.
I need to push myself every day. I need to push myself even though I want to give up. Even though I feel hopeless and helpless, and I don’t necessarily want to go on. In my mind, it is a constant battle between wanting to go on, and wanting to give up. But my give up is not your give up. My give up is suicide, is not taking care of my basic needs anymore, to neglect managing my illnesses.
It is hard to be me. Boohoo, right? But it is. I struggle every day, and every day there is some extra spice that makes life even harder for me. When you have severe mental illness, and a bunch of additional physical chronic health conditions, it is easy to just let it all go, stay in bed and well, wait for death. And damn it, I have been there so many times. I think I have even been there today. But those moments don’t last as long anymore.
I think it is okay to give up sometimes. To just allow yourself to scream it all out, to cry it all out, to hide in bed and just don’t want to fight anymore. It is okay to do that. It is all about picking yourself up after that again. A good cry, a good breakdown, can actually be relieving and can help you regain some motivation and willingness.
A lot of people need some external motivation to carry on and do what they need to do, or reach the goals they set for themselves. I don’t really have any major goals, and I don’t have a lot of responsibilities for others. But I admit that sometimes, all that keeps me alive, is my Master and our relationship. For a long time, I felt really really bad about this. People tend to say that you need to want to live for yourself, that you need to want to be good for yourself. But you know what? You don’t need to at all. It is your life, and whatever keeps you alive and going, is a good thing. May it be another person, your cat, or just wanting to experience the next summer.
Perseverance as a Trauma Survivor
As a trauma survivor, perseverance has for me been a lot about getting through difficult situations without giving up. Now, the trauma illnesses that follow long term childhood trauma kind of do the opposite with you though. You feel constantly helpless and hopeless. Because that is how you felt during the traumatic situations, right? You couldn’t stop it, you were stuck, and it might even now still feel like you gave up.
But really, your mind and body didn’t give up. Because you are still alive. Something inside you, helped you survive. You are still here today because you had perseverance. They are the basic trauma reactions: like dissociation, freezing, fawning. Your brain engaged one of those to help you get through something awful, with a tiny tiny hope in the back of your mind, that the situation wouldn’t last forever. So you fought, in your own way. That is how it feels like for me. I fought. In its own way, my brain fought. I developed different alters and Dissociative Identity Disorder because that is what my brain picked to be the best way for me to survive.
Well, but now I am stuck here. Still alive, still constantly hopeless and helpless, having all these new challenges, and the old ones still visiting me in the forms of flashbacks, and nightmares and unhealthy behavioural patterns. And I still play dead and freeze sometimes and can’t deal with what is thrown at me. And sometimes, as mentioned above, I go into some suicidal land that seems like the best destination at the time. Those were all coping strategies for a long time, and I won’t be able to shake them off many more years.
I end up with those unhealthy coping strategies when I see no way out. When I am so scared and anxious, that I don’t think fighting or carrying on might make a difference at all, but would only make it worse. Someone who has been through complex trauma, gives up easily. Because they are used to being stuck and unable to make a difference. For me that often happens when I have health issues and I just automatically think that I am dying and will be unable to change that fact, because no one can help me and others deserve the effort more anyway.
These days that is definitely the Covid-19 situation for me. I have underlying health issues and although none of them are out of control, and I am just 38 years old, I am convinced that if I catch it, I am going to die alone at a hospital. I feel helpless and hopeless, so I don’t do anything else but play dead. Maybe not the worst approach because then I won’t leave the house. It doesn’t help that I have been feeling under the weather the last two days. I freeze, I don’t fight, I give up.
What Helps Me
But, I also don’t. There are a few things that have helped me with perseverance. Some more healthy than others. There is definitely my Master. I want to be a good submissive, and I want to hear the “good girl”. I don’t want him to feel bad because he sees me giving up. But it isn’t only that.
I also have something that I call Mission Lady Mode. It is an alter in my DID-system, who just takes over and does things when things need to be done. I don’t have any control over it, but suddenly I have done the chores, I have written the post, replied to the emails or cooked the dinner. Part of this has to do with self-respect. We don’t want to die or give up, without a fight. I want to see myself as someone who at least tried. I want to die trying, in most cases. It is how I want to see myself, but also how I want others to see me.
But one of the most important skills that I have acquired is called opposite emotion, something that I have learnt in therapy a long time ago. I also very much link it to the idea of “as if”. Let me explain!
Opposite emotion is basically going against your emotion. You might be scared, helpless, hopeless or have no confidence about handling a situation. But you do it anyway. That sounds superhard, and you know what? It really is! What I tend to do is to focus really hard on pushing away the feelings that overwhelm me and take a step towards not following their screams that would lead me into the abyss. Let’s say you need to make a difficult phone call and you are really anxious about it. What I’d do would be to take a deep breath, to push away all those feelings for a second, dial the number and just do it.
Act “As If”
This is kind of linked to a therapy tool that is called “as if”. Again, superhard. You basically are supposed to pretend a situation is not scary or overwhelming. Or your view of the world is wrong. My example with the Covid-19 would work well here. “I am going to die if I catch this illness, and I am already feeling weirdly under the weather. I should just give up and wait for death.” So what I do is that I instead take a positive approach and act as if that more positive approach is true. There is no need to believe it is true. I just need to act as if it were true.
“The likelihood of someone as young as me dying from it, is low, even with some underlying health conditions. And I don’t have any proper symptoms yet anyway. So I can just carry on with my day to day life at home and work on my to do lists.” – It is a more positive perspective. I don’t necessarily believe it because my anxiety tells me otherwise. But still, I act as if it were the truth. So I get up, shower, eat and manage my illnesses, I hydrate, I write, I send in pitches, do online facetime meetings about future projects. It takes a lot of strength to do that. But in the end, it is worth it. I worked on my self-respect, and I have shown myself that I am able to do things despite my overwhelming emotions.
Perseverance is hard for most people, because everyone feels like giving up sometimes. I believe it is even harder for those who have been through complex trauma, because we are so used to feeling hopeless and helpless. But we learnt how to survive, and with some additional tools, we might actually be better equipped to persevere than many others are. Our brains are stubborn and know how to get us through tough times, after all, and not much can shock us anymore.