Moving from Survival Mode When That is All You Have Ever Known

How do I not being in survival mode after a traumatic childhood, being in autistic conversion therapy, worrying about money all the time, being really down on myself, never being able to relax

Survival As a Child

Ever since I can remember, I was always in survival mode. Most people think of being poor as being in survival mode, but how I started off was much more than that.

If you saw my family, you would think we were a “normal” family. A Herero couple, a daughter and two sons. One of the little boys had a neck tick and everything else was normal if some people did not give it a second glance.

I was being bullied by one of my brothers and my parents thought it was funny. I will not get into the details. I was physically, mentally and emotionally abused by my parents because I was not normal. The irony is that I think my father is autistic.

I was in ABA from when I was young for about five years. I was always not good enough. My family had more than enough money but I was always “not worthy” of a lot of things, including affection. I am convinced this is the main reason I do not like to be touched.

Survival as a Young Adult

After I graduated high school, i left home to the furthest state college away from where I grew up but still being in New York State. I needed the in state tuition but being safely away from the family that raised me.

I was free of them. They could not get me in the mountains. But i was constantly on my guard and did not know how to exist on my own. I was lucky and my college roommate taught me basic life skills.

I had a basic paranoia. I thought people would leave me if I wasn’t who they wanted to be. To me, this was survival.

One holiday, my parents refused to let me come home and I was scared. A great friend of mine and her parents took me in so I had someplace to go. I am still forever grateful. I( still talk to her and her mom.

Soon after that, Nick and I met. We then got an apartment together with a roommate. This way I would have a place to go when school wasn’t in session. We were always hurting for money but we had each other and I was safe. His mom was always a strong support system and I am so grateful for her too.

Survival After Being Married and Moving to Florida

We had no idea what would happen moving to a different state. My parents were snowbirds there and Nick had gotten a better job and it was worth picking up and moving.

After we had kids (with much help from my doctor), we cut my parents out of our Iives for good when they would not respect my kids boundaries and expected me to reprimand them. Absolutely not.

I was always worried when I was out and about that I would run into them. I was always on my guard. I would check each parking lot for both their cars to make sure they weren’t there.

I was only able to relax during the half the year they were not in Florida. I was always worried about money because my parents told me I would never be able to do anything without them.

After a lot of therapy, I was able to take back a lot of my life after I kicked them out of my life.

Then the housing crisis in South Florida happened. I made decent money from my pet sitting business but it still was not enough to survive where we were at. Our rent went up $1,000 per month in one year. There was no way we could make this work. We had to do something. There had to be a change.

We both looked at houses back home in the Adirondack’s. We saw this house that was an assisted living house. Fully accessible but had 12 bedrooms. Each child could have their own room. This would be a dream for us.

I contacted the realtor, coincidentally was the owner’s son. He took us on a video walk through and we fell in love with the place. They arranged it so we could move in and rent it until we could buy it. Not only that, they would be paying for all utilities and providing snow removal. They even come by and salt our front porch because they heard that I fall pretty easily on the ice. I had arranged to get my old job back and that was not difficult.

I took in as many pets as I could. I worked 7 days a week to make sure we were able to get back. It took a lot of logistics, planning and money to get all 10 of us up to Upstate New York.

Transition to Life in New York

We moved at the end of November after getting rid of 75% of our belongings to make the move cheaper and easier. We only kept the kids belonging that they really wanted, irreplaceable things and things we absolutely needed.

Nick and I each drive Nissan Leafs. That means we had to stop 22 times to charge on the way up there and stop for 3 nights each.

Nick wanted me to leave first because I had all the pets and four of the kids. He handled moving our belongings up there between a mover and 2 Uboxes from Uhaul.

My car was packed but we drove up there with a friend and her son. I had gotten her a job where I used to work. We were set to start on December 12th.

The ride up was pretty uneventful. We had SNAP saved up to eat on the road. All we really needed to pay for was electricity and a place to stay for the night that was pet friendly.

The last night, I was worried about Nick and my other kids having enough money to get home. I drove for 24 straight hours from Virginia all the way to the house.

When we got there, I was worried how we would survive. The kids social security barely paid the bills but we had to eat. The DSS here was taking forever and I could not wait for them.

I wound up doing instacart deliveries just to bring money in for food while I was waiting to start my job. I was burned out and exhausted. I was worried about spending 1 dollar on something. I was trying to hide my worry from the kids, but they knew. I hadn’t opened my gaming PC since November. I was worried if I wasn’t working, my family would suffer.

After I started my job, I learned that I would not get paid for 3 weeks. I had to work full time and do instacart. When I wasn’t working, I was sleeping. The kids barely saw me.

What kept me going? My kids, my partner, knowing this was temporary and y’all. Y’all donated money for us to buy food so i could get a few days rest and I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it!

Two of my paychecks were spent paying for moving expenses. The second paycheck had to go in almost its entirety to paying Uhaul for the uboxes. I reached out to the local community to get us through 3 days so we could have food. The whole community reached out and helped. I was blown away by the community. We used to live here I should have known better.

Our holiday season was hard because I could not afford it. The kids were all happy with a cheap toy from 5 Below. They understood and I felt like I was the luckiest person in this world with kids like these.

Not Needing to be in Survival Mode Anymore

After my third paycheck, we started buying things we needed for the house on market place, groceries (especially the snacks the kids wanted and missed for so long because we could not afford it). After we were all set up in the house, I started to work on my credit. I was paying down loans, getting our cars current, paying back charge offs because when we have credit pulled for the mortgage they do not want to see us owing anything on anything except credit cards, our cars, current loans, etc.

The owner of the house wanted to know the plan on purchasing. We told them that we maxed our credit cards out due to our situation down in Florida but we have been paying things off. Our credit has been going up and they are being extremely patient.

As of now, we received our tax refund, paid off half of our credit cards, both cars are current, paid off 2 loans, etc. We are almost out of bad debt. This feels like a dream.

I was finally able to afford to get my kids haircuts, the dogs to the dog groomer, etc. These are the basic things everyone needs. We shouldn’t have to worry about these things.

About a week ago, I asked my partner if I should buy an iPad, Beats ear buds (for the hearing accommodation with an iPhone), new gaming headset and a new controller.

I fully expected him to tell me not to. I fully wanted him to tell me no. Instead he said yes I need these things. After I placed the order, I felt extremely selfish. Everyone I told yelled at me and that I deserved all these things.

This is when I realized we made it. I am making more than enough money to get us the basic necessities and a lot of the kids wants. Not only that, I do enjoy my job.

What is my job? I support disabled people in supportive housing. I am able to level with them and I am extremely open about my own disabilities and they respect me for it.

It doesn’t feel like work. I love going to work each day but I am happy to be home with my family when I am not at work.

After being able to buy an expensive toy for myself, it dawned on me. We don’t need to be in survival mode anymore but there is one problem. We don’t know how to not be in survival mode.

My parents don’t know where we are. We are financially stable. We are happy. The kids love going to school here. They are often spending time with friends on the weekend. None of this happened before and it’s overwhelming thinking about it.

A few people suggest EDMR therapy. I am definitely going to be looking into this.

I ran into people that i knew before I moved and it was great to see them again. I know we are going to be ok. I just need to know how to be ok.

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