Survival mode

“Jake isn’t Jake anymore, Quinn… We were trained the same way. We pushed him too far. He’s in survival mode. He’s got to that place where you don’t think. Where it’s just your five senses. Where all you do is react. Where killing is as easy as buttoning your shirt.” – Huck Finn, Scandal


I found this on Pinterest yesterday, and it struck me as a little bit funny because mine did, in fact, begin with a salad. It was only two and a half months later that the alcohol did a much, much better job of kicking off this story. And now, one year and four months later, that story has come to a dead stop.

For the past 72 hours, I’ve been trapped in a case of the proverbial writer’s block, not knowing how to continue writing, yet not able to erase any of it or pretend I never wrote it. I wake up terrified that I’ll spend day after day wondering if my story has to end up in the trash, or if I will finally be allowed to tell it my way.

I suppose it comes with the stress of a catastrophe that kicks the brain into survival mode. According to Medical Xpress, “almost instantly after encountering something terrifying, the brain gears up for an adequate response. This can happen within seconds. The resulting integrated state of body and mind is optimized to survive threatening situations.”

And that, I realize, is exactly what I’m in now: survival mode. Fresh off the horror of everything that happened last Saturday, capped by everything that I was forced to do in order to maintain an illusion of normalcy, my entire being feels as though it’s been shoved into an alternate universe. And even though this is not the first time I’ve lived through a situation like this, the only way I know how to deal with being thrown into an emotional landmine is to fight. To fight for my place, for my dignity, and for my self-worth, whatever the cost.

But now the pause in the battle has come, and I’ve been forced to stand down, no matter how terrified I am of losing, no matter how thoroughly I have to prepare for the worst. And that silence — that deafening silence that comes immediately after the roar of cannons — is the most difficult to fight. And yet I have to sit through the silence, and the only thing more terrifying than not knowing who wins the battle is not knowing how long the battle has to be fought.

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