Are you familiar with “survival mode”?

If there’s one thing that you should know about my family, it’s that we are in survival mode.

For those of you unfamiliar with survival mode, it’s essentially when you are so far gone, overwhelmed, stressed out or overburdened, that all you can physically do, is struggle to meet your family’s most basic needs.

This often means that everything else, including laundry, dishes, housework, bills, yard work and social functions, are put on a back burner.

Food, clothing and shelter become the only needs that you can manage to meet.  The truth is that this can even be challenging.

So any families like mine, exist in a constant state of survival mode.

Survival mode can easily be mistaken for laziness and even bad parenting or irresponsibility.  However, nothing could be farther from the truth. 

My family has been in survival mode for years. 

In fact, survival mode was first explained to me by Gavin’s psychiatric professionals when he was very young.  They explained that we were in survival mode  because things in our life were so difficult and outside or our control, that all we could do was make sure that everyone had their most basic needs met.

We are still in survival mode to this day.


Our functionality is reduced to meeting only the most basic needs of our family. In other words, we meet or try to meet, the most basic things needed for physical survival.

This isn’t something that I nor anyone else has any control over. 

I try, unsuccessfully on most days, to push passed this and accomplish things that could help us to move forward.  Typically, that involves trying to bring in some sort of income.

However, even when I do manage to pull that off, the money is used for out of pocket medical expenses, gas for the car and any other absolute necessity.  Often times, many of our bills don’t make the cut. 

This is survival mode.

The kids are fed, clothed, sheltered and of course loved. We meet their medical needs and try for everything else….

Are we bad parents? I know that some might say we are and that’s okay.  They have absolutely no concept of what we live through each and every day.

My sincerest hope is that someone reading this can take what they’ve learned from us and apply it to someone in their life. It’s so much easier to simply judge someone based on what you see on the surface.  I’m asking you to be better than that.

I’m asking you to look beneath the surface and recognize that there just might be more going on than meets the eye. 

Can you do that for me? Can you do that for that someone in your life that may be going through a really rough time?

One of the worst things we can do to someone in survival mode is judge them.  If they are anything like me, they already feel plenty of guilt for not being able to do more. However, being met by someone with compassion and understanding can make a huge difference.

Your homework assignment is to look at someone  in your life, try really hard to reserve any snap judgements and remember that there is often more going on beneath the surface.

Your extra credit assignment is to try and identify whether or not there’s more to the story than meets the eye. 

I would love to hear about your experience. 

This site is managed almost exclusively via WordPress for Android. Please forgive any typos as autocorrect HATES me. 😉

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Rob Gorski

Full time, work from home single Dad to my 3 amazing boys. Oh...and creator fo this blog. :-)
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My fiance and I live in survival mode quite often, especially since his sister died three months ago. She was an ambulance driver, and a car collided with the ambulance and knocked it off the road and into a tree, killing my sister in law and the patient. Since then it’s awfully hard to find time for anything other than eating, sleeping, working and trying to feel okay about life.