Limp Mode

Sometimes simplest things make you think about their deeper meaning.

A few weeks ago, I was out running errands with Sydney and my car broke down (yikes). We were pretty far from home and everything about this was less than ideal. I called the car dealer and explained the situation and they advised that if the car still moves I should bring it in immediately for service.  My next call was to OnStar to see if they could tell if my car was safe to drive and they said it was safe and that it went into “limp” mode. I was unfamiliar with the term so I asked them to explain its meaning.  It refers to a safeguard mode that occurs when your car is experiencing multiple issues (stresses) at once and will shut down the systems that are non-critical and slows down the engine so that it can remain safe to operate. I thought this was clever despite its very silly name. But it made sense. So, in the end I drove my car to the dealer and Syd and I eventually arrived safely – albeit very slowly.

I have pondered that phrase ever since that day. “Limp” mode was beginning to make a lot of sense to me in regard to many areas of my life. In fact, I think I may often revert to my version of “limp” mode as a safeguard for my sanity. Life with Sydney is stressful – just a fact. The stress level remains constant and without much reprieve. I have noticed that my mind and body have a safety mechanism in place when my stress level is too high for too long and I go into “limp” mode. Certain non-critical systems will begin to shut down. For instance, my ability to multitask will shut down and I can only truly do one thing at a time. My pace slows down tremendously and it takes me much longer to get anything accomplished. Physiologically, my heart rate drops and if I try to speed it up, I feel sick. I can still function but at a more basic level.  It is temporary and reversible but protects me from myself during particularly difficult times – not a bad thing.


I never appreciated this about myself until this event.  I am thankful for my response to stress and will not be going into the dealer anytime soon to fix it – it serves me well.