We all have had unfortunate events happened to us. We may have lost a job, friendship, a relationship, health, physical ability, financial stability, freedom to do things we used to enjoy (like during this quarantine time), or we may have lost loved ones, including pets. For some of us, worse things, unimaginable things have happened to us. It makes sense that we feel like a victim. After all, we didn’t choose to experience those terrible things.
No one can deny the above facts. No one can argue that as a result of those bad experiences, we may feel as if we have been riding on a roller coaster of emotions such as intense sadness, paralyzing fear, shame, guilt, anger/rage, nervousness, jealousy, hopelessness, helplessness, confusion, disbelief, and overwhelmed, to name a few. We feel out of control so we don’t realize that we can choose to get off of the roller coaster that seems to go at a dizzying speed. And since our emotions drive our behavior, we may end up behaving erratically and experiencing even more unfortunate circumstances or additional losses. And the roller coaster ride continues…
I remember when going home to an empty house was so depressing and meal times were unbearable. The empty chair was a constant reminder of my loss. I felt so lonely and sad. So I went out to eat with my daughter way too often in those days to feel less alone. Before I knew it, I had spent a lot of money eating out, visiting parks and zoos, getting my daughter signed up for expensive extracurricular activities…all because I tried to avoid the discomfort of being alone. And who could blame me? I had the perfect excuse. So what if I didn’t watch our spending? So what if I didn’t have enough money at the end of the month? So what if I eventually crashed and burned?
Or when I would stay up late and watch TV to keep me company at night, because sleeping was scary—sleeping meant I was not in control of my body, my home, my life. I sometimes read until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, and forced myself to get up at 6 AM to get my daughter ready for school. I was always tired and cranky. Everyone would understand and empathize with me, knowing my story. So I thought it was normal and acceptable.
But the problem with playing the victim as I did was that I would feel entitled to behave badly regardless of the consequences. When consequences came around, I had the perfect explanation to back them up, keeping me stuck as a victim. And a victim doesn’t have any responsibility. After a big loss, who wants to be the responsible one? But eventually the consequences caught up with me. I couldn’t pretend I was okay anymore. And I felt defeated, not to mention disgusted with myself.
Then the “aha” moment hit.
Things were not going to get better unless I made them better. There was no point in waiting for Prince Charming (or whoever) to rescue me, or a great job to suddenly land in my lap, or the motivation to do better to miraculously show up while I slept. I was it. Whether I liked it or not. I had to become the rescuer I had been waiting for. I had better stop playing the victim and pick up the role of a victor--the one who’d better start taking different actions to get different results, to feel less defeated!
It was hard to muster the courage to step outside my comfort zone so I could begin to create possible solutions for my situation. At first I could only take a baby step. But a small step gave me just enough momentum to lead to another step, then another one, and so on. With each step, I gained more confidence, and eventually I was ready to take the big leap.
You know what the miracle was? When I was willing to fully take responsibility for my circumstance, and was willing to take actions, heaven sent me “earth angels” who lent me a hand, supported me, guided me, and taught me what I needed to know. They were my training wheels while I was learning to ride a bike and maintain my balance. Eventually, I could ride the bike without the training wheels and exclaim, “Look, Ma, no hands!”
Life definitely feels a lot more meaningful and rewarding when we take on the role of the creator of our experience, rather than the victim of our circumstance!
P.S. I sought professional help getting off of that roller coaster. And it was not easy. So go ahead and call for help if you need to. There is no shame in getting help.