How I Moved Beyond Feeling Like a Victim in Life With Dystonia
The term “victim mentality” refers to people who blame someone or something else for the unpleasant things in their life. It helps us rationalize why we are not growing and moving forward. “Victim mentality” also applies to people who believe that undesirable life circumstances only yield negative outcomes.
Feeling like a victim is normal when diagnosed with a serious health condition, but it is self-destructive if we remain in this state of mind. We can become isolated, depressed, bitter, angry, and resentful. This is exactly what happened to me in 2001 when I developed dystonia.
I was only focused on myself and constantly upset with all the things I lost and could no longer do because of my physical pain and movement limitations. I was stuck in a “Why me, poor me” frame of mind. It got me nowhere but depressed. I had to change this question if I wanted freedom from my mental anguish. Instead of asking, “Why me?” I began asking, “Why not me?” “How can I learn to live with dystonia?” and “How can dystonia help me learn and grow?”
I was no better or worse than anyone else, so if it happened to me, so be it. There was nothing I could do to reverse things so I needed to come to terms with it and maybe even find the good in it, even when I was in ridiculous pain and could barely function. There was nothing inherently wrong with what happened to me. Life just gets really hard sometimes — for everyone. The only thing wrong was my perception.
A big part of being able to break out of the victim role is focusing on what I can still do and then getting passionate about it. I also practice gratitude for literally everything in my life. This helps me see all the good things going right for me and less about all the challenges.
I also had to release the past. It was a process that began with the understanding that certain things do not last a lifetime, so I thought of all the good times I had — playing sports, for example — said thank you for all those times, and let them go. I had to say goodbye. I had to release the past so I could live in the present and focus my energy on the direction my life was heading.
It was hard work, but I eventually came to understand that change is a natural part of life over which we have little to no control. Just ask any aging person about their former abilities compared to their current abilities. Healthy aging requires accepting change just as healthy coping with any health issue or life-changing circumstance requires accepting change. It is a process that unfolds one day at a time. I believe we just need to allow ourselves to let it unfold so we are free to live our current lives.
When I focus on the abilities I have now, I have greater peace of mind and less stress. With my mind at ease, my body is more at ease, which increases my level of ability. The acceptance/gratitude approach might seem infuriating when an illness takes over your body, but without a calm, peaceful mental state, the body will always remain in trauma and never reach a healing state.
We will have many storms throughout our lives, and they can help us grow if we look at them as opportunities and not obstacles. Instead of running from or trying to avoid the storm, it is best to find a way to dance in the rain.
Getty image by Lisa Bronitt.