I have lived through numerous traumatic experiences over the years.
As I’ve alluded to before, I’m not ready to share the details of what I’ve been through, but I have an inkling I will disclose some pretty heavy stories sooner rather than later.
Suffice it to say, I could consider myself a victim because of the trauma I’ve been through.
But I don’t.
Did some really crappy stuff happen? Absolutely.
Do I sometimes throw myself pity parties? Yes, but I have intentionally surrounded myself with friends who refuse to accommodate me in those moods, and I’ve gotten a lot better at keeping things in perspective.
Seeing myself as a victim would be accepting defeat. It would entail lying down and making excuses for why I shouldn’t be responsible for my own actions. Being a victim implies someone isn’t able to move on from the trauma. That might sound harsh, but people do not have to be defined by their horrible experiences.
It is a choice.
In addition to my childhood trauma, I’ve also lived through a psychotic break. I was given the life-altering diagnosis of bipolar disorder; that in itself turned my world upside down.
Being diagnosed with a mental illness at nineteen seemed like an insurmountable death sentence.
I have to take medicine for the rest of my life?
I have to live with this illness every single day?
What a horrible existence.
Or so I thought.
My life is much richer and more fulfilling because of my swift and accurate diagnosis and my amazing psychiatrist who has easily navigated the medication behemoth that is bipolar.
Accepting my diagnosis was the best decision I’ve ever made. Bipolar doesn’t define me, but it is a constant companion. I honestly do not know who I would be without it.
I live in hypomania (whoooop!!) about 60% of the time. Truly, I feel sorry for people who never get to experience hypomania.
Hypomania gives me energy and creativity not seen in the general population. I am productive and deliberate in hypomania. I’m my best self when hypomanic, especially with the strain that doesn’t involve irritability.
I have done more than accept my illness. I’ve chosen to embrace it and use it to help others.
Hypomania is great, but it cannot last forever, and I have bouts of depression as well. Those suck some serious straws, but you know what? That aspect of my illness has gifted me with the ability to sit with people in their pain.
I have enough empathy for ten people. I literally hurt and ache when my friends are suffering. I wouldn’t have that empathy without my own experiences. Even though it’s painful, I wouldn’t trade that empathy for anything. Even perpetual hypomania.
The depression keeps me honest. When I’m in the midst of it, it feels endless, and the inevitable suicidal ideations are scary. I have prayed for death countless times in the throes of depression. I hate them, and I am ashamed of them.
I recently spoke with a friend who was having some niggling thoughts of death for the first time, and they really freaked her out. I understand those thoughts forwards and backwards, and I was able to help her through them.
Since that interaction, I have felt called to pursue being an advocate for people with mental illnesses, or in the case of my friend, being a sounding board for people going through a rough patch emotionally.
If I saw myself as a victim, I would not be a good advocate.
Victimhood is passive.
Victimhood is staying down after being knocked around a few times.
Victimhood is easy, and it is unfulfilling.
Victimhood is accepting defeat and refusing to believe things will ever be better.
Victimhood is feeling sorry for yourself and letting your trauma set the guideposts for your life’s trajectory.
Victimhood rots you from the inside out. You decay slowly and painfully. You fail to see all the good because you are so focused on the past.
Victimhood is a cancer.
It is human nature to feel like the victim when something bad happens, but survivors handle adversity differently.
Surviving is proactive.
Surviving is getting up no matter how many times you’ve been knocked on your ass.
Surviving is arduous, and it is rewarding.
Surviving is hitting life back and refusing to think the world is ending because something is hard.
Surviving is embracing your struggle and knowing you are stronger for it.
Surviving is energizing and authentic. When you choose to be a survivor, you choose life and discarding the crap that’s happened to you.
Surviving is the antidote to trauma.
When you choose to be a survivor, you become a skilled surgeon, removing a tumor that will metastasize and slowly suck the life from your soul.
You will have scars, which will serve as reminders. It’s important to remember where you came from. The scars are what give you empathy and strength.
I choose to be a survivor.
What do you choose?