Sunday, May 1, 2016

I'm Not a Victim, But Am I Vulnerable?

Fair warning...this is in NO WAY related to running. gets pretty deep. Dive in at your own risk.

In an effort to be part of a community of people who are having the same kind of symptoms as I am having, I joined a FaceBook group. Scrolling down the list of members I came across someone who "advertises" HE on the "about me" section.  When I visited this person's public page I saw post after post after post about "my very rare brain disease" along with what felt like every detail of every symptom. Now, this was supposedly done in the name of "awareness" but that's not what it felt like. It felt to me like a spotlight. "Hey look at me, I have a very rare disease and I want everyone to know my travails!"

To an extent, I get it. When people ask me "How are you?" I don't want to say "I'm good" because I'm not good. I write in this blog because I'm trying to process what is happening to me. I publish it (rather than keeping it in a private journal) to let people who care know what is going on with me.

I think there's a fine line between vulnerable and victim, and I'm not entirely sure where that line runs. I don't think it's a straight line and I don't think it's the same for everyone which makes it hard to pinpoint.

I want to be clear. I am not a victim. I don't feel like a victim and I don't have a victim mentality. I do not feel powerless and I don't feel like someone/something "did this" to me. I don't feel like this thing that is happening right now to me is completely outside of "my" control.

But maybe (just maybe) there's a polar opposite to victim mentality. Someone who feels in control of more than they really are. Someone who wants to control things that really aren't in her scope or her ability to manipulate.

Okay...we all know I'm talking about me here so let me just be vulnerable and honest.

There have been times in my life when I have been a victim of things that were outside of my control. In an effort to avoid feeling powerless I took on responsibility for those things. As an car was broken into when I was a senior in high school. It was in the shop being repaired from a little accident I had been in. The thief stole my stereo, speakers and my "class of 87" earrings. Let me pause and say I LOVED those earrings. They were given to my by my high school crush who passed away a few years ago. I was devastated at the loss of the earrings even though the stereo and speakers were worth a lot more monetarily. At the time, and many times over the last 29 years, I have thought to myself, "I should have taken those earrings out of my car before taking it to the shop." Or I have thought, "If I hadn't been dumb and caused the damage in the first place the car wouldn't have had to be in the shop and I'd still have those earrings." Yes, I get how stupid that sounds. Sure, the thief was wrong for breaking into my car but both statements really are true.

In an article titled "Why Do We Blame Victims" (Psychology Today, November 2013), the author says:
"...these victim blaming tendencies are rooted in the belief in a just world, a world where actions have predictable consequences and people can control what happens to them. It is captured in common phrases like "what goes around comes around" and "you reap what you sow." We want to believe that justice will come to wrongdoers, whereas good, honest people who follow the rules will be rewarded. Research has found, not surprisingly, that people who believe that the world is a just place are happier and less depressed. But this may come at a cost—it may reduce our empathy for those who are suffering, and we may even contribute to their suffering by increasing stigmatization. " 
The author goes on, in the comments, to say:
"And when (bad things happen to good people), it upsets our "good things happen to good people, bad things happen to bad people" belief. Because now, a bad thing has happened to a good person... It implies that even if we are good people, bad things can happen to us. Most people don't want to believe that, because then they would feel vulnerable. So instead, they look for ways to see the victim as a bad person, so that they can hang on to their own belief that the world is a fair and just place, and thus feel safe." (emphasis mine)
Bad things have happened to me when I was vulnerable. Even worse, bad things were done by the hands of someone who should have protected me. Rather than place fault on the wrong-doer, I took on a measure of responsibility that was honestly not mine. I made the wrong-doing about me. Because if it was about me then I had opportunity to change it. Do you see the power shift there?

I have done the same thing with race results. (What did I do wrong so I can change it and do better next time). I have done the same thing with this illness. I have wanted so desperately for there to be something I can control and change that has caused this thing to be happening in my brain because if that's not the case then it leaves me completely vulnerable to it and powerless against it.

I am perfectly fine being vulnerable when I know I won't get hurt. I can lay out my tender underbelly all day long if I have a measure of certainty that I won't be ripped to shreds. I can dare greatly when the stakes are low. But the feeling that bad things happen because I am not enough, I didn't do enough, I didn't plan enough, I didn't pay enough attention, I didn't anticipate enough...I don't know how to get around that. Letting go of that means I'm vulnerable to being a victim. Again.

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