Victim To Surviving To Living
I am currently 39 years old. It took me a long time to understand who I was standing between the two worlds of past victim and present time. I choose not to use the word "survivor" as the opposite of victim because a survivor implies that I am surviving rather than living. And living is so much better than surviving.
I started as a victim, as I was a victim to circumstances growing up that I had no control over. I was a small child and did not have the abilities or knowledge of an adult.
I existed as a victim and unconsciously re-victimized myself over and over and over until I was in my late 20s. Once I was diagnosed and began to receive treatment, I still saw myself as a victim. As my knowledge and awareness increased and with significant time spent in therapy, I then moved into the new area of considering myself to be a "survivor."
I moved through my existence as a survivor for a long time, and although very worthwhile, I found that to be tiring. Seeing myself as a victim was thoroughly exhausting--surviving was better, but not by a wide or significant margin. It was the fatigue that was different (trying to function in the dark versus trying to function with new "informative" light). Surviving was a time of realization, a time of transition, a time of formation for whom I would eventually turn out to be. The time of survival was needful, just not a place I wanted to remain for the rest of my days.
During the time periods of victim and survivor, I let my past haunt me all the time. The only difference was that as a victim, I did not consciously express my anger or sadness. During survival, I was consciously aware of my anger and sadness and was not able to regulate the hold these emotions had on my everyday living or how they colored my present world. While surviving, I continued to keep myself "on the hook" for what had occurred in my past and morphed into PTSD, depression and anxiety. Half the time I took on all the responsibility for myself; the other half was placing blame on everyone else. Not pleasant. What began to move me through and out of survival was the idea that my past does not need to define who I am in the present.
The first leap into "living" for me meant understanding that I am a person who is capable of a range of emotions and this range is a spectrum of ugly to beautiful. Neither end of the spectrum is good or bad: it simply is.
The second leap, and perhaps the one that had the greater impact, was the notion that any sadness or anger or frustration I felt was temporary. Reinforcing the idea that a bad or difficult moment regarding the depression, anxiety or the even full force front of a PTSD resurgence was only a temporary occurrence was the nail in the coffin (so to speak) on my past issues and how I defined myself. It hammered home the concept that the bad times will indeed pass and I will not need to remain there long if I reach out for help and assistance. I am not an island (although I thought I wanted to be for a long time).
The fundamental aspect of living, for me, is the knowledge that the state of being of peacefulness exists within me. Peacefulness is my center, my grounding, the state that serves me best. The ability to live fully and well is the direct result of experiencing peacefulness: I am calm, I can breathe freely, I can think and reason clearly, and I am grounded in the knowledge that I am capable to take on the challenges that show up. I also no longer need to be so serious about the small stuff, and I will now laugh loud and long and even snort on occasion.
Sometimes, particularly when in the full storm of a resurgence of the PTSD, I feel that I may never move beyond that time of feeling engulfed by the intensity of my emotions. I feel that I may not escape this time; and that this time I will not be able to climb out and escape. I now know this is the PTSD talking, not me. It is the illness, not me. I need intensive intervention in times of a severe PTSD resurgence to remember this very important fact, but the time to recapture the sense of it being temporary is becoming shorter as I grow older. Thank goodness! I do not like losing the feeling that I am capable, but it happens. And sometimes it takes a long time to remember that feeling and begin to live it out again.
Knowing that I may need the strong pull of support and guidance from time to time can be an overwhelming thought. It is also an overwhelming thought that I have the ability to live peacefully and happily. The ideas are equally powerful; it is simply the illness that creates the doubt. If I may remember that, I have access to the tools necessary for me to live out the majority of my future with the peacefulness and happiness I have so come to enjoy.