What does it mean to be a victim? It means you feel powerless and completely out of control of your situation.
On days that your RA flares, your chronic disease rears it’s head, your cancer makes a comeback, you hurt, how do you avoid falling into the victim mindset?
For me, it’s days where my feet don’t cooperate and I fall out of bed and have to stumble around my apartment for a bit until they “warm” up. It’s days that my fingers cramp and my wrists ache so much it sucks to type or play video games. It’s days where I know exercising would help, but it sounds like the hardest thing to do.
On those days, it’s easy to want to play the victim card. Why have I been dealt this? Please take care of me. There’s nothing I can do, so I won’t do anything at all.
There are probably some benefits to being the victim every now and again. It means you’re more likely to ask for, and accept, help. It means you might take it easy. Maybe, just maybe, it means you’ll stop being so hard on yourself from taking a break (you are a victim after all).
But there’s also a whole host of negatives to letting your life or disease let you sink into a victim mentality. It makes you feel weak. I can’t play videogames because my RA is so bad. versus I need a break from videogames right now because my RA is flaring, but there’s plenty of other things I can do.
It makes you focus on the negative. My feet are so stiff, I fall out of bed in the morning. versus My treatment is working so well, it’s rare that I have these days where my feet are so stiff I fall out of bed in the morning.
It makes you angry. Why did this happen to me? What did I do to deserve this? versus Some things, like my getting RA, are out of my control, but I’m not my RA and I’m strong enough to deal with the symptoms.
It causes a spiral of depression. I can’t. Take pity on me. I need help. Why doesn’t anyone care or notice my pain? versus I’m having a bad day and could use a little extra help and support today. This is the stuff of victims. The stuff of sitting on your couch feeling sorry for yourself. This is the stuff of depression.
And depression is a BIG deal, perhaps especially for those with RA and other chronic diseases. It has been proven to worsen symptoms and those with RA have a higher chance of being depressed than those without (gee, wonder why?).
So how do you avoid being a victim?
When you’re feeling powerless, try to think of 1-3 things you do have power over. For example: I can’t control my flare causing my hands to swell and stiffen, but I can talk to my doctor about adjusting my medication, eat a diet that could help reduce swelling, and go out to a movie to distract myself.
Try to re-frame your inner dialogue. Look at the examples above. Try adding qualifiers such as “right now” to remind yourself that your situation is temporary. Remind yourself of your strength and the things that are going well.
Ask for help when you need it. Don’t just believe you deserve help and then feel sorry for yourself when you don’t get it. Tap into your network and accept support from those who love you.
Do you have any other tips for avoiding the victim mentality? I’d love to hear them!