Due solely to transportation problems, I dropped the psychologist I was seeing in Portland. We accomplished some valuable steps forward, but I have been forced, through public transportation, to miss as many of my appointments as I have made.. Today, I returned to a psychologist I worked with a few years ago. I relaxed into the appointment, happy not to have to start at the very beginning — I told her about the blogs, and my friends, my family and what I am trying to accomplish. We talked about my exercise regimen, and the immense value I find in that. Finally, she asked me if I needed to be in therapy.
I started to cry — I didn’t think of it then, but that question felt like just one more person not believing me when I say something is wrong. But I knew that was not why she asked. I told her about issues of anger and sadness I was still dealing with, and I gave her examples. Apparently, my bent towards passivity came into play, because she looked at me, tilted her head, and asked me, What benefit do you derive from your victimhood?
I was taken aback, and couldn’t really answer the question. She told me to think about it, and we would talk again at our next visit. Well, I thought and thought, and I am still thinking, and I know the answer is likely more complicated than my first response. But here it is:
I don’t get any real benefit out of my victimhood. In fact, the only reason I come up with, on first effort, is one I know is flawed, but nevertheless, I am going to write it down. I nurture my victimhood because, if I don’t feel sorry for myself, I firmly believe no one else will.
I talked this over with sister S., and she asked me why I would want anyone to feel sorry for me. Again, the first answer I came up with is likely not the complete or correct answer, but it’s a place to start. I feel, and have felt for most of my life that no one believes me when I say that I’m sick. Now, I know that isn’t literally true, but since I was young, I feel I faced diabetes alone. As it so happens, I learned recently that my diagnosing doctor told my parents to have nothing to do with my problems with diabetes, lest I become dependent on them for the rest of my life. This might have made sense, if I were 18; but I was 14, and a pretty immature 14, at that. My parents were following doctor’s orders — the responsibility was and is his alone.
Please, excuse my tantrum, but that pisses me off. I don’t know that I would have done everything differently, as concerns my health, but I have to believe that some sense of comfort might have formed a defense against my worst tendencies. Who knows, I might have learned to cope with diabetes in far more positive, less harmful ways. And that might well have provided me with a more hopeful, joyful attitude and life, and lessened or removed my tendency toward victimhood.
Although I remained emotionally immature for decades, time did pass, and I got along. Never really well, but for a while, in my twenties, I married a sweet guy, whom I did not appreciate anywhere near as much as he deserved. I was so invested in not being content; even when I was content, I wasn’t. And I blamed my husband for the problems in our relationship. In fact, I blamed him still, long after our marriage ended. Only in the last couple of years am I able to accept my responsibility in the difficulties of that marriage. And, of course, it’s way too late to change anything now.
Still, this doesn’t explain my identity of a victim. I realize now the personal stake I hold in the unhappiness of my life. I think, perhaps, that I am so afraid not to be a victim, because that is the person I’ve been for so many years. I fear that I don’t know how to be me, without the tale of woe I claimed for so long. I do forget, at times, to live my misfortune out loud. Often, however, I manifest the passive/aggressive victim in all her glory. I still don’t know what I hope to gain from this stance, but it feels as much a part of who I am as the newer, happier, more satisfied me I claim much of the time now.
The conclusion I reached, concerning my victimhood, is that the what and why are not as important as the how — as in how do I change this behavior for a more productive, comfortable, and helpful attitude, with regards to my past as well as my present? No answer right now, but understanding the question is half the battle, so I have made a good start.