Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness, Addiction, and Abuse (c)2018 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries
You have a PhD in your story. You know the level of anguish you suffer(ed). You are aware, or becoming so, of the confusion, roles people play, and how trauma affects your thinking. Perhaps you do not know what to do about it- that’s ok for now- however, you can validate yourself. Your experiences matter. You matter.
This post is not about blaming you for your pain. Instead, my hope is to give you a springboard to challenge falsehoods you may have always believed. Freedom comes with the truth, remember? So let’s explore some of it.
(1) Victim identity. You were once a victim and are no longer. Or perhaps you remain in a situation that causes you harm. Either way, you do not have to limit the definition of who you are to “victim.”
You are so much more! You are a human being with the ability to think and reason. Even where confusion or mental illness interfere, you have the power to make at least this one quality decision: will you pursue change?
(2) Feeling stuck. We are each responsible for our happiness. I know, I know, people get in the way of that. We cannot control what other people do. We can only control how we react.
A therapist once said, “Pain happens. Suffering is optional.” I take that to mean that you and I can extend our suffering by accepting it verbatim. We can say, ‘Oh well, this is my lot in life,” or we can choose to reach out for help, to learn how to recover and become separate from our tragedy.
(3) Worth. We become our worse enemy when we repeat lies and deceptions to ourselves. Someone taught me I am worthless unless a man says otherwise. When I think of all the times I allowed that to dictate my response to life, it is striking. Ultimately, that false belief nearly killed me.
It’s a vital distinction between BEING worthless and making worthless choices. We all screw up. There is plenty to regret. Today however, I fight to make healthier choices, the kind that help other people and me.
You too are inherently worthwhile. Liars try to teach you otherwise. Instead of reinforcing the negative in your mind, how about looking in the mirror and smiling? Say, “I am valuable” until you believe it. No one has the power to decide you are worthless- not even you.
(4) Reality. Is the impossible actually possible? Other people have made it through and talk about how life changed for them. AH, so change IS possible. A more revealing question you may ask is, “what about me?”
There was a time I did not believe change was possible for me. Hope was 100% gone. Yet change occurred anyway. Quite simply, I was wrong in my assessment. Major depression skewed my thinking while truth remained the same: I had, and always did have, the ability to know freedom and joy.
Blindness to options made it impossible without help. That brings us to our fifth challenge.
(5) Messengers . People fail. A male therapist joked, “Men suck.” He knew how many of his female clients had been hurt in some way by a male figure. Nonetheless, we all hurt each other whether through ignorance, insensitivity, or outright selfishness.
Since the folks who taught you in some way that you deserve to be victimized or that you brought it on yourself, are indeed people, we can assume they failed. What if they were liars, or narcissists, or psychologically impaired? What if they were evil, or didn’t know better?
What if they were WRONG? That changes everything, doesn’t it?
(6) Being alone. The world is full of hurting people who think they are the only ones who experience the thoughts, habits, quirks, pain, confusion, and emotional distress that they feel. Oddly enough, we are all much alike.
I’ve heard repeatedly in support groups and in conversations other people express ideas I once believed were mine alone. Uncertainty, fear, and distrust of ourselves and others are common. Each of us struggles with damning thoughts and difficult-to-function days. Many deal with PTSD.
No, you are not alone with uncomfortable and guilt-ridden thoughts and behaviors. One of the best ways to discover this truth is to share your experience with others in a safer environment like a support group.
Finally, as a follower of Christ, I would be remiss not to mention how close I know Jesus is when I hurt. Even when all I wanted was to die, my Savior did not let me go of my heart.
Loneliness comes and goes, suffering lingers and passes, memories of victimization wax and wane. Some days cloud nine is far below, other days the silver lining is tarnished and dull.
Yet I am no longer a victim! And will never, ever walk alone.