Are you a victim or a survivor?

Living with a mental illness changes ones outlook on life.  Especially when you are confronted with the consequences of your illness.

For some it starts early in life,  messing up childhood and/or adolescence.  For some it happens later in life,  like the early twenties.  For others the diagnosis comes way later after having lived through a lot of heartache and ignorance of what is going on with them.

Whatever the moment the diagnosis is delivered,  it is sure to turn your life upside down.  On the one hand it is a relief to know what is actually going on.  On the other hand it is often a harsh confrontation with a chronic and life long illness that will require life long treatment.

What makes or breaks us,  however,  is our approach of who we are in the midst of all this.

Let me explain.

A victim,  according to the dictionary,  is an unfortunate person who suffers from some adverse circumstance or a person who is tricked or swindled.

At first we feel tricked and swindled.  How could this ever happen to me?  Why?  How am I supposed to live my life?  What consequences does it have on my career choice,  spouse,  friends,  family etc.?

Calling a mental illness an adverse circumstance is quite an understatement,  though!  And yes,  we definitely suffer from it,  as often do those around us.


We can become survivors.  The definition of a survivor, according to the same dictionary is someone who survives in spite of adversity or someone who lives through affliction.

With the proper care and support network in place,  those of us suffering from a mental illness can survive whatever their illness throws at them.  The hard part is that it is not a one-time-only event,  we go through adversity and affliction on a regularly basis.  Regular being different for each individual.

So,  who do you want to be:  a victim or a survivor?

Do you want to blame your illness for your behavior?  Or do you want to take responsibility?

While we can never be held responsible for having a mental illness,  I believe we can be held responsible for our response to having the illness.

It requires us to make choices when we are well enough to do so.  We need to build a support network to help us deal with any fall out our illness might bring.  We also need to allow people to confront us with our behavior,  before we get into a big mess,  getting hurt or hurting others.

It is not easy,  let me be very clear on this.  However,  it does not mean it can’t be done.  I believe by taking responsibility,  we are carving out a much better live for ourselves.  It will enable us to reach goals that otherwise we might not be able to.

But let me introduce you to a third concept concerning our approach of having a mental illness.

Becoming a master.

While not all definitions of the word master or the verb to master apply,  it is interesting to look at the following from the dictionary.

A master/to master is:
a ruler;
a battler,  fighter;
a learner (as in being a student)
to control (as in having a firm understanding and knowledge of);
to get the hang of it (as in being/becoming completely proficient or skilled in);
a victor,  superior (as in dealing with successfully);
a professional (as in having authority);
an original (as in the master copy,  there is only one).

The goal is to be able to rule over our illness instead of being ruled by it.  Therefore we battle and fight.  We have to learn and become a student of our illness,  our symptoms & triggers.  A firm understanding and knowledge of our illness and our symptoms gives us more control.  When we become completely proficient and skilled in all of this, we get the hang of it.  So we can deal with it successfully and become a victor.  And as a professional we gain authority in the area of our illness.

This is important because we are an original,  we are unique as there is only one of us!

While aspiring to be a survivor is commendable and not an easy thing to do,  I personally like to take it a step further and become a master of my illness.  It is a long process of which I am a student for five years now.  And I possibly will be a student for life.  It’s a good thing that I like to study :)!

What do you want to be(come):  a victim,  a survivor or a master?


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16 responses to “Are you a victim or a survivor?

  1. Jen

    THis is very true! The sickest people are always the ones who make themselves victims. (Meaning for physical sickness) I am a survivor of hurricane Katrina too!

    Stopping by from 31Dbbb

  2. Hi Jen, thanks so much for stopping by and showing comment-luv!
    I’m sorry you had to go thru Katrina – that is horrific! Good for you that you consider yourself a survivor! As far as I know you are all still living with the fall out, right?
    I positively love your blog – I have weight issues due to meds and slow watchamecallit pituary(?) gland. Will be a regular visitor!

  3. There’s a whole lot of healing energy in this post! I remember coming to this very same conclusion a few years back. I was a bank manager back then, and my branch was ‘victimized’ by an armed robber. Twice. Exactly one month to the day apart. As a result, I had to learn how to live with PTSD, also something that stays with you for the rest of your life.

    A pivotal point in the healing process is making the conscious decision to morph from a ‘victim’ into a ‘survivor’. Once you decided to do this, the entire healing process begins to snowball, and you soon find yourself beaming with strength you didn’t even know you had.

    Congratulations, Fenny. You seam to have made it through the toughest parts… May the remainder of your journey be filled with only the very best of outcomes! 🙂

    • Oh my goodness, Ginger! Thát is horrific! I can’t imagine how that must feel like, being in such a life threathening situation. You are one tough cookie to have gotten thru that, girl!
      I am all too familiar with PTSD 😦 and dealing with trauma isn’t for the faint hearted either.
      But there is truth in what they say: what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. You are a strong woman! And you rock!

  4. Tia

    I’m definitely a survivor and a master. I could call myself a victim, and I choose not to. It doesn’t have a place in my life. I have learned over the years to have empathy toward those who have become comfortable living life as a victim, but I just cannot do it. I always have to look onward.

    Great post, Fenny. 🙂


    • Thanks Tia, welcome to my blog 🙂
      Glad to find a fellow-survivor/master too! I can completely identify with what you say. I find that I have a desire to challenge people that there is more to life as a lot of victimism is learned and people don’t know any better. Oh well, what can I say: I’m a woman on a mission 🙂

  5. Hi Fenny,
    This is an amazing post!
    I have been very fortunate in life (knock on wood) that I am healthy. And I have had very few extreme circumstances where I would consider myself a victim and then feel I need to survive. That said, I still view this post as very inspirational for any situation in life in general.
    You are doing an amazing job for yourself and others!

    • Allie, sorry, I got your comment out of my spam filter only today… Future comments will not be spammed, though. Don’t know why it does that.
      Glad you have been fortunate – may it continue till the end!! 🙂
      Thanks for your comment and encouragement, I really appreciate that!

  6. Mental illness is hard for anyone because outwardly it doesn’t show as a handicap except say Linsay Lohan or Charlie Sheen where they are acting out so much and screwing up their lives and those around them.

    It is great you have found a way to use this forum to work through the difficulties and find support from others.

    Here is my latest post on one of the greats and his keynotes Gary Vaynerchuk

    • Hi Eileen and welcome to my blog!
      Well, those public figures are not the general public living with a mental illness. They give a bad press to people like us. But, it’s their lives.
      Thanks for commenting!

  7. sara

    I was recently officially diagnosed with bipolar type 1 and adhd, i am 25 years old and have had depression issues since i was a child but always kind of brushed it off as a phase and tried hard to just joke around and accept that i was “CRAZY”. I recently came to a point in my life where i even gave up what i loved and became socially isolated because i was tired of trying socially and failing everytime because (of what i know now is lack of impulse control). Now that i know it is forever and not simply a phase or growing pain it made it just a little bit harder. Where am i going with this? I want to say thank you for “coming out” with your experience with this illness, thank you for speaking up! We need voices in a world where no one thinks past the term “crazy”or “emo”. Thank you for making me feel like im not completely alone in this illness.

    • Sara ~ thank you for reminding me why I blog again! It is for precious people like yourself, so you find you are not alone and certainly not crazy in the sense the outside world sees it.
      In actual fact, you are pretty amazing, given what you are facing and have gone through already!
      You don’t have to fit in, be who you are, (not minding the ilnesses or whatever label they stick on you, be it doctors or others!!) and who youa re meant to be. Live your life as you only can.
      And who knows that when you find your feet (which I hope you do – with therapy and if needed meds) you will find that you can do what you love, again!
      I am so glad you came by and made yourself known, it is an encouragement to me – I am not alone either!!
      Take care of yourself!

  8. Ginger! Thanks so much for your encouragement! (((<3))) back to you 🙂

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