A victim is defined as a person who is harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action. A survivor is defined as a person who survives, a person who continues to exist, a person who continues to live.
I had counseling yesterday. After 45 minutes of what I call cry talking, my therapist asked me a question. He said, “Janice, I believe that you have been through a lot of traumatic events, but are you a victim or are you a survivor?”. I said that I thought I was both and he asked me, “Do you want to live as a victim or as a survivor?”. The way he described part of my life, really opened my eyes to something. He explained that when I was little, each time a trauma happened it fed what he called a terror monster. When I was little, my little fears fed my little terror monster. As I grew older and experienced more, the fears got bigger and so did the terror monster. I am at a point now where the terror monster is in charge and I am lost somewhere watching this monster run my life. For example: I love the outdoors, love the mountains, and hiking. I used to go almost every Sunday with my husband. I was always worried about snakes, but I went anyway. At some point the terror monster convinced me that I should not go hiking anymore because of the what if’s. What if I am hiking and a snake jumps out of the forest and bites me, what if I fall and die, what if there’s a sniper in the forest who wants to shoot hikers, what if…what if…what if. I used to enjoy going downtown, I used to enjoy going for walks, I used to enjoy a lot more than I do now that the terror monster is in charge. In other words, I’m living as a victim. I read a meme earlier that said, “you play the victim so well, I’m surprised that you don’t carry around your own body chalk”. Kind of funny, but kind of true.
So how do I get rid of the terror monster and take control? I have been thinking a lot about this most of the night. I don’t like to sleep at night because the terror monster has me convinced that I’ll die in my sleep, swallow a poisonous spider, or someone will break in while I’m sleeping. Anyway, I think that if every time, the terror monster says “what if”, I try to think of what I can do instead of what could go wrong if I do something. So instead of sitting around crying about my childhood, I will think, I survived and I’m now an adult. Was I a victim of molestation? Yes, but I’m also a survivor. Was I a victim of mental and physical violence in my first marriage? Yes, but I survived and I got out alive. Some people can’t say that. So, thank you Dr. Feder for helping me see that I was living as the victim and letting the terror monster run the show. Now, it’s time to be the person who survived, a person who continues to exist, and who continues to live.