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In New Zealand we sure do have a lot of earthquakes! After a large quake, the aftershocks can go on for years. Big traumatic events in life are like that too. The ripples they cause can be felt like aftershocks for a long time afterwards.When I was eight my funny, intelligent dad tipped over the edge of insanity and committed a tragic act. Diagnosed with mental illness since his late teens, the pressures of life became too much and he suffered a schizophrenic break from reality.
Anyone who has experienced mental illness in their family understands the confusion, fear and shame that walk alongside it. When you factor in an uncomfortable societal attitude to the mentally unwell it makes dealing with it even tougher.
However, this is not about telling a sad story, we all know stories like this I’m sure. Bad things happen to good people all the time. My dad had to live with the consequences of his mental breakdown. As far as curve balls go, this is a big one. Everyone in the family is affected and some deal with it better than others.
The important question is…..what do we do with what happens to us?
After you live through an event like my family did, it would be easy to become angry and bitter at life. But this can have a profound effect on your ability to be happy and successful.
The thing to be wary of is letting yourself become a victim as it can take away your sense of control. Yes, you’ve been a victim of a specific event but living with that mind-set for longer than you should affects you negatively and keeps you stuck like so much Velcro.
There seems to be a strong victim mentality in society today. ‘Poor me’ is rampant. The problem is that it keeps you powerless, feeling that something outside of your control is running the show. It’s tempting to blame your upbringing, your parents, the fates and any other factors outside of yourself for why your life might not be as you want it to be.
The truth is you always have a choice about how you respond to what happens to you. Do you try and make good or do you let what has happened to you become an excuse as to why you can’t succeed in life?
Don’t get me wrong. This is not to trivialise tragedy. I know how it rocks you on your axis, so it’s acceptable to feel sorry for yourself after something bad happens to you. What is not helpful is to live there permanently. Feeling some self-pity is a necessary part of the grieving process and it allows you to wrap yourself in cotton wool, look after yourself and move towards healing. But you can’t stay there for the sake of your own mental well-being.
We don’t have control over everything that happens in our lives, but the most unhelpful response is to allow yourself to be disempowered by the things that happen to you. You are more than the sum of events you’ve experienced, good and bad.
Taking responsibility for your life means you’ve grown up and you’ll be surprised by how much power you actually do have. If you aspire to be a person who rises above the sometimes random stuff that happens, it’s important to try and take personal responsibility for your actions and decide to respond to life in a positive and affirming way.
I love this poem by D.H. Lawrence:
I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.
Take care and be kind to each other