Blaming the illness gives patients a way out; a way to not be responsible for the difficulties they are facing. But something happens when you blame the illness — you become a VICTIM of that illness.
And being a victim leads to a feeling of helplessness. If you are a victim, then something was done to you, forcefully and against your will.
You hear the phrase “don’t blame the victim” a lot. In the media people are accused of “victim blaming.” And I agree wholeheartedly — you should NEVER blame the victim. But, let’s be absolutely clear about what makes a victim. If someone is raped, beaten, murdered, molested, etc… she or he is a victim. If someone breaks into your home and steals your valuables, you are a victim. It was done TO you by an outside force.
But when it comes to health that word should almost never be used. The only exceptions I can think of are babies born with drug addiction, babies born with severe disabilities, and children abused by their parents. In these cases, the children are truly victims–they did nothing to contribute to their situation, yet they will deal with it for the rest of their lives.
But when we’re talking about the average person and their health conditions, there are no victims.
It’s become the custom of the U.S. media to refer to a person who has an illness as a victim of that disease. “He’s a heart attack victim.” A few weeks ago, a local newspaper described a woman arrested for hit and run as a “victim of addiction.” No. She is not a “victim.” Yes she has a medical problem that we call addiction. But to describe her as a victim says that she had no part in creating the situation, and she is powerless to change it– and those things are not true. The person with heart disease is not a victim. There are things he can do to improve his health.
I have SPMS. I have asthma. I had metabolic syndrome. I am NOT a victim of these illness. My husband has a friend who has had multiple heart attacks. He struggles with his health, but he is not a “victim” of heart disease. He is a man who has heart disease.
I believe that “victim mentality” has infiltrated every aspect of our society, and it’s hurting our health and wellness. When a person learns they have an illness, oftentimes they don’t think, “Okay.. doctors say THIS thing is wrong with my body, how can I fix it?”
Most of the time they think, “Doctors say this thing is wrong with my body, I guess I’ll have to take medicine and deal with this thing for the rest of my life.” The patient feels disempowered to make any real changes in their health.
Doctors often feed this disempowerment, whether they realize it or not. When I was finally diagnosed with Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis my medical team didn’t give me suggestions as to how I could improve my health. They offered me powerful, dangerous and addictive drugs. They told my husband and I there was nothing they could do. They said I’d never get better. I was told that I’d never be able to walk on my own again, that I should stop fighting it, and get used to being taken care of. My neurologist told me that in 6 months time I would be total care, and a burden to my husband and children. He suggested that I shop for a nursing home now, so that in 6 or 7 months when I needed total care my husband would know which facility to send me to.
I was told to give up, and become a victim of this condition that was causing my neurological system to go haywire.
I went home from that appointment, and very specifically refused to be a victim to illness. I refused to hand my personal power and responsibility over to the illness or the doctors. I took full responsibility for my condition. I decided that if I was going to be around to raise my 6 kids, then it was my responsibility to do the research and learn everything I could about what was happening in my body. It was my responsibility to find my own solution.
For every medical condition I can think of, there are things the person can do to improve their situation. It’s not always easy. In my case, it’s been difficult. But 11 years later friends and family often forget I have MS, and strangers never know, unless I tell them.
If I had done as the doctors suggested, and allowed myself to be a “victim” of Multiple Sclerosis my children would very likely not have their mother.