Life can be tough. It can bring disappointment, frustration, pain and adversity. When it does, ‘Why me?’ is a natural question to ask. It’s a healthy response to a state of affairs that we weren’t expecting or circumstances over which we have no control.
We’ve all had those days when things seem to go wrong ~ we oversleep, run late because we can’t find the car keys, drop coffee over the laptop, snap at a colleague, send a personal email to all your contacts instead of only a best friend. And all it takes is one more incident to make us think ‘Why me?’ Usually we can can accept it as ‘just one of those days’ and are able to take it in our stride without too much anguish.
Then there are those days when we feel overwhelmed by an ongoing situation and we ask ourselves ‘Why me?’ out of a sense of despair. A broken heart, a long-term illness, an unexpected redundancy, bereavement. Any significant life change will result in a transition that we would rather not make, yet there is no option but to respond. Grieving or loss may naturally include a stage when we ask ‘Why me?’ but with time we come to accept the situation and are able to live ‘normally’.
‘Why me’ becomes detrimental though when it becomes the basis of thinking. In the past, it locked me into a victim mentality from which it became increasingly harder to escape. Instead of having positive thoughts and expecting the best, ‘Why me?’ dragged me into a negative spiral of expecting the worst. It kept me in the role of a victim whose life was disintegrating through depression and alcoholism. Additionally, it was preventing me from gaining the strength and wisdom that comes from recovering from tragedy and trauma.
There were times when I thought life would never be bearable. I remember sitting with a psychiatric nurse shortly after I had attempted suicide. It was quite a ‘pity party’! I wailed as I recounted how my unloving mother had left me and then declared me as dead, how my cruel father had abused and neglected me, how I’d been bullied incessantly at school because of my appearance, how my relationships had failed, how I’d lost my job, home, possessions. And to top it all I was in the grip of depression and alcoholism. There was no end to my sorrows.
I wanted the nurse to feed my pity with consolation and sympathy. He didn’t. His response was to remind me that I was fortunate to be alive and that I lived in a world where life was tough for others too.
It took me a while but eventually I understood what he had said. As I began to heal I initially felt ashamed and embarrassed at my selfishness and arrogance. What was so different about me that I should escape tribulations? Nothing. I also realised that my mentality could shift dramatically when something good happened. I could embrace a positive experience with excitement and gratitude. Never would I query it with ‘Why me?’ because I believed that I too deserved blessings.
And so began my first steps from victim to survivor. From ‘Why me? to ‘Why not me?’ From feeling powerless to changing anything to believing that I had the strength to take responsibility for everything. Of course there continues to be highs and lows but I no longer consider what is missing, instead I choose to appreciate what is present. I am grateful for it all.