Everybody say it with me: Hi, Corinne!
Of what am I a victim, and how have I entered recovery? Ah, these are very good questions. I wish I had some sweet little stories to tell you, that I could describe prosaically, charming you, my readers, my friends, my supporters.
My father was an alcoholic who was a mean drunk. I got it less than my siblings, true enough; for two reasons, I think. First, I was not a strong child, and I think everyone pampered me because of my early illness. Second, my dad had a soft spot for me, so he treated me somewhat differently than the other kids.
But we all got it, to a greater or lesser degree, and we all witnessed it, including many terrible, awful events that don’t bear reducing to print here.
And so, I’ve mentioned, also, one situation that contributed to my status as victim — that early illness, at age eighteen months. My sister suffered what presumably stemmed from the same source, though she has not undergone the testing that identified my early illness as a viral encephalitis, the culprit being, we now know, the HHV-6 virus. The virus damaged my CNS, which resulted in spasticity in my legs, to a lesser extent in my arms, and a very slight and manageable speech delay.
In high school, I also experienced a further insult: Abuse by a Catholic priest. I successfully pursued a claim against the Diocese in the mid-1990s. At that time, I was the only survivor of clergy abuse to negotiate a settlement with no requirement that I keep confidential the perpetrator’s name, details about the events, or the principal settlement terms. (There were only two terms which we protected. Although those terms related to his ‘punishment’, it was I who said they should be sealed.) A few years later, I testified before a committee trying to decide whether he should be allowed back into parish service. The ignorance and patronizing attitude of the committee further damaged me — a feeling shared by others there to testify on the same day, albeit about other perpetrators. I conversed with several who experienced the feeling of degradation that the committee’s attitude triggered in me.
Through my college and graduate school decade, I immersed myself in encounters of a rankly self-destructive nature. Abusive men, alcohol, superficial and demeaning friendships — I gathered these around me like a coat of armor, or a hair shirt. My wild and terrible life both punished me for my unworthiness and protected me from facing my fears. My dark decade left deep, festering wounds and disfiguring emotional scars.
I continued in this vein, struggling through my thirties and forties, failing at business, marriage, and in general, inviting a cloud of malaise which continued to hide my quiet desperation. In 1998, when I started menopause, that dang virus awakened and began ravaging me. I clung to the seesaw, brave one minute, wildly resentful the next. My personality soured; I threw myself into lawyering and gave my compassion to my clients and my child, not succeeding at much else, hoping that whatever happened to me, the work that I did and the young man whom I reared would be my legacy.
Through all of these experiences, I found some fabulous people. I’ve written of them here and in my Musings: People who love me, people who help me, people who stand by me. I won’t call their names, lest I forget one. The people whom I love mean everything to me.
But for fifty-eight, no, fifty-nine years, I’ve gravitated to victimhood in every final analysis. I hear the nauseating whine in my voice: “How can you do this to me? Why is this happening to me?” This orientation of suffering stains my life and pulls me down, dismissing the feelings of others and any consideration of their wants and needs.
I’m here, now, though. This quest not to complain invokes a greater desire — the desire to become a recovering and, ultimately, a recovered victim. I am not saying that I don’t genuinely experience the lash of the universe, nor the loss of control and the true pain of suffering. Nor am I implying that I suddenly surpass others in my ability to respond with virtue or selflessness. Not so, not so. Nor do I suggest that asking for help implies victimhood; everyone needs help from time to time.
I just want to stop looking at everything and everyone as persecuting me. I don’t want to wallow in a desperate feeling of being attacked any more. I just want to live every day of my life with the simple understanding that some things will go the way I want them to go, and some things will not. When I face events that threaten to derail my dreams, I want to acknowledge the situation without grousing around for a way to turn the unfortunate fork in my road into a referendum on how mistreated I am, or a song of woe about how pitiful I am.
I want to walk that path of grace I’ve mentioned, knowing that I will encounter potholes; overhanging brambles; and sudden downpours.I also want to hold fast to the knowledge that when the rain passes, sunshine will surround me.
Hi, I’m Corinne. I am a recovering victim.
This is my first day in recovery.