One of the challenges of the pandemic is that the passage of time has become stifling and lethargic. It no longer feels like we can accomplish just the ordinary in our day, but that we need to push on to survive by trying to outrun our past performance. We’re like hamsters in a cage, going nowhere fast.

For me, It’s too easy to ruminate over my past and current negative experiences over and over again. Time feels like a one-dimensional circle and is at a standstill. It’s exhausting!

In fact, I have a headache from it. 

Here’s what has been on my mind lately:

  • It’s been relatively easier to let anxiety take over my life and deprive me of sleep. 
  • It’s been relatively easier to revisit all my plans that failed to thrive.
  • It’s been relatively easier to weave an intricate web of self-loathing, self-doubt and self-sabotage. 
  • It’s been relatively easier to relive all the emotional pains and destroy the person I am from the inside out. 
  • It’s been relatively easier to sell myself to the illusion that everything is my fault and that I don’t deserve good things to happen to me.

I know that I have a problem to overcome, and that it is deep-rooted in my psyche. I’m scared to face my fears at times, but I want to share it in writing first. Once you share something online, you can’t take it back. 

But I have to trust that the people in my life will still accept me despite my personality traits, and that strangers will understand where I’m coming from.

Trapped in the cycle of victim mentality

The pandemic has given me plenty of opportunities to unmercilessly criticize myself. In fact, I am my own worst critic! I’ve had more time to rinse and repeat the familiar pattern of self-doubt. It’s been easier to dwell on the unfairness I witnessed in the past and present, and feel victimized by all of it. 

But I also realize that maybe I am drowning in a victim mentality because there are rewards I gain from it that are difficult to explain. Please understand that some dysfunctions aren’t easily recognizable, and that it might take soul-searching to identify and acknowledge them. 

Now, what could be the reward behind my living in a victim’s state of mind? 

I ask myself these questions on a regular basis as I try to understand the inner workings of my brain. Here are a few of the questions I ponder. Why is it so hard to interrupt the cycle of self- loathing? Why do I react so intensely to unfairness? Why is it so hard to stop recycling all the demeaning comments and insensitive statements that have been showered upon me? Why do I keep ruminating over past mistakes when I know they helped shape who I am? Why do I sometimes feel entitled more than appreciative? Why am I so ashamed of my imperfections when I know it is part of being human? And why am I so eager to find more darkness at the end of the tunnel?

I think one major reason behind my victimhood mindset is to get away from the responsibility of loving myself enough to take on the endless task of enriching myself. For example, I spend my spare moments locked in my room (I am in self-isolation at home due to my profession), listening to and watching TED Talks. I like these talks because they help me find clarity of mind and offer a sense of solace. Taking on the responsibility of self-love, respect and improvement feels daunting, especially when I can’t spend more time being with my family after I come home. I want to make healthy decisions that are positive, but I know I have a penchant for second-guessing myself. 

I’m grateful that I don’t have to do this on my own. 

Who I look to for encouragement

My mother impressed upon me that I can do better and deserve to do better for myself. She tried to get me to understand that there is so much inherent goodness in me. She knew that I could trust my gut instincts, handle a high-pressure job, and take on other responsibilities such as caring for my spouse and boys. 

My mother also tried to get me to understand that life is not a dichotomy, that the situations I face are not all good or all bad. In fact, I would have to deal with the gray areas, too, and that I would have my fair share of mistakes along the way. While it is hard to see beyond the two extremes of good and bad, I am trying to keep an open mind to the advice she gave me. 

Moving forward

I have a few tangible steps I can take to limit my negativity, or at least prevent it from taking over my mind or my life. I plan to: 

  • Celebrate smaller goals. I want to celebrate every time I manage to interrupt the cycle of self-sabotage, even if it only lasts seconds.
  • Disengage from a negative thought and replace it with a happy thought. One recent example is that because all classes are online now, my son will stay at home longer with me instead of leaving for college. He’s not happy about it, but I’m thrilled! 
  • Hit the reset button, breathe and let the dust settle when I encounter a situation that feels completely unfair. 
  • Have an attitude of gratitude for the moments I cherish and for those who have held me accountable.
  • Choose kinder words to say to myself that are first and foremost respectful.
  • Give freely. There is no better purpose for existing than lending a helping hand to someone in need. 
  • Work on self-love for my and my family’s sake, not simply my responsibilities as a physician. Try to avoid slogging through the days, weeks and months, and remember to reflect on tiny daily miracles.

In sum, I still struggle with feeling like a victim. It hasn’t been easy to open up about my self-doubt over the past months, but my thought is that if I can reach just one person who feels this way too, I’ll feel a little less alone. 

If you’re interested in sharing a dialogue about being a victim, or any questions you have for me, I’m open to a chat. There is a way to turn away from unhealthy thoughts, and I want to be part of your conversation. Tweet me @ReyzanShali if you need a listening ear.