Americans love to play the victim game. Generations ago we used to honor people who picked themselves up by their bootstraps, made it through their hardships and never spoke about it. Unsung heroes. They never looked for that pat on the back. Now?
How many of us have blamed our little sister or brother for breaking a family heirloom? How many of us have pointed the finger at our co-worker for screwing something up at work? Playing the victim is something many of us have done without even realizing it. Click here for this article.
How do you know if you or someone you know is a victim? Here are some clues:
- You don’t take responsibility. It’s always someone else’s fault. They didn’t pick you up at the doctor’s. They didn’t help you move. The dog ate my homework.
- You’re stuck at the mercy of everyone else. The church didn’t like us. The food bank didn’t like my father so that’s why we got no food and we starved.
- You hold grudges. A victim will bring up old memories and other hurtful events. They’ll show you pictures of how they grew up in a house full of constant repairs (Oh, woe is me!) rather than see how fortunate they were just having a roof over their head. Trust me. Going to be a lot of people in the news soon who will NOT have a roof over their head. Lot’s of living in tents, cars, RVs or sleeping on park benches. They’d give anything to be in a house that’s a fixer-upper.
- You have trouble being assertive. You have no self-esteem and are passive.
- You feel powerless most of the time.
- You don’t trust others.
- You have no boundaries. You don’t know when enough is enough!
- You argue a lot with others because you think you are always under attack.
- You feel self-pity.
- You constantly compare yourself to others. Well, she has a nice house and I don’t!
- Your life is always lacking.
- You are critical, put others down, are judgmental.
- You think you are perfect.
- You cut people out of your life.
Want to hear my hard luck story? What? You haven’t heard it? I’ve been writing about myself since 2007 and you don’t know my hard luck story? That’s because I rarely discuss my past. Most every single one of us have our own hard luck stories. Who am I to think I am any different from anyone else? Oh, every once in a while I might mention a thing or two about my past but I’ve only done so as an example to get one of my points across. I will not sit around and feel sorry for myself. When I fall down, I pick myself right back up again (after a wallowing period) and try, try again.
When I was five years old, I drank a bottle of DDT poison. My grandmother used to keep ant poison in old pepsi-cola bottles behind her basement door. One Sunday, when I was at my grandmother’s house for dinner (as I did for my first seventeen years of life) I wanted to drink soda with my meal. My mother told me no. She poured me a glass of milk instead. Being the rambunctious and disobedient child that I was, I snuck around the basement door, found an open bottle of pepsi-cola and drank the whole thing thinking I was drinking soda. The poisoning effects were instantaneous. I fell backwards down the stairs alerting my mother, father and all my relatives. There was a lot of screaming. I went in to convulsions. I was rushed to the hospital. This was 1955 and no medical professional there had any knowledge of what to do with someone who ingested DDT poison. Do they pump out my stomach? Are there anti-viral drugs to offset the poisoning? No body knew. I was their first case.
Human health effects from DDT at low environmental doses are unknown. Following exposure to high doses, human symptoms can include vomiting, tremors or shakiness, and seizures. Laboratory animal studies showed effects on the liver and reproduction. DDT is considered a possible human carcinogen.
DDT has since been banned in 1972. As to me, I remember being in the hospital for a very long time. I was paralyzed on the left side of my body for a very long time. There was also talk that I had brain damage. Because of this poisoning I have a very hard time understanding things. Things have to be explained to me over and over again. Needless to say my teachers and fellow classmates had a field day with me. No one understood the damage that had been done to me. To compensate, I self-taught myself. I was an avid reader. But I had to read things over and over to myself before I understood anything.
The only person who was sympathetic to me was my mother. She would fight for me in school and beg the teachers not to hold me back. When I was in the 6th grade, the principal sided with my teacher and they refused to promote me. My mother, in turn took me out of that school and found me another one. When it came time for me to attend college, she personally took me to see each and every dean of any college that would take me seriously. She refused to believe that I was an imbecile. She always got me special tutors to help me with my school work. My mom also helped me get jobs and learn to keep them. It was a big loss for me when my mom died when I was only 28 (and three months pregnant when I found out my mom had terminal cancer. She died when my new born daughter was 6 months old. She lived long enough to hold her granddaughter in her arms) I lost my very best friend and my only unshakable supporter.
I was beaten heavily as a child. I attended Catholic grammar school and the nuns were notorious for hitting the students with yardsticks and erasers. A few times I would go home with open, bleeding sores on my legs from the beatings the nuns used to give me. I was often blamed for most things despite my not doing anything out of the ordinary. The nuns used to tell me I was going to burn in hell because I was caught talking on the school line. “I doubt that very much, sister” my smart-Alec self used to say to them. “I doubt very much Jesus is going to punish me for talking on a school line“. And with that, I would get a smack across my face with such severity that the hand imprint would remain on my face for days.
Is it any wonder that at age 10 I tried to kill myself? It was the first of several attempts. But it also was the time that I found God. I remember distinctly hearing God speak to me and tell me my life was going to be alright.
My abuse didn’t end at 3 o’clock when school was over. My parents were self employed. My dad ran a sweat shop. He was a mold-injector of small plastic parts. It was brutally hot in the summer and there was no heat in the winter. I had to go to my father’s sweat shop after school in the winter and after camp in the summer. And I had to work. I had to run one of the mold machines. When the plastic parts dropped out I had to separate them. I had to be fast and I had to be quick. Failure to do so would get either my hand or a finger caught in the machine. If I did anything wrong, I got a beating from my father. Heck, I didn’t really have to do anything wrong. I just got beatings from my father.
My abuse didn’t end with my father either. When I was 16 years old, a family member sexually assaulted me. I told my mother but she did nothing about it. Told me I had to suck it up. When I married at age 24, my husband turned out to be a wife beater. It wasn’t until I was 32 that I said enough is enough. Covered in black and blue bruises over my face and back, I just walked out of the marital home, without my two children and headed straight to any attorney’s office begging for my nightmarish life to end. This is when all hell broke loose in my life. My husband was my father’s foreman. Without my husband running my father’s business, profits were going to decline. My family chose money over me. That’s how I knew it was time for me to leave. I was thrown out of the family business and whatever money I had was confiscated. My father made sure I couldn’t collect Unemployment Insurance. My family made sure I had no means to support myself. Needless to say, I lost custody of my two children because of that. What transpired next was a nine month battle to get my kids back, my money back and build a new life.
I accomplished all of that by meeting a complete stranger in a restaurant and asking him to help me. The night before I had prayed to God and asked him to send me a very strong man because I was going to be in a very tough battle. I needed human help. When I saw him, I knew instantly God had answered my prayers. I could see he was a military man. He was super strong and muscular. He was 25 years old and just honorably discharged from the army. I was 32 years old. I told him my story. I told him I had no help from neither family, friend or foe and without blinking an eye he helped me. He stood by my side all through the custody battles and court dates. I lost 65 pounds. Every time I couldn’t go on, he held me up. In the end, I was awarded full custody of my children, my assets (including my house) were returned to me, as was all my jewelry (my husband stole everything from me), my savings and checking accounts. I was awarded $75 a week in child support for my two daughters. That was 1982. My youngest child, was barely 2 years old. She did not know who I was because my husband had kidnapped both my kids and kept them from me. The ‘stranger’ and I eventually married five years later in 1987. Right after the Stock Market Crash. We’ve been together ever since. Thirty nine years and still counting!
Side Note: FYI. I come from an Italian family. And yes, that meant connections to ‘The Mafia’. Not me but my then-soon-to-be-ex-husband had the connections. And he used them against me. He took out a million dollar life insurance policy on me and had one of ‘the boys’ try to kill me. I decided two could play at this game so I fired my WASP attorney and hired the meanest, nastiest, mob-connected attorney this side of Little Italy in Brooklyn New York. My new attorney settled my case in 8 weeks. I suppose he made my soon-to-be-ex an offer he shouldn’t refuse.
My entire life after 1983 has been dotted frequently with money problems. I no longer came from a wealthy, self-made immigrant family. Except for the inheritance I received from my mom’s estate (which I had to sue my father for) I was flat broke. I always wanted to run my own company. My first attempt was setting up my own mold injection company. I was in complete competition against my father. My goal was to put him out of business. Which I did. Unfortunately, in my hatred, I also put myself out of business. I had to file Chapter 13 bankruptcy in 1987 because I made a mess out of everything.
I’m not going to go into any more deep detail on my adult life after 1987. I was mostly a financial disaster. It took me years to finally figure out how to successfully run my life. My new husband wasn’t much better in money management either. He could earn it. Sporadically. It was always feast or famine for us. We were either flush or broke. What changed our luck was me taking a free accounting course at BOCCES, a state run educational center. Turned out I was good at financial formulas. Bookkeeping and accounting is an art. Not a science. The left side of my brain is very creative. I was a natural. My accounting skills landed me an envious position at a very prestigious lawfirm in the tony, super rich Hamptons, located in Long Island, NY.
I sold one of the assets my mom left me to the tune of $150,000. This was 1985 and I was able to put down a substantial deposit on a home in Southampton, NY. I eventually landed a great job. I was the firm’s Budget Administrator and I learned from all these high-flying, uber wealthy attorneys (the firm had 44 of them!) how to manage money. My husband landed a job working for a special effects company that eventually got taken over by Walt Disney Imagineering. Boy oh boy. We were flying high. My kids had carte blanche to every Disney park on the planet. Hubby had a 35% discount on everything including a time share we bought in Vero Beach, Florida. I drove a super hot red 1995 Mustang. Hubby drove a 1985 Corvette convertible. We were the ultimate Hampton society in-crowd. Till one day, after working for the firm ten years, my supervisor wanted me out.
As God is my protector, I was at a cocktail party and met a labor attorney. Unbeknownst to me, I would need his services a few weeks later because my supervisor wanted me out of the firm. Apparently, I had become too big for my britches. The labor attorney guided me through the process. He knew exactly what the firm was trying to do to me. I had to hold strong until they fired me, which took weeks (weeks of abuse I must add). Once I got fired, I had power. I sued the law firm for age discrimination and sexual harassment. I was over forty and also for years, I had taken a lot of slack from the entire lawfirm over the size of my breasts. Thankfully, I documented everything. My phone extension was 38. The whole firm called my extension 38DD. Plus at several Xmas parties, the partners got me presents with sexual undertones (like coloring books where you had to scribble in a man’s penis) One of the senior partners put his hands down my blouse twice. He wanted to see what ‘real cleavage felt like‘. Yup. I was 44 years old and still being abused. No worries. I won my case. The senior partner shit in his pants and I was awarded whatever it was that my labor attorney wanted me to have: severance pay, vacation pay, retirement fund, letter of recommendation and my self-respect. I beat the odds. I successfully sued and won against my own lawfirm.
Side Note: While I was in litigation, my body gave out. I started hemorrhaging and wound up getting a hysterectomy. This meant that I couldn’t have any more children.
In 1998 I started another company. This time I was involved with Apple Computers. I had learned so much about them from my 10 years with the lawfirm. I knew their software in and out. My husband handled the hardware. For four years we were very successful. Then the Dot Com disaster hit in 2000-2001. I was again out of a job, out of a business, out of money. I had a ton of creditors after me since I had again piled on so much debt. Thankfully I had a lot of assets to sell (a house in the Hamptons, a ski townhouse up in the Catskill mountains, a Disney timeshare). It took a while but we managed to liquidate whatever we could. I sold the Hampton home one day before it went into foreclosure. My car was repossessed as was my Wellcraft speed boat. My bank accounts (checking and saving) were seized. All my credit card balances were cancelled. I got out of all this mess barely by the skin of my teeth. Thankfully, God again saved my butt! He told me to give up all the material possessions of the world, pick up my cross and follow Him. Which I did. I lost every single thing (including all my furniture in a flood) from my previous life. This time however, I was done. I was 50 years old and I was done with everything. Once all the debts were paid off, hubby and I had enough equity left over to restart our lives. Yet again.
I never became the superstar I had envisioned myself to become back when I was 10 years old and had that conversation with God. I am just a regular, ordinary person. Nothing special. I did, however, finally learn how to be financially responsible. I haven’t bounced a check since 2000, no more overdraft fees, no over debt limits or over my credit limits. For once and for all I am finally debt free, no mortgage, no more car loans, boat loans, expensive vacations funded with credit cards. I learned this last lesson from God very well. My kids and I went through many years of struggle. There were a lot of Christmas holidays where I couldn’t afford to get my kids any presents. Keeping a roof over our heads, food on the table, the lights on, gas in the car were all challenges. My youngest daughter had to curtail her last two college years and move off campus and in with her aunt and uncle as a means for me to afford her college education. Her fellow classmates made fun of her. And me. In fact, I was called a lot of discriminatory names back them. Still am. To this day. But I have God now. God is my best friend. In fact, God is my only friend.
We’ve never missed a meal. We’ve never slept out on the street. I did a few nights in my car when my father wouldn’t let me stay in his house. I’ve worn clothes that were held together by safety pins. I know what it’s like to look disheveled and unkempt. But through it all God kept my dignity intact and gave me the strength to get up each day and try, try again. I don’t talk about my past life. It’s over and done with. I won’t dwell on it. I won’t discuss it with anyone. I have learned how to have empathy for others and to never judge. I have learned when to give a hand up and ask for nothing in return. Not even recognition. I have helped many people over the years correctly handle their financial woes. I’m good at seeking out people who play the victim game. I have no use for them. I never once asked for pity. I never once made an excuse. I blame myself for everything that ever happened to me. Because I was able to get out, at age 32 and change my life from the ground up, that meant to me that each and every one of us can direct our own destiny. We have the power to make our lives however we want it to be. Even if it means going out of business, losing it all and starting all over again and again and again.
My brother recently died from the coronavirus back in April 2020. It’s just another one of life’s disappointments, pain and anguish but it has made me even more tolerant of others and closer to God. My immediate family used to be five of us and now three of them are gone (mother, father, brother) It’s just me and my sister. She’s 66. I’m 70. I beg God each night not to take anyone else away from my family. I don’t think I can take any more heartbreak.
I still have a learning disability and I still self-teach myself. I’m an avid reader. It may take me a long time to understand things but when I do, look out! I’m unstoppable. It’s just really difficult to find anyone who has any patience or tolerance. And that is very sad. For them. Not me.
In the end, playing the victim doesn’t get you anywhere. The victim will end up facing painful consequences in their life and relationships if they do not change their behavior by taking constructive criticism and turning it into positive action.
As with most things in life, alternative options are there. We just have to be willing to look for them and make a start.
Disclaimer: I have tried to remember dates to the best of my ability. As I said, I don’t talk about my past so it’s hard to remember it all. But, you get the gist of the story anyway, right?
One Last Thing: I forgot to mention back in 1990 I was diagnosed with lupus and given five years to live. We all see how that turned out. The doctor wanted to put me on some drugs but I declined. I told him I did not have lupus. When I told my gynecologist this story a few months later, she said she knew a hematologist at Stony Brook Medical Center. She immediately made a call to him and he saw me the very same day. Did a series of tests and told me, I was right. I did not have lupus. Go figure.