How to Become a Phoenix in 4 Phases

I am more than a survivor.

I’m a Phoenix.

Strange to type that out in post that people will see and read later. Much easier to say to personal friends and then leave alone, yet it’s something I got to thinking about after a TEDx talk about ADHD and an article about the difference between resignation and acceptance in the face of chronic migraines. Neither of these conditions are easy to live with, and I live with both.

ADHD is tough because the world runs on a time clock and thinks in a line, and I don’t get it, even though “I should.” And chronic migraine? Well, that’s a lot of systemic physical symptoms during an attack that just plain cause misery. When you’re caught in social limbo because 90% or more of the adult world thinks on a different wavelength, you deal with chronic pain, and there’s a mostly un-fun childhood mess to look back on, it’s easy to forget life is meant to be lived.

Yet the year just turned, and I’m tired. Mostly, I’m tired of being a survivor, because all survivors get to do, in my mind, is survive. Yay, I’m breathing one more day!

No. I’m LIVING one more day.

What is a Phoenix?

Most of us are familiar with the legend of a phoenix here on Earth. Bird turns to fire, then ash, then is reborn from the ash. That’s not so on Vermillion. A Phoenix is one who has gained such self mastery that they are granted the gift of conditional immortality. Well, I have not gained such a level of self mastery, nor is this Vermillion, and so it’s not quite the same, yet I choose a Phoenix mindset.

What I mean is this. I’ve been through the steps. Victim. Fighter. Survivor. I believe anyone who’s experienced trauma experiences these.

Victim. During this time, my trauma defined me, and I’ve been through this step more than once, for more than one trauma. I had been powerless to stop the injury inflicted, and so I saw myself as powerless against the choices driven by my pain and my rage. Often, I had no idea when I allowed my pain to direct my actions. This included running from every problem I ever had, sometimes even physically by moving to various places. In time, this changed, though the process was neither quick nor fun.

Fighter. As a fighter, I battled the demons left by my status as a victim, often finding that allowing myself to act as a victim had exacerbated old wounds or even caused fresh ones. I refused to define myself by my past traumas, yet found I could not escape being defined by them as I spent all my energy opposing them. I rejected labels like wounded or abused or disabled and pushed myself past every possible limit I couldn’t see I had. Which sent me railroading straight to my first crash.

Survivor. I learned to survive pulling myself out of my first crash. Sure, I went to a therapist for a bit. I tried a smidge of counseling. Mostly, I leaned on my peer group, my friends for support, and I buried myself in work other than finding out why the deuce I couldn’t hold a life together very well. In the end, I ran again, this time almost all the way across the country. The Victim phase was coming back. Yet I kept on surviving.

Phoenix. Lately, I’ve come to realize I want to do more than survive. I want to enjoy and relish the great days, have fun on the good days, and keep the bad days to a minimum, not by employing some strange concept of self-pity, but by taking care of myself on those days and returning to the good days and the great days as soon as I can. The Fighter and Survivor in me have burned to ash trying to live up to the expectations of others when it comes to those words. Now, it’s time to thrive.

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