Thursday, March 17, 2016

On the Road to Recovery: Trying Something New

Last month I did something new. 

Not exactly exciting but new – to me.  

More like frightening to be sure.  Way outside of my comfort zone.  Way outside of my little safe place.  The room where I live probably 80-90% of my waking life.  The room where I write, where I knit, where I watch DVDs.  Where my life is safe.  Predictable. Where I am in control.

I started writing this blog posting in a small cafĂ© in my hometown.  I was sitting in a room in a small cafe with other writers who are writing.  Some chatting, but mostly writing.  Most strangers to each other.

My first meet up meeting ever.

The first meeting for this writers meet up.

All of us were getting our feet wet so to speak.  All of us united together to find a place to write. A few hours without other distractions or disruptions.

For me, the motivation was multiple:  (a) to start writing again; (b) to write without the seductive siren call of the yarn (as mentioned before I can't knit and write at the same time.  Ironically, I wanted to bring my current knitting project with me. That's how hooked I am on creating with my hands); and (c) to start going into the outside world again, to socialize with others.  To socialize with others with whom I (hopefully) have something in common.  In this case writing.

It went well.  Our gathering spot is a local cafe which has a side room with a long table.  Some of us met in this room which proved to be a quiet spot; some met in the main room where there was more noise and activity.

Me ... I found a quiet corner in the side room.

I wasn't ready emotionally to meet people, to fraternize, to socialize, to talk.  I just wanted to be there, to write, to observe.

I just wanted to dip my little toes into the waters of the outside world and see how they reacted.

First I was scared.  Okay, terrified is a better word.  I was going to back out but I told one friend and that one friend encouraged me to go.  She said: "If you don't go, you'll always wonder what you missed."  She was right about that.  What she didn't realize was that if I didn't go to the first ever meeting, I would probably never go.  I would remain scared.  I would prefer to stay in my safe world.  My safe room.

So I got up and went.

Originally, I was frustrated.  As in really frustrated.  I couldn't get on the net.  So yes, I could write using Word but I couldn't write on the net, directly onto my blog - which is what I wanted to do.  Having my laptop with me, I didn't bring pen and paper so the old fashioned way was out.  That was another frustration.

On top of the above, people scare me.  Okay, scare is another understatement.  After my experience in the workplace, people terrify me.  I didn't understand then what people were capable of and I definitely don't want to repeat the experience.

So right away, I had two strong emotions vying for my attention: terror and frustration.  Not a good combo.

But I stayed.

Eventually, I settled down enough to find another way.  To write on Word and then upload what I wanted to onto my computer at home.  It worked.

I got home and had a headache for the next few days.  But mixed with the physical pain, probably caused by the stress of going out on my own, was another feeling:  pride.  I had faced one of my demons, starred it down and had survived.

I. Had. Done. This.

And if I had done this, this one small thing, I know I can do more.  Little by little.  Step by step.  Piece by piece.

I haven't written since that afternoon in that little cafe, yet I think I made real progress on the road to recovery that day.

I. Went. Out.

I. Left. My.  House.

I voluntarily walked into a situation that was scary and stayed.

Today is again the third Thursday in the month.  The day designated for the writers meet up.

Today, I am here again in this quiet room at this big table with other writers. We're a very quiet group.  Yet, there is comfort in quietness.  There is safety in quietness.

It's not so scary at all.


Monday, November 16, 2015

When the posts stop - Part 2

Not all stoppage of writing is due to processing.  Or the recurerence of symptoms, doubts, fears, etc.

Not all experiences along the path of recovery are bad ... or troublesome ... or problematic.

Sometimes the writing stops simply because I'm busy doing other things.

Namely things with my hands.

Things that not only occupy my hands, but also my mind.

Things that help with the healing.

Right brain things.

Like knitting ... and crocheting.

Creating beautiful things out of yarns.

When I start creating, my imagination starts to run wild with colour combinations, etc. ways I can change the pattern, make it different.

These are the good times.  Very good times.  Times when I watch something take form and shape beneath by fingers.

When one project is finished, I start another.  Sometimes I have several things on the go at the same time.

These are the good times.  The times I rarely write about though.  I don't really know why.  Maybe because it is the good times.  Or maybe it's because I have a separate blog for knitting called The Naked Knitter which I haven't written in for ... a very long time.  Or maybe because I cannot write and knit at the same time.  But knitting ... also crocheting ... are a huge part of my recovery process.

For the last month or more, I've been in the middle of another important step on the road to recovery.  I've been getting ready for three (not one, not two, but three - count 'em!) craft shows coming up in November.  I took a big step both last year and the year before when I did one craft show (in different locations) both years.  This year, I'm really pushing the envelope by signing up for three - all in the month of November.

Hence the busy fingers.  And mind.  Both busy with creating something out of virtually nothing using a string and implements.  Implements being either a crochet hook or two knitting needles.  Also a pattern.

I'm now proficient in both.  So I call myself "bistitchual" which is a phrase coined by Mikey of the Crochet Crowd which I loved and have taken as mine.  It simply means that I can both knit and crochet.

Doing three craft sales is a major step on the road to recovery because it signifies that I'm ready to push the envelope a little bit further.  I'm ready to go out more.  I'm ready to challenge myself by voluntarily getting into what might be a stressful situation.

A situation where I voluntarily put myself into an unknown situation.  A situation where I cannot control who will be there or how they will react to me.

After my doctor put me on short-term disability after my second back to back stress breakdown because I had suicidal ideation, the adversaries didn't stop.  They Facebook stalked me and went to management about what they saw saying I was violating ethics issues by writing "Bullies 100; Suzanne 0.  Off work again."  Management didn't respect the fact that I was off work for valid reasons and called me at home.  Management became angry when I didn't return the call.  Then Management emailed me and told me I would be disciplined if I did not remove those posts.  I remember not only being suicidal - which is why I was off work in the first place - but also very confused.  What was objectionable?  What was my supervisor talking about?  And why were these people viewing my Facebook account?  None of them were my friends on Facebook.   Which meant they had to deliberately seek out my account.

She made it clear what the offending posts were by sending me screen shots of them which she had accessed at work from my personal Facebook account.

Which brought up more ... sludge.  More feelings of worthlessness.  More upsetment.  More ....

Well, let's just safe I not only felt violated but I felt very unsafe.  Fear came in and because my companion for years after that.

I spoke with someone who is very savvy about all things information technology and learned that I could make my Facebook account private thereby assuring myself some dignity, privacy and protection during this very delicate time.

Which made Mangement angry.  Because I had effectively cut off the on going soap opera in the office.

But things didn't stop there.  The adversaries then drafted a petition claiming that they had a right to a stress free work environment (I could write an entire blog post on that one statement alone) and that I was the cause of major stress in the workplace.  It was signed by all but one person on all three shifts.

I was eventually presented with a document giving me an exit package in return for resigning.

At that time, I expressed to the union official assigned to me, the vice president of our small local union, that I was afraid of these people.  Of what they were capable of doing.  He assured me that nothing would happen that I did not initiate.


All of this to explain why voluntarily going out into public, into a situation which I cannot control, is a huge step on the road to recovery.

I have reached the point in my journey of recovery where I am no longer live in fear of these people.  Where I know who I am.  Where I am sorting thru the lies.  Where I am reclaiming my value and Who. I. Am.

I am woman.

Hear me roar.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Recovery Post Workplace Abuse: When the posts become sporadic or stop altogether Part 1.

... is when life gets fuzzy - like the shadow picture of hubby and me above.

The problem with writing a blog about recovery while actively involved in the process of recovery is that recovery sometimes intervenes with the process of writing.  There are times when I can do one or the other.  But not both at the same time.

Workplace bullying is, in and of itself, complicated.  Yet we expect recovery from workpkace bullying to be quick, simple and painless.  Not so.  Not so at all.

Recovery, it seems to me, is as complicated as what caused the injury itself - the bullying.

And make no mistake, it is an injury.  It is called psychiatric injury.  It is not a mental disorder.  It cannot be cured with pills.  Maybe magic wands.  But there are no magic wands.  It usually takes years of dedicated work to recover - with a competent therapist.  Recovery just doesn't happen (usually) by itself.

It takes work.  Hard work.

And time.  

Years, in fact.

The problem is that workplace bullying itself is not well understood - even for those who are in the process of being bullied in the workplace or for those who have been bullied in the workplace.  So why should the process of recovery be any different?

I experienced two back-to-back occurrences of workplace bullying.  The first lasted less then six months.  It was brutal.  

BUT ... I didn't recognize it as such.  I had no idea what was occurring in the workplace.  I couldn't understand why when I did such a good job, it was never enough for my manager.  Why I seemed to be singled out for "special" i.e. different treatment.  If one of the other employees made a mistake - even a bad one costing the complany thousands of dollars - she would be caring and compassionate.  Me?  I was told that this and that and the other was wrong with me.  I shed a single tear once during a highly stressful situation - and never heard the end of it.  I was loud once  

In short, I was not allowed to be human.  

Let alone make mistakes due to overwork and lack of training.

But others were allowed to make mistakes.  

I was on a series of contracts - each one beginning with the promise of another extension or - even better - a permanent job.  The last contract was pure hell.  My supervisor wouldn't talk to me or share information with me.  I was ordered to tell no one that I was on contract.  The manager and HR refused to tell me if this was my last contract and I was forbidden to ask.  As the end of my contract was approaching, I was on pins and needles.

Always hoping for that miracle, that recognition, that never happened.  

The stress was brutal.  When the last contract ended, I was walked out.  I was devastated.  I'd seen several contracts end during my two plus years in that workplace.  Never had I seen one end like mine end.  Never had anyone been walked out.  Denied being able to say good-bye to those they had worked with.  Some even had a farewell party.  One was allowed to stay in the office unsupervised, use his email, tidy up loose ends, say goodbye.  

Not so with me.  I was walked out as though I was guilty of something.  As though I was being fired with cause.  I was not allowed to touch my computer.  I was not allowed to say good-bye.  I was not even allowed to go into the washroom to compose myself.

I was allowed to give the supervisor a manual I had written up on how to manage the job which contained information about specific clients and their needs and procedures we had adopted to meet them.  That information, the information that was in my brain and only I knew, was the only thing I was allowed to impart.

In retrospect, I realize that they wanted the information but not me.

Afterwards, I tried everything I knew to "get over" the hurt, the devastation.  But nothing worked.  I couldn't understand it.  Why I couldn't seem to put what happened in the past - where it belonged.  Why I couldn't "get over" it or "move on".  Even after weeks had passed, it still felt like it had happened yesterday.  There was still that feeling of immediacy which I couldn't shake.  No matter how hard I tried.

Not only did I not understand what was happening to me, but most others in my life didn't either.  While my immediate family sympathized with me, they didn't know how to help me.  They felt as powerless to help me as I felt to deal with what had happened.

If the people closest to me were at a loss, imagine how others more on the periphery of my life such as my acquaintances and friends at church were not equipped to help me.  These people would listen for a short period of time and then tell me to move on.  To get over it.  Then they'd turn around and walk away.  Mission over.  They'd "solved" my problem - they thought.

But they hadn't.  They hadn't at all.  They'd left more wounding in their wake.  Something called secondary wounding where more pain is inflicted on an already badly hurting person.

It's called the "fix it" mindset.  As people, we want to fix things.  Problem is, not everything can be fixed.  Sometimes we just need to sit "shiva" with someone.  To listen.  To hug.  To hold hands.  To realize that we cannot fix anything.  

But the one thing we can do is share in the sorrow and pain.

I was left in such confusion.  First of all, I still couldn't understand why this had happened to me.  I'm a good person.  I was a good, competent worker.  I didn't deserve what had happened to me.  On top of that, all the coping techniques I had used in the past i.e. forgiving those who had hurt me, didn't work and I couldn't figure out why.


So what does all this junk - this junk from the past - have to do with the present day?  

Because even now I'm still working through the events that happened.  Its been in the last year that I've realized that I was bullied in the first scenario and how that lines up the material I found while researching my second, latest experience in the workplace.  

Because recovery is a process where bits and pieces of the puzzle come together to form a whole.  Where we recover as we are able to with our current understanding at any given time.  Later as more understanding is revealed to us, we revisit those places and fill in the gaps.

Recovery is a fluid process.

I have become fond of saying that life doesn't stop just because we've been traumatized.  Life continues on.

And we have to deal with that too.  And that becomes a part of our recovery process.

I've come to realize in the last few months that in God's economy nothing is wasted.

Even when we feel as though we're a bird rest(room) like the statue below.

Friday, October 16, 2015

After a Writing Hiatus on the Road to Recovery


Again ...

After a long - very long - absence.

Where have I been?

Nowhere really.

Home.  In my little safe place for one.

Knitting.  Crocheting.  Reading.  Watching DVDs.  Playing WebSudoku.  Lots and lots of websudoku.

Sleeping.  Lots of naps due to increased fatigue.

Out and about.  Here and there.

Roaming the nieghbourhood as I'm able.

Taking rides here and there with hubby.

Taking pictures - lots of pictures.  (Is the pope Catholic?)

Sometimes camera in hand.  Sometimes not.

Living life events:  birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, festivals ....

Living life.  The life that's left to me.

Or should I say the new life I'm in the process of creating for myself.

I've been doing everything, it seems, except writing.

Writing is work.  It takes energy.  Which ebbs and flows - seemingly at will.  Unpredictable at best.  Debilitating at worst.

Processing.  Processing.  Processing.

Which takes up energy as well.  Which is in short supply.

Yet there comes a time, to shake off the lethargy and the sadness and tap finger to keyboard to see what, if anything, comes out.

So today, I take the plunge once again.

This may not be the blog posting you've come here to read.  Or come to expect.  But how does one take up the keyboard after months of not only absence, but months of hard work and processing?  After months of intervening experiences - some good; some bad - and life.

I look at life similar to the way I look at a river - continually ebbing and flowing, always the same in some ways, always changing and different in other ways.  Depending on the weather conditions, time of day, lighting, etc. 

Life on the road to recovery is similar to that river.  Always there.  But always ebbing and flowing depending on what is going on at any given time.  Constant; yet constantly changing.

So here I am again.

More on the road to recovery in later posts....

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

On the road to recovery: Lessons Learned

In my last post, I wrote about using my analytical abilities decades ago when faced with a very challenging situation i.e. my first camping misadventure.  Did I mention that I was a city girl born and bred?  Roughing it to me was visiting my grandparents' apartment in the 50s and sleeping on a bed made of blankets on the floor (either air mattresses hadn't been invented yet - or they didn't have one).  I loved my grandparents dearly BUT I didn't enjoy sleeping on the hard - and I do mean hard - floor.

I wrote that post as a prelude to this post, a post about the lessons I learned from my most recent adventure on the road to recovery from workplace abuse:  going outside my little bubble, my safe place, to be a volunteer photographer for Ray of Hope's annual walk for the homeless called "The Coldest Night of the Year."

Every once in a while, I will do something like this.  Just to test the waters.  To see how far I've come - or not come.  To see what I still need to work on.  And also, to get a wee bit of socialization in my otherwise solitary life.  Afterwards, I sit back and process analyzing what affects I had during and afterwards. What went right.  What went wrong.  What could I do differently.  Just like I did all those years ago when first with a disaster on our first camping trip as a couple.

With the camping trip - and with parts of my most recent adventure - there are parts which are purely technical like getting better, more reliable equipment.  However, the most challenging things I'm looking for are those emotional and physical affects which rear up at times like that.  What were they?  What caused them?

This time, I discovered a lot about myself that I hadn't realized.

Immediately, I was assailed with feelings of not being good enough.

I had mechanical failures.

I didn't know anything about night photography.

I was using unfamiliar equipment - as in an external flash I'd never used before.

I was way outside my comfort zone as I rarely go outside at night.

And then, I discovered a trigger I didn't know I had.

I started feeling down.  Not good enough.  On top of that I was tired, very tired.  I was shocked when I got in the car for the trip home at the end of the night to find out that it was only 8:36.  I thought it was closer to midnight!

Since the time between that night and now I've spent a lot of time analyzing my experience.

Would I do it again?  If so, what would - or should - I do differently?

The analysis falls into two territories:  the mechanical/technical aspects of taking pictures and the emotional/psychological aspects of being outside and around people.

The most immediate challenge was that I since I rarely go out at night, I've not done much with night photography.  Also, I go to bed early, so signing up for an early evening activity was well beyond my scope.

Yet, I was eager to try it.

For the rest of this post I'm going to focus on the technical/mechanical challenges that I faced that night.  The ones that are significant indeed but easier to "fix".

I realize now that I should have gone to the site in daylight and scoped it out.  What would be a good location to set up the camera.  I did bring my tripod as I know from experience that my hands shake and I need a steady camera for night photography.  I also had the presence of mind to bring my ever lovin', ever faithful "sherpa"  - the man who stood at the alter with me many years ago and promised to love, honour and set up my tripod.

I had also had the presence of mind pre-adventure to charge my camera batteries.  I brought both of my cameras - my DSLR and my "second best" camera - a powershot with a decent zoom lens.

I was dressed warmly for the weather.  In fact, even though it was cold and I was standing stationary for the most part out in the middle of the sidewalk, I never really felt cold.

So, there were my plusses.  The things I'd done right.

The minuses ...

If I were to do it again - and I sincerely hope so - I would work on learning how to use my camera better.  Basically, I'm mostly using the automatic part of the settings, so I need to get more familiar with my camera and really learn how to use it better.

I had an external flash which was still nicely in its original packaging in the box and this was the very first time I was using it.  I should have familiarized myself with this vital piece of machinery.

I set up on the sidewalk in front of construction signs using my big, bad zoom lens.  If I were to do it again, I would use my "other" lens.  I learned while doing that the powerful zoom lens while it's great for catching people as they're coming, is not great at all for taking pictures as the walkers got closer.  In fact, it was a darn hindrance.  And a huge frustration.

Then came the greatest catastrophe of all.  I decided to move my camera, tripod and all, which would have been fine EXCEPT a group came past me and said something which startled me.  I wobbled and fell, tripod and all.  The external flash fell off taking the piece it inserts into on the camera with it.  That ended the flash.

However, I still had my other, smaller camera which I'd loaned to another volunteer.  (By the way, she got some great inside shots with it.)  It just happened that about the time this part of my (mis)adventure took place, she came up and handed me my other, smaller camera.

Problem is I hadn't used it in so long, I'd forgotten how to use it.  How to set it for night shots.  How to raise the flash.  Basic things like that.  So there I was using a piece of technology that was "inferior" to my big, bad DSLR which I had forgotten how to use.

And therein reared up the biggest, baddest affect of all.  I felt like I was inferior to the other volunteer photographers.   That "lie" that's been plaguing me recently reared its ugly, insistent head:  "You (Suzanne) are not good enough."  You're just kidding yourself about your values.  About your talents.  About your photography.  About everything.

And so, I've been dealing with that lie - and other associated questions.

Will I ever be good enough?

Yet, as I look back at the pictures I took that night while some are definitely not perfect, they managed to catch in their very imperfection a realistic view of what that night was like for the walkers.  Cold.  Dark.  Approaching a bright spot - the rest stop.

Until next time.

Heading to the rest stop - taken with my smaller camera

Thursday, March 12, 2015

On the road to recovery post workplace abuse: The place of Analysis in the Process

My current therapist says that my ability to analyse is one of my greatest strengths.  My former therapist said that I analyse things to death -which was a scathing criticism.  A close relative criticized my analytical side brutally as well.

Two sides of the same coin.

Which is the right side?  The right way to look at things?

I guess it depends on the bystander who is observing.

For me, I use my analyzation skills to think through a situation, figure out what went wrong and what would work better.

I've used this ability for decades.

Let me give you an example from decades ago - close to the beginning our my marriage adventure.

Many years ago, as a newlywed, hubby and I went on our first camping trip.  It can best be described in two words:  unmitigated disaster.

It would be easier to say what went right than what went wrong:  we set up camp in a leaky pup tent in a rain storm at a provincial camp ground - which is pretty well camping in the rough - or at that time back in the early '80s it was.  Way out in the middle of nowhere.  No services.  Not even any park personnel as they were on strike.  It was on the honour system.  You signed a form for how many nights you were going to stay, left the money in a sealed envelope and chose a site.  Oh, did I mention that I'd never, ever been camping before?  I'd never ever been camping before.  This was my "maiden voyage", my first trip down the bunny hill.  Problem is a provincial park is one step below the black diamond - back country camping.  Arduous camping for the experienced, the motivated.  Those who don't think that roughing it is a high class hotel.

At that time, provincial campgrounds for the most part were cheap and unserviced.  No showers.  No washrooms.  Outhouses, smelly outhouses, for bathrooms.  Things have changed a lot since those days.  Most campgrounds come with well maintained washrooms - including showers.

We were living more on love at the time than money, so we'd done this trip as on the cheap as possible.  A three-man pup tent.  Two cheap vinyl floatation mattresses which we pushed together.  A camping stove someone had picked up at a garage sale and gave to us.  We splurged on a fly - which turned out not to be waterproof.  So much for that "luxury".

Anyway, as we drove to the provincial campground, it became more and more obvious the further along we got that I was getting sick.  By the time we got there, I was in the middle of a rip roaring case of a high fever.  Poor, long sufferin' hubby, the man who stood at the alter with me and promised to love, honour and set up my tent in the rain etc., manfully started putting up the tent.  Once the tent was up, he inflated the two cheap vinyl air mattresses, pushed them together, put sleeping bags on them and carried me to one.  He also set up the stove to make a quick supper - in the doorway of the tent.  Bad idea.  We discovered quickly why the stove had been sold at a garage sale so cheaply.  The flame flared up - and almost set the tent on fire.  Not a good idea to cremate your bride on her first caping trip.  It just does not set a good example for thins to come.

Things went from bad to worse during the night.  It continued raining all night - actually downpour is the better word.  The tent leaked.  The air matresses floated in opposite directions with a pool of water between them.  I was feverish by that time.  Hubby was cold.  He turned over to get to the source of the heat - me - and ended up in - you guessed it! - the puddle of water.  He was not a happy camper.

Daylight couldn't come soon enough.  As soon as possible, he put me in the car, packed up and we headed south towards civilization.  Civilization in this case being a mobile home which a relative had in a KOA campground which is where we finished out our holiday.

This could easily have been the end of the story - and my career as a camper.  But it wasn't.

The campground was very busy.  It also was not out in the middle of nowhere.  It had a small camp store, a pool and other amenities such as washrooms with showers.  And here is where my analytical abilities stepped in.

I would walk around the camp.  I talked to other campers.  I observed how they did things, what gear they had.  Looking to see what worked for other people.   When we got back home, I thought about how we could go camping again without experiencing all the difficulties we'd experienced the first time.

We did keep the pup tent for a few more adventures but as we added kids to the adventure, we purchased a much larger dome tent - which was to me the height of luxury.

The two cheap vinyl air mattresses were replaced with a good quality, double air mattress designed for camping - not swimming pools.  Ditto, a double sleeping bag.  The stove we did keep for a few more years.  Hubby was the sole one who could manage it.  And it was always used on a picnic table.  It was replaced with a propane camp stove (from Sears which we still use 30 years later) when we took our then four year old on her first camping expedition and she ran to the tent crying out to her dad:  "Come quickly!  Mom's trying to light the stove!"

Weather and illness are not controllable.  But we did buy a cheap plastic sheet to cover the tent in the advent of bad weather.  Crude but effective.  It worked.

The most important thing we did though, was to avoid the "black diamond" i.e. provincial parks for a bit and did what I called "civilized" camping.  The campgrounds like the KOAs with pools, camp stores, bathrooms. etc.  We went to provincial campgrounds for only a day or two at first, sandwiching that adventure in between stays at commercial campgrounds until we all became comfortable.

When people hear about the misadventures of our first camping trip, they're always amazed that I ever went a second time.  Totally astonished that I enjoyed camping and that it became a way of life for us as a family.

This is the approach I use in all of life's difficult situations:  what went wrong?  what went right?  what can I do to make it better another time?

It works.  For me, that is.

Until next time.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Post Workplace Abuse: Progress of recovery in review

Recovery post workplace bullying is not only an on-going process but also a very fluid process. Like a river flowing downstream, it changes constantly. It all depends on the day, the hour and whatever else is going on my life at that particular space in time.

It's easy to feel that recovery is going well when staying at home in my "safe" place doing safe things like watching DVDs, knitting, etc.  It's easy to connect with people via social media because there's a distance to the relationship.  And, if a relationship or conversation becomes unhealthy, it's easy to disconnect.  To pull away.  To put distance between myself and the other person.

However, recovery is not accurately measured in those moments.  It's measured best when going outside the box, testing the limits, seeing how much better - or worse - I react to things that happen when I'm not home in my safe place doing safe things.  It also measures how my body reacts physically after the event and also how I react emotionally/mentally in those days and hours after the event.

I find that living through - and even enjoying - the event is relatively easy.  It's the aftermath that is difficult.  I never know how, when or where that aftermath is going to happen.

So a little over a week ago, I decided to go outside my little safe box into the big bad world.   It was more or less a spontaneous decision although I had been thinking of it for a year.  Ever since my daughter with her youth group and her in-laws with their youth group went on the walk.

My daughter and her in-laws have been doing this walk for years.  Sometimes my young granddaughter has done it as well.

This year I didn't have any money to contribute so when someone from my LinkedIn connections wrote to ask if I would sponsor the walk, my mind recalled a story I know from the Bible about Peter and John encountering a lame man who was asking for money.  Peter said to him:  "I don't have any money, but I'll give you what I do have" and preceded to heal him of his lameness. (Acts 3:6)

I'm not Peter or John.  Not even close.  I can't heal people BUT I do have one thing in my hand:  my camera.  One of my right brain therapies during this period of recovery post workplace abuse.  One of the things that gives me pleasure both while I'm taking the photos and afterwards as I look at them, they bring back good memories.

However, I forgot a couple of details:  (1)  This is an evening event and I almost never go outside the house at night - so I'm way outside my comfort zone right there; (2) I go to bed early - as in like 8 or 9 p.m.; (3) Because of #1 and #2, I'm not experienced with night photography.

This was going outside the box big time for me.  It was the equivalent of going straight from taking quizzes to taking the final exam - without studying.  Or tackling the Black Diamond hill when I wasn't sure that I'd found firm footing on the Bunny Slope.

But still ...  there's a method to my madness.  If I can survive this test, I can pretty well do anything.

If not ... well ... then it may be back to the drawing board, but there are still lessons that are learned to guide me in my next adventure.

I was fine during the event itself.  I enjoyed being among people - which is one thing that staying in my little room denies me.  The energy I felt from the other, younger volunteers was contagious.  They were friendly.  They were helpful.  Their smiles would light up a room ... or a dark sidewalk.  We were all in this together.

BUT ...

My insecurities rose big time.  When I saw another photographer with a bigger camera and longer lens, I felt like such a fraud.  I felt like a little kid with my brand new Brownie Starlight trying to compete with my dad and his Single Lens Reflex camera.  I felt like I didn't measure up.  Like I wasn't good enough (that lie that I wrote about earlier in a different blog reared its ugly head big time once again.)

I had mechanical failures as well.  I'd brought my brand new, never used, external flash.  Since my hands shake badly even at the best of times, I'd brought my tripod - and hubby to set it up for me.  I did do some test photos of willing victims inside (the one with the Starbucks personnel wearing their touques).  I set up my equipment outside, right in the middle of the sidewalk so I could get photos of people coming.  They had to walk around me like the parting of the Red Sea.

I was using my big, serious lens, so I could only get "close ups" if they were far away.  (Note to self:  scout out site earlier in the day and pick good site.)  (Another note to self:  try out all equipment beforehand).  (Third note to self:  if you're going to do this again in the future, you'd best learn about night photography.)  (Should I make any  more notes to self?)

I'd also brought my "second best" camera:  a Canon powershot with a good zoom.  In the beginning I loaned it to another volunteer who took some incredible inside shots with it.

And then failure happened.  Or should I say a fall?  I fell (and no, I didn't hurt myself), but the tripod fell with me.  And the external flash came off.  Some helpful walkers helped me find it, but I couldn't get it back on as the piece which holds it to the camera had broken off with it.  Oops!

And that's when the second lie - that of "my best is not good enough" came to life.  A lie I probably swallowed hook, line and sucker early in childhood which got reinforced during the workplace bullying and afterwards during recovery.

Something cool did happen, the volunteer who I'd loaned my camera to came by to give it back to me.  So I still had a camera.  Yes!

Problem?  I hadn't used it in quite a long time so I couldn't figure out in the cold and the dark how to set it for night pictures.  :(

I ended up taking the rest of the outside pictures (the ones with a yellowish background) on the sports setting.

Then as the last of the walkers left the rest stop and headed back to where they came from, I got tired and the letdown after the event started to happen.  Not only was I exhausted, but I felt the familiar beginnings of depression rising up.  Enveloping me and hanging on with their tentacles refusing to let go.

As I've slogged away through this period post the walk, my body has been in perpetual rebellion and I've been very fatigued, lethargic, not much interest in anything.

BUT ....

I not only have some good memories and pictures, I've learned a bit to help with future outings/testings which I wouldn't have learned any other way.  
Until next time.