Friday, January 19, 2018

Recovery Post Workplace Abuse: Who I Am Revisited



The recent event of being dismissed from my volunteer position petting cats at the Humane Society due to a cat bite, which appears to be their unpardonable sin, has caused me to revisit once again the question that has been haunting me off and on since my first workplace abuse situation:  Who. Am. I.?

When a person has been bullied in the workplace, this becomes the first hurdle to overcome on the journey of recovery.  Because workplace bullying (and all bullying) attacks the target/victim at the very core of Who. They. Are.  Things become twisted.  What was good formerly, is no longer good.  The former positive becomes a negative. Who they are is no longer good enough.  What they do is no longer good enough.  Even being amazing at their job (workplace abuse situation #1) is no longer good enough.  The rules not only have changed but continue to change according to the whim of the bully and those who listen to him/her (workplace abuse situation #1).  Things become confusing rapidly for the target.

The onslaught is unrelenting.

And the target is left wondering if there is anything good about them at all.  Do they have any value?

After the bullying ends, the target who is determined to recover first has to rediscover Who. She. Is.  Her strengths.  Her values.  Her passions.  Her interests.

This is not a one-time thing as life goes on with various incidents occurring.  Some good.  Some bad.  Some neutral.

*****
A little aside, time out here.  When I first started this blog years ago, I did a three part series entitled Who Am I?  After workplace abuse situation #2, I wrote a poem looking at that very question.  It was a three part poem which explored what people saw, what the former co-workers thought and who I really am in God.

*****

The current situation is different in the fact that I do not exactly feel that I was bullied.  However, there were enough similarities in the blame statements and shut downs that it has caused me to wonder why, once again, I am not good enough.  Calming cats down, enticing them to come out for interaction, soothing them, petting them on a regular basis is not good enough.  Having other staff members see my interaction with these cats and calling me "the cat whisperer" is not good enough.  Being bitten is the issue.  Because it's not in the best interest of the cat.

*****
Another aside.  Being a left-brained person who deals heavily with logic, this makes no logical sense to me.  As a volunteer I've had to sign a waiver that I will not hold the shelter liable if I get bitten.  There are also signs on each adoption room door, that these cats may bite or scratch and that the volunteer, and even the public, goes in and handles the residents at their own risk.

*****

So, after six plus years of recovery post workplace abuse situation #2, what have I learned in the past six plus years about who I am?  What are my passions, interests, strengths and talents.  How can I use them in this situation?

I am passionate about people.  Not so much about animals.  Petting the cats was really a means to an end.  I needed that cat therapy in order to heal emotionally.  I loved with I did and got satisfaction out of holding and petting the cats and hearing them purr, or coaxing them out of their hiding places to let me pet them, or calming them down when frightened.  But they're not my passion.

I'm a very creative person.  I love to make things.  I love to feel the wool passing between my fingers as I knit or crochet an item.  I love to see things taking shape beneath my needles or hook.

I'm a very analytic person.  I often take a step or two or even three back to analyze the situation and try to make sense of it.

I'm a very intelligent person - even with the cognitive disabilities.  The mind is still there even though I'm not always able to find the right words, etc.

I'm compassionate, sensitive to others and a Christian who believes in the power of prayer.

Putting some of these things together:  I'm a compassionate, intelligent, praying person who uses her creative abilities to bless others.

So what do all these things have to do with my former volunteer position at the Humane Society.

Very little.

It's time to move on.

It's time to look for the "metal" roof, the new beginning.

It's time to scrap the old.   Consign it to the garbage can.

It's a new year.  A new beginning.  A re-invented me.




Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Recovery Post Workplace Abuse: New Friends

 Meet my new besties: Chewy, Toffee and Ms Petite.


Various friends have graciously opened their doors, hearts and homes to allow me to come in and socialize and be socialized by their pets. The first was Chewy, a ShiPoo who loves to cuddle up on the couch and be petted. I think this is his idea of dog heaven. 

The second is (Mr.) Toffee (the Mr. is not a part of his name), a Shitzu, who is very full of energy and in some ways scares me; however, (Mr.) Toffee showed me an interesting side of himself yesterday when he laid down quietly on his table and graciously allowed me to detangle and brush his hair (note: although he wasn't totally brushed, this picture shows his current state not the state he was in when I came into his house). He patiently endured my less than gentle ministrations and never once offered to bark, bite or growl - unless you count when I was sitting at the table eating some delicious homemade cranberry bread. Then he got downright menacing when I wasn't getting the memo and sharing with him. 

Then there is Ms Petite, a lilac point Siamese with one eye who lives with Toffee. She is the most aloof and least cuddly of my three new besties. With good reason since she's a Siamese after all. She is also the one with the softest fur. She has allowed me to do the "unthinkable" and pick up her even though she prefers to be petted on her own terms. She endures my petting her while holding her without even attempting to nip at me let alone bite me.

There is another not quite bestie yet (not pictured), also living in the same house with Toffee and Ms. Petite, a Tonkinese cat named Shimera.  She is less social than Toffee and Ms. Petite and I have yet to win her over.  She is my current challenge.

The last "bestie", also not pictured, is Monte who belongs to a young lady who entered into my life over four years ago to come and clean.  An older feline, pretty well set in his ways, he too allowed me to put him on my lap and interact with him.  He looked at me with such sad eyes as though to say that he understood my "sad" story about the Humane Society and felt it was very sad indeed.

AND ...

There are benefits that come with spending time with other people's furbabies: Monte's humans invited me and hubby over and treated us to a steak dinner while I petted their cat; Toffee, Ms. Petite and Shimera's human invited me over and treated me to fresh baked cranberry bread; Chewy's humans provide human socialization and unconditional acceptance along with coffee when I come to visit.  I feel truly relaxed in their home.

If this keeps up, I'm going to find myself thankful for the Humane Society for dismissing me from my volunteer work of petting kitties. Not only are these visits more fun but they provide something the Humane Society did not:  appreciation.

I believe I'm seeing the "metal roof" mentioned in an earlier post starting to reveal itself.

Life is good.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Recovery Post Workplace Abuse - Thankfulness Revisited

This is another blog posting which started and then got hopelessly bogged down.

Why?

Because I have so many things to be thankful for that simply trying to put them in list form didn't work.

Thankfulness needs to be put into context in order to understand why I am truly thankful for what on the surface may appear to be fairly ordinary things.

So what did I do?  As I said in my last post about getting rid of old to make room for the new that is exactly what I did. I deleted all the old, stagnant posts so I could have a fresh start on this topic.

You wouldn't think that the topic of thankfulness would be hard to write about, but for me it has been.  Partially because thankfulness is not stagnant. It is always fluid. It's like the Grand River near my house.  Continually flowing.  Even under the current covering of ice and snow, there's a current - a strong one - flowing underneath.  Unseen but still there.

My current of thankfulness rans the gamut of being thankful for creature comforts like indoor plumbing and central heating which don't make much sense unless you know that in the context of indoor plumbing, I may have just returned from an interior canoe camping trip in which the "necessary" (called a thunder box) is located approximately 35 metres from the tent site location and is usually uphill both ways) or in the case of central heating you understand that we're experiencing extremely cold weather here.

Thankfulness for me changes constantly depending on my circumstances; what's happening in my life at the moment.

When the cork came out of the bottle that long ago Thanksgiving and thankfulness began to flow, I mentioned one by one the people at the table who I was very thankful for.  They included a daughter, son-in-law, grandchildren, my daughter's in-laws, etc.  Each one had in one way or another stuck with me during a very difficult period in my life.  Some in one way; some in another.  To put it bluntly, each one knew me well - and loved me anyway.  They had chosen to stay in my life.

That is one thing I am always thankful for: those who know me well and love me anyway.  Those who have chosen to stay in my life.  Those who affirm and encourage me.

Some have had to leave the circle not in malice or ill will but because they're lives have changed: illness, pursuing other interests, etc. .... Yet each one holds a treasured place in my heart.

*****

This isn't where I intended this post to go when I sat down, deleted the previous writing and started it again.  Yet this is extremely fitting.  Just as bullying/workplace abuse begins with people; people who use their tongues/resources/energy in negative ways which psychologically injure their target;  recovery begins with people as well; people who reach out in one way or another and use their time/energy/resources to encourage and restore the affected person.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Recovery Post Workplace Abuse: Out With the Old

Sometimes you just have to scrap things and start over. 

A fresh beginning.  Which is what is happening as I restart this blog on my journey towards recovery post Workplace Abuse.

I really didn't mean to take such a long sabbatical from blogging.  I really didn't.

It just kind of happened.

I would try to restart it time after time, but would get stalled.  Stuck.  Big time stuck.  Like in mucky mud which sticks around the ankles and doesn't allow forward movement.

Over and over and over again.

I had quite a few drafts which I wanted to finish. So I would pull one up, read it, and try to go somewhere fresh from the old draft.

It wasn't happening.

They really weren't bad posts.  They included such topics as trust post workplace abuse.  Good topics.  Worthy of exploring further.

But in each one I had gotten bogged down and couldn't seem to find the words, creativity or energy to finish.

That was my cork firmly stuck in the bottle of my writing creativity regarding this blog.  Without removing that cork nothing was going to happen.

So what did I do?

I deleted each and every one of those drafts.  They weren't going anywhere.  They were just hanging around holding me back.  So time to take out the old.  Start with something new.  Something fresh.  Something alive.

It's a fresh year.

A fresh start.

And I intend to take full advantage of it.

So there!

*****

Another part of my fresh start with this blog is posting three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, instead of the five I did previously.  When I did post regularly.

So look for fresh blog posts on these three days.

You are welcome to come anytime, on any time, read, reread.

Comments are welcome.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Recovery Post Workplace Abuse: The Place of Thankfulness

I am thankful for friends who are stepping up to fill the gap left by the loss of my volunteer work petting cats at the Humane Society.


*****

Years ago after Workplace Abuse Situation #1, someone came into my life to walk with me and encourage me as much as she could.

One thing she tried to encourage me to do was to be thankful.

At that point, I couldn't be thankful for anything.  I was sunk in depression and despair.  Anger.  Trauma.  PTSD.  These three were my constant companions.  There was no joy in my life.  No room for thankfulness.  What was I supposed to be thankful for?  That I was walked out of the office on a contract end and left outside the back door like yesterday's garbage?  That I wasn't allowed to say goodbye to those I'd worked with for more than two years?  That was the way I thought and felt at that time.

My friend persisted.  And persisted.  And persisted.  She refused to be daunted and discouraged.

She has a tradition of passing around an ear of dried corn after her Thanksgiving Day meal for each person seated around the table to say what they are thankful for.

I was one of the guests seated around the table that Thanksgiving.  When the ear of corn was passed around, I had nothing to say.  Nothing to be thankful for.

Except ....

I had just learned that the 2Up who had engineered my demise from the first workplace bullying situation had been fired.  She'd made a lot of changes in the workplace.  Most of which turned out to be disastrous.  I read later, much later, that sometimes supervisors will bully un underling to cause chaos in the department so that the superiors are focussed on the chaos not on what she's doing.  It seems to fit here.  She was in the process of making several changes in our office at the time of my demise, most of which turned out disastrously and for that she was eventually dismissed herself.

At that time at that table holding that ear of corn in my hand knowing that I was expected to come up with something to be thankful for, her firing was all I could think to be thankful for.

So that is what I said.

I could tell from my friend's face that that is not what she wanted to hear.  She didn't really approve.

BUT ...

It turned out that that was the cork firmly planted in the top of the bottle of thankfulness stopping the flow of thankfulness.  Once released, thankfulness began to flow ... and flow ... and flow.

Now years later, it's still flowing. Even in this current situation of being dismisssed from my volunteer assignment which was important to me and has had a lot to do with my current state of recovery, I have many things to be thankful for.  One of which is that I was able to pet the kitties in the first place and that it lasted as long as it did.

*****

I am thankful, very thankful, for a friend who never gave up.


Monday, January 8, 2018

Recovery post Workplace Abuse: Taking Time To Grieve the Losses


Losses are part of life.  We lose friends as we leave high school, college, move, get married, family passes on, etc.

Losses are also part of life during and after workplace abuse.  So far, I've lost two jobs, in 2005 and 2011 respectively, due to workplace abuse along with all the accompanying relationships - and pay checks - associated with them.  Being walked out the door (2005) after workplace abuse #1and leaving after a shift and not coming back due to a stress breakdown (2011) in the midst of workplace abuse situation #2 just doesn't lend itself to saying goodbye or keeping relationships. 

There's just too much garbage, not to mention stigma for people in these situations to feel comfortable with the bullied worker.  I was told after the 2005 incident that my former co-workers had actually been told that having anything to do with me was not in their best interests job wise.

Let's be realistic, if you have a choice between standing up for a beleaguered, bullied co-worker and supporting your family, it's a no brainer.  Unless you're a really special person.

I also lost two churches during that time period - and those relationships.  The first was after the first workplace bullying ended badly in 2005.  I did not know it was bullying.  I did not know I had PTSD and trauma.  I only knew that something was very wrong and I couldn't seem to get past it no matter what I tried.  My counsellor at that time was not helping in the healing.  In fact, I often felt like I needed a counselling session after the counselling session to deal with the counselling situation.  Eventually, I threw my Bible on the floor in the church library where I was volunteering.

I advise you not to do that.  The repercussions were nasty.

Churches/Pastors simply do not understand PTSD and trauma.  They are not equipped - or inclined - to deal with it even when it's starring them in the face.

My (now former) pastor landed on my doorstep mere hours after I threw that Bible.  Extremely angry.  Condemnation in abundance.  Compassion nil.  I never returned to that church.  I felt stigmatized.  That everyone knew I had thrown my Bible.  I felt I had a big BT (Bible Thrower) emblazoned over my head for everyone to see.

In neither of the above incidents did I take the time to grieve.  After the bad ending of the first workplace bullying incident, I was re-employed in three weeks - which was good in a way and bad in another way.

I still had all that garbage.  I still felt as though I were a bad person because that's what workplace bullying does.  It attacks you where you live.  At the very core of your self esteem.

As we know now, the new job while starting out well, changed as a big fish took over the company and ended up in four years of increasingly escalating bullying.  Again aimed at the very core of Who. I. Am.

I didn't take time to grieve the loss of my church either.  We took a couple of Sundays off and then started attending another another church.  We were there for seven years when things went south again after my mother died and I was still struggling with the after effects of workplace bullying #2 which had changed my life dramatically along with the death of my mother.

Churches simply do not understand PTSD and trauma.  If it was a physical, life threatening illness such as a car accident,  heart attack, whatever, the church would be there in spades.  Emotional?  They just don't get it.  It takes time spent with the person to get it and they don't want to spend the time needed to get it.

Sooooo ...

i have another loss in my life.  This time a volunteer position which meant a lot to me.  Which helped me a lot in my journey of recovery.

One big difference between the two workplace bullying situations and this one:  while it may not have been fair (to hold me responsible for a cat biting me), it was not personal.  It had nothing to do with my personality or what people thought of me. It was simply the way that the volunteer manager thinks.  The shelter is for the cats, not the volunteers.  The cat has to go on a mandatory 10 day quarantine which puts it out of circulation for those 10 days.

Another difference: 11 and counting years of recovery.

Initially every part of me wanted to protest.  To get them to right the wrong.  But I held back.

Every part of me wanted to look things up and find out what other shelters' policy for "after the bite" are.  But I held back.

I wanted to look into other volunteer positions especially in other shelters to fill the void.  But I held back.

Why?

Because this isn't the time for action.  This is the time for grieving the loss.  For taking the time to allow myself to feel.  Even if feeling is hard because grieving involves hurting feelings.

Yet, it's all part of recovery.

Sometimes getting up one more time than you feel down needs to be delayed.

Not forever.

Just long enough to grieve the loss.

Then, it will be time to get up again.


Friday, January 5, 2018

Recovery Post WorkPlace Abuse: the last few years expanding the horizons




Expanding the horizons.

My horizons.

I spent most, if not all, of 2015 seeking ways of safely poking my wee nose outside my door.

I wanted to do volunteer work of some sort.  But what?  In a post workplace seminar, I was advised to find a volunteer position that had nothing to do with what my previous work experience had been.  For me that meant nothing office related.

Hmmm ... what could I do?

What did I want to do?

I thought of many things but had to eliminate most due to what I call my "altered abilities" post workplace abuse.

Stamina.  Energy.  In very short supply.

Fatigue.  Not only in large supply but showing up unannounced and demanding attention i.e. naps.

And then there were the cognitive issues.  Also the balance issues.

Living with a brain that doesn't always work  is ... interesting.  To say the least.

I realized that I could only do things for short periods of time.

One volunteer position I was ideally suited for, working with homeless people, at a drop in centre required a set 4 hour shift in the afternoon with a 10 week commitment.  I wanted so badly to sign up BUT I realized that I was not at a point for that kind of ongoing commitment.  I could do one week.  But two in a row?  Or ten consecutively?  Probably not.

Eventually I found what was a really good fit for me: petting cats at the local Humane Society.  Our cat had died of old age and because of serious cat allergies within our extended family, we had decided she would be our last pet.  It was hard on me when she died until someone suggested that maybe I could see what the local Humane Society had to offer.

I started out on something called TLC (Tender Loving Care) for cats who were not very social and needed to be worked with.  I was given orientation and training in one one-on-one short session and put to work.  The person training me, another volunteer herself, had warned against getting bit.  It wasn't very long before I did get bit.  The next thing I knew I was transferred to another program called Play Therapy which, by the way, is not on their website re: volunteer positions.  I never saw a job description for it.  Or had any training on it.

Even though I felt I'd been demoted, I loved it.  These cats, any cat in the adoption area who was not designated TLC, was fair game.  Oh, how they lapped up the attention.  Some would lie in my lap and purr.  Others needed coaxing.  Each time I interacted with these cats, was actually therapy for me so I started to call it my Cat Therapy day.  There is just something about petting these cats, my skin against their fur, the purring sounds soothing my soul.

At first, I would go in and avoid any interaction with human beings i.e. the staff.  I was so afraid of people after all that had happened in the workplace that people scared me.  To a degree they still do.

After a while, I began to come out of my shell and slowly, very slowly, began to interact with people.

Unlike my last job, volunteering at the Humane Society was all about the cats and their welfare.  It had nothing to do with personalities.  At least human personalities.

It was good.  Very good.  For me.

Then I got bitten not just a second time, but a third time.  Mind you these three bits were spread out over a 19 month period with the last two being a year (less a day) apart.

Unfortunately for me, the timing between bites was not a factor in the Volunteer Co-ordinataor's mindset.  It was the pattern.  I was let go from my volunteer situation which meant a lot to me.

Yet even in the midst of this very difficult situation, I can see positive pieces of recovery this past year.

This is not the end.

It is merely a new beginning.

A new beginning into what I have no idea.

But a new beginning nonetheless and I'm looking forward to seeing what is going to happen next.