Questions. Ahhhh ... most of us who have been through the trauma of workplace abuse come out of it with many questions. Among them are: "Why me?"; "Why did they target me?"; "What did I do to them to cause all of this abuse?" At some point when the continued, unrelenting attack on the very core of our being devalues us completely that we ask ourselves (or at least I asked myself) this question: "Who am I?" My answers to this were part of the original posts of this blog.
The main questions for me at this point are: "What does reclaiming myself look like in this situation?"; "How do I go about it?"
That is a challenging question and a daunting endeavour to even contemplate, let alone initiate.
There are no simple solutions. No simple answers. No magic wands. Garnering support on the journey back is challenging because so many good people simply don't understand what workplace abuse is all about. What it does to the target or victim. Even the term "victim" is discredited because the victim is not supposed to have a "victim" mentality. After all, that would be bad for morale in the workplace ... and we must protect the workplace at all costs.
After all I've been through that I feel that I have the right to use whatever terminology I choose.
In reality, I am both a target and a victim ... as well as a survivor. I am a target because I was targeted for certain behaviours such as isolation, exclusion, gossip, character assassination, etc.
I am a victim because of the damage that the constant barrage of criticism, investigation, inspection, etc. did to me both physically and emotionally. Damage which continues two years and counting post workplace abuse.
At the same time, although I am not fully recovered especially physically, I am a survivor.
Because at the end of the day, I am still alive. I have not succumbed to either suicide or mental illness. I have not allowed myself to "self-medicate" in any form. I have struggled and I still struggle. Each forward movement takes effort. So much effort that I feel as that I'm walking in particularly sticky mud up to my ankles. Muck which will not let go. Muck which hangs on, clinging to me. Trying to pull me back.
Back to a place of darkness. Back to a place where I was not happy. A place where my strengths were devalued and my weaknesses exaggerated. A place that in reality I cannot go back to.
I was, for all practical intents and purposes, fired. Or rather dismissed. Semantics.
Compelled to sign an agreement to resign in a donut shop with only a Union official present. No HR people. No forewarning of what was about to happen.
I liken this experience which became a trauma in and of itself to a prisoner being awakened by heavy pounding on the cell door, manacled, frog-marched outside to a waiting firing squad, chained to a post and summarily shot. No warning. No kindness. Brute force and control. Oh yes, the prisoner knows he's in a cell. S/he might even know that they've been sentenced to death But they did not know the when. Shock value at its worst.
In my situation, I knew that my value in the workplace had been severely devalued. I knew, at least in the periphery of my being, that I was perceived by significant others such as HR and management as being the cause of the problem.
I didn't know, however, how far things had gone. I had been absent from the workplace for over a month. I was on short-term disability attempting to recover from two back-to-back stress breakdowns. Close to suicide, my specialist felt that I needed to be separated from the workplace in order to heal.
He could have given me a one-way ticket for a 72 hour evaluation under the Mental Health Act but sent me home instead after asking and assessing the answers to two questions: "Was I a danger to myself i.e. suicidal?" and, even more importantly in this situation, "Was I a danger to anyone else i.e. the people who were causing the symptoms?"
The answer to both questions was no. While I was close to becoming suicidal, at that point I was not. While I was angry, and rightfully so, at what was happening in the workplace, I was not likely to hurt them. Most of them were bigger then me, including the women. And while they may constitute a significant Goliath to me, my name is not David. Nor do I have any skill with the slingshot.
Among the questions asked were: "Did I have access to weapons - as in guns?"
The answer was no. The main deciding factor was that I had built up a support system among a few trusted relatives and friends - the main one of which was my husband.
That support system has made all the difference.
Although, I have been battered and bruised (badly), that support system is what has allowed me to survive. To get up time and time again. To work on recovery.
So why do I keep going back to the past? Why do I keep mentioning and reliving that terrible day in the doughnut shop? Why don't I just "let go" or move on?
These are the frustrations many people have voiced with me. The reality is that workplace abuse and the bully in the workplace are traumas just as surely as the shooting at Columbine more than a decade ago was for those who survived it. I remember reading in a newspaper article on the tenth anniversary of that tragic day about a survivor who said that people keep telling him to forget about it, to stop thinking about it but that he can't. It is still with him every day of his life.
That is trauma in a nutshell. It's not that you, the victim or target or whatever, can magically let go. From the moment the first shot at Columbine was fired, trauma entered these people's lives and forged a tight grip on them which does not easily let go. Not without therapy. Not without a lot of work and effort. Not without a support group. Not without help.
Part of the purpose of the realignment of this blog is not only to invite you on my journey to share the good times, to learn from the bad, but also to give you tools help you understand the traumatized person in your life and what that person is dealing with on a daily basis. Or if you're the traumatized person, to let you know that (a) you're normal and (b) recovery is possible. Like with Lydia in the previous blog, it takes a lot of hard work and determination. But it is possible.
First, we need to lay down a strong foundation which will start with my nest blog. Like a contractor laying down the foundation for any building project, it needs to be strong. It needs to be able to withstand anything which might come against it. It has to be done right.
And to do that, takes time and effort.
So please, dear reader, I ask you to bear with me as I start to lay down a strong foundation from which to build on.
Join with me in the journey. Hope on the bus. I welcome and solicit your comments and feedback.