Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Post Workplace Abuse - Which Direction to Follow on the Road to Recovery?
After the conference, I resemble this signpost in front of the Wellend Canal (Ontario) where the big lake boats come through heading from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario (or vice versa) - destinations and miles pointing this direction and that. Now to decide. Where do I want to go from here? Which dream do I follow? Can I follow more than one dream at the same time? For the first time in a long time, I feel like the world is my oyster, my very own oyster, for me to go out and pluck. I feel whole - at least for the time being....
I find myself at a crossroads todays. With signs pointing towards different, distinct destinations. Which sign, which thread should I follow in this blog? Which will be the most valuable for me and my reader at this point?
Will it be the continuing story of abusive work situation #1?
Will it be the thread I had inserted into that narrative about symptoms which should make you aware that abuse either is happening to you (or your loved one) or has happened?
Or ... contestant #3 ... will it be a short series about the writer's conference I attended last weekend? Which is in and of itself a huge milestone on my journey towards reclaiming my life post abuse. But at the same time, it propels me back into the present, into where I am now post-abuse and into recovery. It skips the major trauma, impact and subsequent learning about workplace abuse. It skips the past which makes the present relevant.
Or will it start one place and veer off into a slightly different direction between returning to the main theme?
We shall see.
Since abusive situation #2 ended and recovery - or what passes for recovery - began, I've resembled the canoes - or rather the canoeists (since canoes are inanimate objects and have no volition of their own) - in this picture taken on the Eramosa River ironically also in Guelph, Ontario. Spinning my wheels in terms of what direction to go. Paralyzed by my inability to grab my paddle, steer my canoe and move forward in a productive way; therefore, going in circles, running into other canoes, clumsy and possibly not entirely safe for the other canoeists. Needing to find the right tool. The right way. To move forward. But hindered by the past. By the memories. By the accusations that run through my brain again and again and again. Especially when I'm out in the wide world. There's always that voice that says: "You were fired." Or: "You can't fire someone because you don't like them BUT they did." When out in public, I feel like there is a sign above my head pointing out that I was ultimately fired in abusive situation #2 because I dared to say I was being bullied.
Attempting to break the fetters of my mind and my memories was my purpose in pushing my envelope and going to this conference, and I succeeded.
I went out among people. Real people. Scary people. People who would laugh at the mere idea that they could be scary. And I succeeded.
These people didn't know my past. They didn't know the things I was accused of. No one cared about what other people thought or felt or perceived or assumed about me. All they cared about was that I was (a) there and (be) a writer. Nothing else mattered. I had a fresh start in a sea of people who were just like me: writers, Christians, perfect in our admitted imperfection. Not coming together as know-it-alls, even those who have been published or were part of the faculty, but coming together to learn more from each other. As equals.
It was refreshing.
It was healing.
"Safety" is huge in the life of a survivor of workplace abuse. Our world came crushing down on us in ways we could not understand then and still cannot understand now. Our world was no longer safe. And that feeling of unsafeness continues as we stagger on. Nothing appears safe to us any more. And that is why it is very possible for survivors/victims of workplace abuse to have agoraphobia. A condition which limits us greatly and will continue to affect us throughout our lifetime unless we get therapy. Unless we voluntarily find a safe way to push the envelope.
Therefore, I brought with me my safe person: my niece, my Angel, my ballast, my protection. However, we both perceived very shortly after arriving and signing in, that we were in a "safe" place with "safe" people. (If someone there wasn't safe, they never showed themselves to me! Or to her for that matter.)
Because my niece aka my buffer was with me, the affects didn't matter so much. She was there to shield me from the worst - and to remove me if things got so bad within me that I couldn't stay. She took notes when I was too fatigued to go to another session. She made friends of her own - and shared some of them with me. She had a smile on her face the whole time. She enjoyed herself to the fullest - which made my soul beam and smile and enhanced my enjoyment. I realize now that her presence allowed me to appear more normal than I actually am in this situation. And, therefore, to be perceived as a normal person.
Normalcy: that illusive something that most of us strive for - which is after all, just a setting on your clothes dryer (Patsy Clairemont). As a victim of workplace abuse, I was singled out, or targeted, for certain behaviours such as exclusion and isolation, verbal abuse, gossip, slander, character assassination - and if that wasn't enough, at the very end cyberstalking. Because I was accused of many things in workplace abuse situation #2, I perceived myself as not normal, damaged beyond redemption. Worth less than the others in the workplace. And that perception continued on until just recently when I realized that I had been operating under the assumption that not only was I worthless, a throwaway, but, more importantly, that I was worth less than others.
In this conference, I was neither worthless nor worth less than others. I was an equal. I was valued not because of what I had to offer or what I had written, because except for this blog, I haven't yet. But for who I am. A human being - just like them. A writer in the process of becoming - just like them. A Christian attempting to work out my own salvation - just like them.
I came away with a feeling of acceptance. A feeling of worth. I am just as worthy as anyone else - and that includes those who abused me in the workplace.
I came away with many impressions regarding my writing, where I want to go to from here, possible ways of getting there - which I haven't explored in this blog and which I may not explore per se but may become evident in my writing, my focus down the road.
I came away with this: My name is Cassie Stratford and I AM A WRITER.
I am a writer because I write.
And my favorite one of all, the benediction at the very end of the conference: Go forth and write.
I have found my direction.