Monday, June 17, 2013

Recovery: A Huge Piece on my Journey

Today's post is coming to you from the Guelph (Ontario) Conference Bible grounds where I attended Write! Canada, the first writer's conference I've gone to in 18 years.  For me, this is a huge piece forward on the journey of recovery - not only from the abusive situation and its memories but, more importantly, confronting head on the physical affects and debilitations associated with the abuse. 

Workplace abuse is complex.  Complicated.  Therefore, so is recovery.  What form it takes, what it looks like, for one person may not be what it looks like for another.  There are so many variables and complicating factors such as age (pertinent in my case since I'm over the big 6-0), supportive network, passions, interests, resources, etc.

Ahhhh, did I hear the words passions and interests?

Shortly after I recognized workplace abuse situation #2 for what it was - not just a personality conflict, not just something that could be resolved with the individuals involved - but something that was deliberate, on-going, self-sustaining and, above all - to me, illogical, my daughter gave me some of the best advice I've come across on the journey.

What are your passions and interests, she asked?

And then, when they are identified, follow them.  Lean into them.

What are my passions?  What are my interests?

One:  writing

Two:  photography

Three:  creative ventures via knitting and crocheting.

These are the things that give me pleasure.  The things that help sooth this troubled mind.  The three things in combination that have been keeping me vertical - and somewhat sane during this journey.

Introducing my "safe" person, my caregiver (when necessary), my companion, my ballast for the weekend:  my niece Angela.

So this past weekend, I took a huge step in the process of recovery.  I left the safety of my house and went outside the door into the big, bad world.  Not for just an hour or so - which causes anxiety enough.  I went to a nation-wide Canadian Christian Writers conference.  One I went to many years ago.  But stopped when life intervened.  One I wanted to go to last year, but was not well enough to.

A year has gone by.  A year in which I hoped complete recovery from all the physical affects would occur.  But it didn't.  I'm still not well enough either physically or emotionally to attend this year.  However, I decided that if I waited until I was "well enough," that time would never come.

Therefore, I determined to find a way to make it happen.  To start reclaiming my life - even if my life doesn't look the same as it once did.  Even if it never looks the same as it once did.  To move forward with what I have in my hand - not what I wish I had.  To challenge myself yet being mindful of my "altered abilities".

Even so, I spent the last few days before the conference experiencing increasing anxiety.  Also, increased symptoms such as the eczema/itching which became almost unbearable.

Although I've not gone into much detail with experience #2, it left me with a slew of both physical and emotional symptoms - which started rearing their ugly heads months after the situation ended.  Some of these affects mimic brain injury, and I find it hard to communicate.  There are times words simply won't come.  Or I have to sound out words.  Or I feel so overwhelmed that I can't function.  Or the brain gets "clogged up" and refuses to get into any gear.  Sometimes because of these, I appear mentally deficient.  Then there's the ever present, persistent affects such as extreme fatigue, balance problems, speech impediments, breathing problems and the severe itchiness.  These symptoms come and go.  Seemingly at will.  They seem to have a will - and an agenda - of their own.  One I have no control over.

This is the idyllic setting I found myself in this weekend as I woke up to a new day.  As I looked not just at yesterday's challenges i.e. actually signing up for the conference, packing and physically getting here in spite of the fears, the challenges presented by the realty of my (at least for the time being) "altered abilities."  I woke up this past weekend to a place where tranquillity is as pervasive as God's presence. Acceptance the norm.  A safe place to be.

Being around people, especially a mass of people in one place, has been a guaranteed trigger for these symptoms in the past.  After my experience with abusive situation #2, I am terrified of people.  I can never be certain if there are friend or foe.  I learned the hard way that I cannot foresee how some people are going to react.  What they're capable of doing.  People scare me.

But for this experience, I decided the discomfort was worth it.

So I came to this place with my niece.  I came both hopeful and fearful at the same time.

I found people just let me.  Writers.  Christians.  People on their own personal journeys.  All of us with the commonality of both our faith and our passion for writing.

Sure there were differences.  Some people are well established in the writing field.  Some have published books.  Some have won awards.  Some have published numerous articles and are even here on assignment.  Some are faculty.  Some are staff or volunteer staff.  Yet, there are plenty just like me.  People who have the passion inbred in them to write.  Others who have the passion to share what they have written.  All with a desire to share.

I came home exhausted - which is normal for me.  I came home with a lot of information/impressions yet to process - which may take days or even weeks.  More importantly, I cam home feeling triumphant.  Yes, I had had difficulties.  Yes, I had had to retreat to our room and sleep.  Yes, I had to lean on my niece's,  my angel's shoulder for stability.  But I did it.

I took a huge step forward on the step to recovery.  On the road to shaping what my life post work abuse will look like.  Of reclaiming who I am.

I am Cassie Stratford and I'm a writer.

These words seem so inadequate to convey the hugeness of this milestone in my journey of recovery, yet I know that this past weekend has the ability to break loose a huge chunk of junk that's been fettering me and holding me back in the journey post-abuse.

So now I'm at a crossroads.  Do I continue on with this past weekend and the writer's conference or do I go back to the internal physical and emotional symptoms of workplace abuse.  So I ask you, dear reader, which thread, which rabbit hole, would you like me to follow at this time?  

I treasure and value you dear reader.  Whoever you are, wherever you are, I wish you well on your journey.  And above all recovery.

a H


  1. Thanks so much for your kind words on my blog!

    The pain of your past is so obvious in what you've written here and I am so happy that you found some reprieve while attending the conference. My prayer for you is that you would continue on the path to healing and writing/photography/creating - we're given our gifts for a reason, right? I'm only now really grasping that we can find true fulfillment in using them! Blessings on you and your continued journey - and hopefully, we'll see each other again next year on those beautiful grounds, both of us a little less scared and a little more ready to take on the whole world :)

  2. My friend, you've done well! I, for one, didn't know what you had been battling, as you were always ready with a smile and easy conversation when we spoke.

    (...must have been that "writers' persona"!)

    No need to ask if you should continue or go back into the box. It's a trick of the enemy to keep us in a false comfort zone of never venturing outside the box, but you have proven to yourself that you are free. I know that box and subsequent freedom personally.

    So, if the Lord tarries, we'll share at Write! Canada again next year!