Monday, July 8, 2013

Last week was a surprisingly hard week - in some ways.  Good in other ways.

It was both the firsts of the firsts and the last of the firsts - if that makes any sense.

My mom, born on the 4th of july, was as independent as they come.  A virtual firecracker.  She passed away last August, six weeks after celebrating her 97th birthday.

I am Canadian by choice and marriage; American by birth and heritage.

Proudly Canadian.  Unashamedly American.  Having both holidays in the same week this year constituted a challenge.

A chance to initiate new traditions.  For both holidays.

Problem is.  I've been just touching the surface emotionally on a lot of levels since Mom died - actually even before that.

My mom's last birthday was not the happiest or healthiest (emotionally) of times for me because of some unexpected family dynamics.

Venting.  Unexpected explosions of anger (not by my mom) left me with a lot of unexpected further injury.  Injury that went deeper than what I was already healing from.  Caused more symptoms.  Symptoms which I still cope with on a daily basis - on top of everything else.

That's when the symptoms of brain damage (chaos in the brain) started.  I began to lose my ability to speak, to form words.  My speaking became very tentative.  I began to lose my ability to form thoughts in my mind.  My once superb cognitive skills went downhill.  The extreme fatigue intensified (if that's possible).  My life became a living hell - even after I extracted myself from that situation.  Even after I was back home with my support system comprised of my counsellor, my physician, my long-sufferin', ever-lovin' husband, my children and others who know me and love me anyway.

Already working through major issues post workplace abuse, I was thrust into a whole set of other issues to work on concurrently.  Issues I wasn't prepared for.

To make things worse, my doctor (with my consent) had just weaned me off an antidepressant because we had cause to believe that it was causing some of my physical and emotional symptoms.

Not a good time to incur further abuse.  Depression hung on my like a thick cloud.  Unabating.

I came home from that week with my mom thoroughly confused and depressed.  There was too much to process.  Too much I just simply could not understand.

The first verbal attack had been because I proudly wore my bright red Canada t-shirt with Canada emblazoned across my chest in big white block letters.  I was out and about (as we Canadians would say) and was not able to change.  I felt like I had committed the unpardonable sin by wearing this t-shirt on my national holiday in the good old USA.  I felt exposed.  I felt like I had the "scarlet letter" emblazoned across my chest (which in a manner of speaking, I did.)  Never mind that I had several American t-shirts to wear on my other national holiday.  Never mind that it was Canada's national holiday.  Never mind that it was my grandson's birthday.  Never mind that this is my normal July 1st attired.

That was at the very beginning of that week.  It went downhill from there.  I was accused of turning everything into something about me (which by the way isn't that abnormal - especially when you're working through all the former abuse in the workplace(s).  Healing is all about us.)  Forced into what amounted to silence for an hour because I was mandated not to use the words "I', "me" or "my" while on a shopping trip.  Try it.  It's not exactly possible.  Or pleasant.  I noticed though that the other party was not following the same rules.  Hmmmmm.  I was told:  "after all you don't have cancer."  Hmmmm.  Maybe it would be easier if I did.

By Mom's birthday in the middle of the week, I was a basket case. Crying all the time.  Desperately wanting out.  Problem was, I had no transportation, no car, limited means of communication with the outside world.  I felt trapped.

By the end of the week, I was a wreck.  My husband came and rescued me as soon as he was able to.  I remember standing in the large foyer of a restaurant on the way home bawling my eyes out, crying:  "Will I ever see my mother again?" as I felt I was not welcome to visit.  I was afraid of that one family member.  Hurting badly.  Emotionally bleeding all over the floor.

The last blog I wrote in 2012 was on Mom's birthday. After that, I was too damaged, too insecure to write anything more.

So I came to last week - the last of the firsts - with a lot of pent-up emotions.  Emotions I'd stuffed way down deep.  I was surprised at the depth of my feelings.  Animosity over this one person's bigotry.  I was surprised at how deep the hurt was even a year later.  I was surprised at the anger still residing within me waiting to get out.

Yet somehow, I made it through.  The first of July, my adopted country's national holiday, was actually easier.  My neighbours invited us over for a bonfire and fireworks.  What they never told us was that they traditionally set off the fireworks in our yard!  A great time of togetherness, hilarity and acceptance.  (Not to mention, a great private fireworks display.)

Followed by discovering that Stratford, Ontario (which is by the way on #6 on a list of the best places to visit in Ontario during the summer) which I am very familiar with as I go there every two weeks for my counselling appointments had a family-oriented celebration in the afternoon.  Followed in the evening by visiting with members of hubby's family.  Nothing terribly exciting.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  Just unconditional acceptance.  What we all need.

The 4th, though, took me by surprise.  I hadn't thought to preplan anything and was blindsided by a headache that neither Advil, Alleve, naps or food would touch.  Alone as my husband was unexpectedly working a 12-hour shift.  In a country which had already had it's national holiday and celebration so the 4th, normally the highlight of my year, was just another working day to those around me.  Nothing special.  I hadn't realized just how much I would be affected by being in Canada on the 4th.  Alone with my unhappy memories of the year prior, my thoughts, and yes my grief.

What caused the damage last year?  Feelings of rejection caused by the outbursts of anger.  What helps with the healing?  Unconditional acceptance.

We who are on the journey of healing post abuse whether it's in the workplace, the family or a combination of both, need acceptance in order to heal.

We are fragile, yes.  Yet, there is a huge, unacknowledged strength within more of us.

Because we are Survivors.

We have survived the worst of what the workplace has to offer and we still get up in the morning, put on our clothes and make it through another day.

I salute us.


  1. That's the key for any of us who find ourselves in that predicament: How do we tap into that inner strength and strengthen that what once was fragile?

    I don't know that we can erase the hurt; it feels impossible. But if we could draw on that reserve of strength as survivors, who knows what we'd be capable of.

    1. That's the key for any of us who find ourselves in that predicament: How do we tap into that inner strength and strengthen that what once was fragile?

      I don't know that we can erase the hurt; it feels impossible. But if we could draw on that reserve of strength as survivors, who knows what we'd be capable of.

      I treasure your comment, coach-daddy. There are no simple, follow step 1, step 2, step 3, etc. directions to erasing the hurt and tapping into that inner strength. For me, finding a counsellor who was well-versed in trauma and was able to provide a safe place for me to talk about my experiences and process everything has been invaluable. Her affirmation that I am a worthwhile individual (her word is "amazing") has kept me going many a time when I was discouraged and ready to give up. In short, healing from the affects of workplace abuse is a process. Unfortunately. Now ... if only I could find that elusive magic wand ....