The damage that a storm, or any natural (or unnatural) event causes is instantaneous. And visible. Anyone can see it. Depending on how violent or visible the event is, the media pick it up and plaster pictures all over the print media, TV and the internet.
Our first reaction was exhilaration on experiencing the storm firsthand while driving through it and then later through seeing the damage firsthand.
On seeing our backyard for the first time after the storm, we were thankful that it was our neighbour's tree which had snapped and not ours. We were secure in the knowledge that he would tend to it as soon as possible. It was nothing more than an annoyance in our lives. Nothing major.
We went out to survey the damage around the town which at first added further exhilaration. Then as we saw more and more of the extent of the damage and began to perceive that restoring power was not going to be a quick fix, we began to comprehend the seriousness of the situation. And the situation became just a little more major in our estimation - but still more on the annoyance level than anything else. Still nothing really major.
We began to wonder: just how long is this going to last?
Just how long are we going to be inconvenienced by this?
Just what measures should we take to live through this happening?
We got out the flashlights. Note to self: make sure that all flashlights are in an easy to locate location. Another note to self: make sure they are all working and that more batteries are stocked and stored nearby in that central location to make location easy.
We got out the radios. Note to self: Make sure to stock batteries for radios in that central location. Also, make sure to note where said battery powered and hand cranked radios are located.
One of our immediate needs, more immediate than a light source, was food. Without power and not having a gas stove, what were we going to do? How extensive was the damage?
Not knowing, we made do with crackers, cheese, sandwiches and potato chips - which was a good decision since the power didn't come on until the next morning.
Again, we may not have been aware of everything at that time as in how long it was going to last, when would power be restored, etc., but because it was something natural, something more or less obvious, the situation we were dealing with and the steps needed to deal with the situation were fairly obvious. And really, for the most part, it was more of an annoyance, a blip on the screen of life.
With abusive situations, the victim finds themselves dealing with unseen damage. All the damage is internal. Hidden inside the body - and mind.
The situation is not obvious. Even to the victim of the abuse. Many times, the victim is not aware that they went through the emotional equivalent of a severe storm and battering to their mind and body.
There are no overt trees or power lines down.
However, inside where the person truly lives, they are living in a chaotic mess.
Verbal assaults have totally destroyed their self esteem. Stress and overwork have done a number on their energy levels and with resultant chemical imbalances in their bodies.
First there is the acute phase which can be a stress breakdown with stress symptoms such as stuttering, impaired cognitive abilities, making mistakes both at work and outside of work. These are just a few of the symptoms I experienced in one or both of the abusive work situations I lived through. Similar to when the physical storm I've described in our region first hit.
Next, usually months later, comes the chronic phase in which physical symptoms such as (in my case) extreme fatigue, lack of balance, inability to think or talk, etc. start to manifest themselves. Even long-term illnesses can crop up during this time because of the high levels of stress the victim has endured and how these high levels of stress have impacted the victim's body's ability to cope with life's demands heal itself.
Because of the nature of the beast - the beast of workplace abuse, that is - survivors cannot just make out a list of needs to fill like we did with the physical assault of the storm.
When I was walked out the door of that company that day in March 2005 and the door closed firmly behind me, I unknowingly started the trek through a minefield of trauma and PTSD. Things I never in a million years ever dreamed would invade my world.
Not only did they invade my world due to the abusive workplace situation and its equally brutal end, but they made themselves quite a home in my life.
Never even bothering to introduce themselves.
What many people, even myself, perceived at that time as nothing more than an annoyance, a blip on the screen of my life, was something much more destruction. More lasting. More detrimental.
This is the beginning of a series going through the initial wasteland of emotions, untreated and undiagnosed trauma and PTSD which lasted eighteen months.
A period where confusion and hopelessness reigned.