I started this post during the Mama Bear phase and now I am finding it too difficult to rework this post to reflect the change from Mama Bear to Cassie. From Papa Bear to ???? So, for today, I will revert back to the bear image and analogy and write about Papa Bear: a hidden victim of workplace abuse.
Papa Bear, wanders around the den. Lost without his companion, his mate. Concerned. Blaming himself for his mate's condition. Thinking that there is something he could have done - nay should have done - to protect his lifelong mate from the stressful situation which caused the damage, the weakness, the extreme fatigue, etc. The list goes on - and on - and on. Und so weiter.
Mixing my metaphors, Papa Bear is very much like a male goose whose mate has been killed. Sitting beside his lost mate. Grieving his loss. Not moving. Bereft.
He feels adrift in a restless sea without oars, paddles or rudders. Certainly, no instructions on how to help his mate. He shoulders the burden alone. He is caregiver and babysitter (or rather bear sitter) all wrapped into one.
In a physical illness, the knowledge of what to do comes naturally. If a person has the flu, it's pretty obvious. Bed rest. Fluids. Acetaminophen (or Tylenol), chicken soup, etc. These are all givens.
If a leg - or other body part - is broken, a visit to the local emergency room is necessary and a cast or splint is applied.
Bandaids for cuts and scratches. Antibiotic salve to prevent infection from developing. Antibiotics for bacterial infections.
But there are no casts, bandaids, salves or antibiotics for wounds caused by emotional trauma. There are no magic wands. (If there were, someone out there would make a fortune.) All Papa Bear can do is sit with his injured mate and pray for recovery. All the while struggling with his own bewilderment, his own sense of loss. Feeling helpless. Useless. A failure because he could not prevent it from happening.
He is as much a victim as his mate.
Although, my Papa Bear feels helpless much of the time, he has shown strength and courage in the face of adversity.
He has stayed with me through it all. Walked with me every step of the way.
And he has learned about trauma - and what it does to the victim/survivor - the hard way. Up close and personal.
He has had his own unique way of dealing with it.
When things got really bad. And I mean really bad. Like I was suicidal and ready to give up. He simply put a camera in my hand and we went away for the weekend. He let me call the shots. Where we went. Where we stayed. What we did.
He gave me back a sense of dignity and, more importantly, control over my life.
He affirmed me when my sense of value and self esteem were so badly attacked that I had nothing left internally.
He gave me hugs - even when I was unwilling and stiff as a board. ("Which begs the question: How do you hug a porcupine?" The answer: "Very carefully.")
No, he's not perfect. He's been just as bewildered as I've been.
But he's been there. He's told me stories of his work place and affirmed many times over, until I finally started to get the hint, that mine was not "normal". That there was something drastically wrong with the situation I was working in.
He would call me at a set time every work day while I was still in the abusive work situation (#2) to give me a break from the overwhelming exclusion and isolation.
He kept telling me that the reason I didn't fit in was because I was an eagle and they were turkeys. The two don't mix.
He fed the eagle analogy with words and pictures. Telling me what an eagle is. Why they're different. And that they're solitary. Majestic too.
When my work mates were having a supper which included everyone but myself (directly in front of my work station), he would go out to a fast food restaurant and bring me my own treat to enjoy. Solitary, but good. Even better because he was going out of his way to do something nice for me and to make a bad situation a little better. He didn't have to. He did it because he loved me.
After a long, hard week of exclusion and isolation, he would sometimes meet me after work with a special treat - a Tim Horton's coffee made especially the way I liked it. Just for me. To make up for all the times, the rest of the small office had enjoyed coffee as a group in my presence without me. (Ever been a coffee addict watching everyone else drink a Tim Horton's coffee? Smelling the aroma? But not allowed to taste the goodie? Try it. You won't like it.) Once he even brought the cat because he knew she would comfort me.
Small things? Maybe. Maybe not. They let me know that I was not alone in the battle. That I was not as bad as I was purported to be in the office. That outside the workplace I had value. I was loved. I was cared for.
After the work situation ended. After I'd had two back-to-back stress breakdowns with resultant damages, he watched me go from a person who could do things, to one who had trouble even putting on a simple meal, stringing words together to make a sentence....
From a person who had a lot of outside interests, to one who prefers to stay inside, sit at the computer, write and knit.
From someone who was outgoing and gregarious to someone who is afraid of people. Who thinks the stranger behind her in the grocery store is scary and someone to be afraid of.
He's been there when I've felt so overwhelmed that the irritability has come up and spilled over.
He's been hurt too.
Yet, he's been there. Every step of the way. To the best of his ability - and personality.
He may have felt like it, but he's never given up.
This blog posting is dedicated not just to my ever lovin', long sufferin' spouse, but to all the family members who are walking with their own survivors of abuse - whether it be workplace, marital, church, neighbourhood, etc. You rock, guys! Don't ever give up. You are the world - and probably the only note of sanity in an insane world - to your loved one.