Friday, November 29, 2013

A Friday Story

Journey on the road to recovery
As one posting has led to another this past week, flowing freely from the mind to the fingers, from day to day, so can the seemingly random events of our lives.

Several weeks ago, I wandered into the local independent book store in our area to show my daughter the books I wanted for Christmas.  Entering the store, I saw a poster that intrigued me.  Wild Writers Literary Event.  I loved the way the title of the event described it.  

Wild Writers.  OK, cool.  

Literary.  Hmmm.  Not so cool. That kind of puts me off.  

Literary, I'm not.  

Wild, yes.  

A writer?  I hope so.


What is a literary event?  Does this mean the same as a writer's conference?  Only, maybe, on a smaller, more local scale?

I was intrigued.

So I went.  There I connected with a woman who runs writing workshops locally once a month.

One thing led to another, so I signed up for this workshop - and was well enough to go.  Yes!  Victory.

During the workshop, the presenter, a local travel and newspaper writer, read a piece she had written seemingly spontaneously about a slice in time on one of her many travels.  Maybe a ten minute experience she had on one of her travels which probably took longer to write out than it did to experience.

It intrigued me,

My fertile mind thought, "If I can find one story a week and write it up for my blog, it will add human interest."

So I started looking for a story to write about.

What I got, was not what I expected - or wanted.

A part of my road, but definitely not as tranquil, scenic, pleasant or peaceful as the picture above.  Not really the kind of story I wanted to share.  Definitely not uplifting.  But true.  Oh so true.

I wanted something uplifting, off beat, humorous.  Maybe quirky even.

But that is not what I got.

As most of you know, I've been down for the count (mostly) for the last two years.  Staying close to home.  Tired to the point of exhaustion.  Depressed (seriously at times).  Lethargic.  Psychiatric injuries that mimic brain injury to the point where cognitive skills, balance, speech, etc. are seriously effected.  Anxiety.  Panic attacks.

And then I had a breakthrough.  Two months or so ago.  A huge breakthrough.

My pre-workplace abuse personality, that irrepressible, hopeful, enthusiastic side of me came back.

It felt so good to feel good.

I was able to do things I hadn't been able to do for a very long time.

Life was starting to be exciting, to be good again.

But.I.Am.Still.Fragile.  Unfortunately.

I look normal But.I.Am.Still.Fragile.  I know I've repeated this statement twice in two sentence but bear in mind that when something is important to an individual, they tend to repeat it for emphasis.  To get the point across.

I may look normal and act normal for the most part But.I.Am.Still.Fragile emotionally.

I decided to get my feet wet (or shall we say wetter as going to the writer's "literary event" and following up with a writing workshop was also getting my feet wet by foraying into the outside world) by attending a senior's event at my local church.  I had attended it before the workplace abuse and subsequent injury got to the point of no return.  Where going out among people was too difficult to even attempt.

To me this was a huge victory on the road to recovery as I had not been able to attend these events for the better part of a year.

It took some planning as I needed a ride which those who run the event could not provide.  So I found a way to provide my own.

I got up.  I got dressed.  I put on my smiley, happy face because indeed I was so thrilled to be able to go out again.  To be ready to socialize.

I envisioned being able to share the joy, the sheer victory of what was going on in my life and have others, who knew me and knew of my journey even though they hadn't walked closely with me, share in it and be blessed.

My ride arrived.

We got there.

I went in.

Hung up my coat.

Joined the line entering the room.

Picked up my name tag.

Paid my fee for the lunch.

And then I looked around.

At all those tables.  Fifteen in all.  Chairs for eight each.  Each one with one, two or more people sitting around them.

I knew from past experience, that people have already formed groups and that some, if not most, of those seemingly empty chairs already have names attached to them.  Informally of course.  No visual such as a name tag, purse, jacket, etc. to warn me off.

I went to the first table.  One I had been welcomed to put my feet under many a time.

I was met with smiles.  Joy even.

But when I asked if there was a place for me at the inn - er, excuse me, table - I was met with dismay, confusion and much discussion.

It appeared that the seats were saved.  But they were trying to decide if there was one without a name attached.

It was then that another woman came up.  Asked the same question I had.  Without waiting for a reply, however, while I was still standing there waiting for one, she took off her jacket and sat down.

Immediately my mood shifted from one of joy, of victory, to - well - I felt like I'd been punched in the gut.

I felt rejected.

I felt powerless.

I felt worthless.

And I felt worth less than all those empty chairs with invisible people attached to them.

All the ugly emotions, all the lies I internalized from the workplace abuse situations, reared their ugly heads.

I turned away to find another table.

The next table I approached had two people sitting at it.  Six empty seats.

No, all of them were taken - by invisible people yet to arrive.

I went to a third table with again, maybe two or three people sitting there.

They dickered and dibbled and dobbled (if there are such words) before finally saying that there might be one seat available.  It took another bit before they figured out which one.

Gracious the response was not.

By this time, all the positive feelings had evaporated.  I was hurt.  Anger was beginning to rear its ugly head.

I went up to those at the table processing the money, etc. and said I have a major complaint.  I went to the person in charge of the event.

He exploded at me.  He told me I was ludicrous.  There were plenty of empty seats.  (Oh yeah?  You go and try to find one that isn't filled with "invisible" bodies.  Oh yeah, I forget.  You don't have to.  You're the leader of the event.  You have a seat reserved for you.)

By this time, I was so hurt, that I couldn't stay.

I left.

Outside the door was the senior pastor.  I stopped to tell him what had happened.

He immediately made excuses for the man in charge saying he was sure this person hadn't meant anything by it.

He went on to do some serious secondary wounding - in a well-meaning way of course.  Out of ignorance.  The compassion was there; but the knowledge of trauma was not.

He then told me, compassionately of course, that if I found a church that met my needs I was welcome to go there.

I was devastated.  Hurt beyond words.  Tears freely flowing.

Tears that would not stop or be quenched.

A major setback on the road to recovery.  A major blow to my re-emerging pre-workplace abuse personality.

Sometimes I feel like this statue in Ottawa with the bird standing - and defecating - on its head

This post has already gone on longer than I want my posts to go as I want them to be in short bites.  However, this incident, this story, highlights the pitfalls on the road to recovery those of us who have been affected by trauma, PTSD, workplace abuse, etc. follow.

Lack of understanding of what trauma is and how it affects the victim are paramount in our journey, leading to incidents like the above where secondary wounding occurs.

And also, how those who could make a difference, who are in roles of leadership in groups, churches, etc,  by learning about trauma and how it affects its victims, choose to ignore the reality of trauma in the lives of those around them.  

In settings where ignorance of trauma reigns, misunderstandings leading to real injury are inevitable.

There are resources available.  A lot of them.  Both on-line, in book form and in human form - i.e. people who are well versed in trauma and how people victimized by trauma heal - and don't heal.

That is the purpose of this blog.  To help others on the road to recovery learn that they are not alone.  

To help those who walk with them (and you truly are special) to learn more about walking with the traumatized.

And, perhaps, just perhaps to encourage those who know someone who is traumatized to start researching what it is and reach out a hand to one who is struggling.

I invite you to join with me on this road to recovery.

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