Friday, July 18, 2014

Post Workplace Abuse: Beginning to look at Perceptions and Assumptions from a different angle

On the road to recovery, there are no signposts pointing out directions, destinations or mileage.  However, there are choices on which direction to take - or not take.  There are always choices.

There are always side trips on the journey or even rabbit trails.

Some are more productive than others.

The problem is, there has been no logical order on my path to recovery.  It seems like I work on this a bit and then get side-tracked to that, and then back again.

Writing this blog, helps me put the places visited into both perspective and a semblance of logical order.

For example, I had an incident in late 2012 which gave me a totally different perspective on the lies of perceptions and assumptions.  Even before I started tackling them in early 2013, I realize now that I was started to look at lies and assumptions and realize that I was not along in having them.  

(If this opening sounds a bit like deja vu, it is.  I started this particular post then decided to follow a side path for a few blogs.  The path where physical recovery and emotional recovery merged for a bit.  I'm glad I did as I feel the last few posts have created a background to go forward into this segment.  A view of perceptions and assumptions from the other side.  What others perceived and thought of me during this time frame, this part of the journey and how that impacted both my journey and their ability to come alongside me and help me - or rather not come alongside me and not help me.)

I've noted before a crucial aspect of recovery after workplace abuse; after trauma:  life does not stop because one has experienced trauma.  It continues to go on. Whether good or bad, it continues to go on.

In my case, life went on with continued damaging psychiatric injury by interactions with unsafe people and also with my mom's death in August 2012.

I've noted in two different blogs, a previous one about life intervening and the six and a half worst weeks of my life how my church was not there for me when I went through what became one of the most difficult periods of my life - the last three months of the year of 2012 - when the grief from my mom's death combined with the psychiatric injuries I'd already received.  Factor in the huge amount of travelling involved from where she died in Upstate New York to where she was buried in North Carolina - and back all in four days - plus the toll of being with her the last two weeks of her life in a place where I had limited access to my usual support network and you've got a tremendously stressful period.  A period likely to have tremendous impacts on my life.  Unless the support was available.  And it wasn't.

I realized then - and I realize now - that I was in a what I call a "bubble of grace" during the two weeks prior to her death, the period immediately after, even during the trip to North Carolina and back.  A bubble that ended with my arrival back home.

The grief process for me didn't begin with my mom's death, in reality it began when I arrived home after all was said and done.  It was then that the enormity of my loss along with the affects of the psychiatric injury began to really make themselves known.  It was then that the "bubble of grace" I'd experienced expired.  It was then ....

I realize now long after the fact that what I call the "bubble of grace" ended and reality began when I returned home because I was back to life as I knew it.  A life that had been interrupted by these events for more than a month.  A life that had already been changed and altered beyond recognition by workplace abuse and was still in the process of being rebuilt.  Not fully formed yet, still very much in a state of flux.

I came home expecting people to reach out to me.  To call.  To send cards.  Maybe even flowers.  I wanted one person - just one person - to send me flowers.

It didn't happen.

While in Upstate New Year, while my mom was dying, I had used precious time away from my mom as she didn't have wifi at the computer to let my church know what was happening and that I needed support while it was happening.  I even gave them the phone numbers they could reach me at.

It didn't happen.

I did get a very mild email in response saying that it was good that I was with my mom.  Nothing more.  It left me feeling dismissed.

I needed a "Jesus with skin on" and all I got was a bland email.

For the amount of grief I was going through, it was insufficient.  Inappropriate.  It didn't come anywhere near the heart of the matter.  It didn't come from her heart to my heart.

And that was it.

Nothing more.  No follow up. Not even when I came back.

My mailbox was empty.  My phone didn't ring.  Even my email was empty.

I felt lost and alone in the land of trauma combined with grief.

The exhaustion came back big time and I became completely unable to function.  I couldn't take care of myself.  I couldn't cook.  I couldn't think.  The cognitive skills were completely down.  My life became limited to one room in my house - the one I now call my "safe room".

I couldn't even knit anything more than straight rows back and forth.  Back and forth.  Anything that required thinking was beyond what I was capable of at that point.

My church attendance since the physical and other affects began in 2011 had been sporadic as most times I was physically and/or emotionally incapable of sitting through an entire service.  People scared me as well, so I found attending church challenging.  When I finally felt well enough to attempt going to church again after returning home from Mom's funeral et al,  the first person I saw greeted me with a huge, peppy smile and cheerful greeting and then flitted away.  I burst into tears.  I felt like no one cared.  No one recognized the grief I was going through.  It was like everyone expected that since by now a couple of months had passed between my mom's death and my arrival back home, back at church, that everything was okay.  That the grief had magically passed.  If anything, I learned at that time that there is no "one size fits all" in grief.  Since I was away, it was as if the grief had been put on hold for that time of funeral services, travelling, sorting out her apartment, etc.

The real job of working through grief began with my arrival back home.

And no one seemed to realize that.

I felt so lost.  So alone.  And that's just a beginning of how I felt.  Feelings I still don't know how to describe it all.

That first day back at church, I saw the pastor of caring and sharing and started crying again.  I asked where was the support I needed?  Where were the meals?  Where were the cards?  Where?

In hindsight, I don't think he expected that.  I don't think he was prepared for that.  And I don't think he was in a position emotionally himself to be able to cope with that.  You see, he was a survivor of some sort of trauma himself.  He himself was on the road to recovery.  I'm guessing that, like me, he was one of the invisible wounded.  Unlike me though, he had a position of responsibility within the church community which necessitated dealing with people.  Hurting people like myself.  Hurting people like him.

After that "outburst" in a corner of the church atrium, I did receive a delivery - one delivery - of meals.  The caring committee also put a card in my church mailbox - which I received weeks later when I was finally able to return to church again.  (I don't know if you see a problem here with putting a bereavement card in the person's church mailbox when they're unable to attend church, but I do.  Big time.)

The person who delivered the mails, herself going through an extremely difficult journey in her life, seemed to think that since I had family in the area that I should be OK.

Do you see where I'm leading with this?  Do you see the beginnings of this thread?

We all have our own journeys.  Our own difficulties.  Our own hurts.

Our own situations impact on how we perceive others.  Also what we're told.

I have no idea what this pastor told others.  I do think that this woman who delivered the meals came in with the idea that I was demanding something that I had no right to have i.e. that I was demanding meals when I was totally capable of taking care of myself.  I just wanted a freebie.  Maybe she was told to "just humour me".  I don't know.  I just know that I felt the delivery didn't go well and that there was no continuation, no follow up, from there.  It wasn't a beginning.  It was more like an end.  A door slamming shut in my fact.

No one from the church had talked to me.  No one in the office had made any effort to contact me after my return.  No one had any idea of the world of hurt I was in.  And I think they preferred to keep it that way.

A healthy person might well say at this point, "Well, why didn't you call them?  Why didn't you make your needs know?"

The answer to that goes back to trauma.  To the specific things that had happened during my sojourn through and immediately after workplace abuse.

My inability to tell people how badly I was doing was also rooted in the fact that just a few weeks before my mom's death I'd been in a place where someone I had thought was safe, someone I loved and admired, chose to take out his/her frustrations and aggravations on me causing more major damage in my life.

Taken at a park like area in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario alongside the St. Marys River.  
As I've said before, workplace abuse is not vague.  It's very complicated.

So is recovery from workplace abuse.  There are so many ins and outs, it would be easy to feel like you're in a continuing soap opera.  One that goes on day after day for years and years with little change, little progress.  Any progress appears to be made in minute increments.

Many people have little patience with that.  If they cannot see immediate progress, they get frustrated and move away.

I feel like this part of the blog is moving slowly.  Maybe too slowly.  Perhaps I've learned too much about laying the foundation, the underground, from my plumber hubby.

Today, I've laid more of the foundation of the story of trauma.  Monday, I will continue on the journey and see where it leads us.  

Life lived.  Lessons learned.  Two small steps forward; five big ones back.

Until then ....

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