Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Surviving Workplace Abuse: Lessons learned going through the physical side of the journey.

A baby bank swallow situated directly in the middle of our walking path.  Not moving.  Allowing us to get close to it.  Waiting for its mom.  
Yesterday's blog ended with a picture of a large bird flying high, soaring majestically above.  Proud. 

 My goal in this journey - and hopefully yours too - is to find a way within our journeys, our circumstances to fly high above our circumstances, our illnesses, traumas, etc.

Yet, most often I resemble the little guy above waiting in the middle of the path, the middle of danger, for its mom to come and get him.  To rescue him.

Eventually hubby prodded him with a stick - and he flew off.  He could fly.  He only needed incentive to spread his wings and get out of danger.

Like the baby bird above, I want to be rescued.  I'm afraid to use my wings.  I have to be prodded in order to move on and fly off.


As I write about this particular segment of my journey post workplace abuse, that of early 2013 and my path through physiotherapy, I realize I resemble that little bird in some ways.  I too needed to be prodded in order to physically and emotionally move on.  My prodding turned out to be the need for physiotherapy after I broke my wrist, the cast came off, the pain didn't go away and mobility didn't increase.

When my emotional and physical paths originally collided post workplace abuse, when the acute phase ended and the chronic phase began, my therapist and I talked about which took precedence - the physical or the emotional - as the recommended paths for healing for each are diametrically opposed.  For the emotional i.e. depression et al, the recommendation is to pursue as normal a life as possible.  For the physical i.e. fatigue, the recommendation is to allow the body to rest.  To listen to what your body is telling you and respect it.

My therapist, who had also been through her own trauma, was able to bring her own experience into this portion of our counselling relationship to relate to my experience and to broaden my understanding of what I was going through, what was occurring within my body and that it was normal.  She was the one who advised me that about a year or so - maybe more, maybe less - after the initial trauma, physical repercussions and manifestations come into play.  These are different for each person.  She also knew from her own experience that when the physical and the emotional collide, the physical takes precedence.

I have based my journey of recovery on these bits of knowledge:  after the acute, comes the chronic; after the emotional trauma comes physical affects/repercussions; on the journey of healing, the physical takes precedence.

So today, we continue on, probably for the last time with the segment of my journey through a physical aspect of my journey and how it impacted the overall journey towards recovery from workplace abuse.


 Physically, my journey at that time was through physiotherapy to regain the use of my right wrist/arm.

Emotionally, my journey was to find safe ways to re-enter the world outside my door and to find safe ways to have social encounters with people - people who were outside my immediate family and support circle.

Both purposes, ironically, were served through the same source:  the clinic I went to two-three times a week for physio.

I learned new social skills as I interacted with the staff, therapists and other clients at the clinic.

I learned how to take public transit not just to the clinic but also to other places such as my hairdressers.

I learned to gauge my energy levels so that I would not overdo.

I learned to always have a "plan B" - just in case.

I began to get braver as time progressed and began to expand my outings from simply going to and from physio to taking the six block or so walk into the downtown area of our city and picking up my bus from the transit terminal.  Thus having minimal social contact passing people on the street.

I learned that if I smiled first, I often got a smile in return.

I learned that most people like to be noticed and acknowledged.

I learned that there was a yarn store on the other side of the downtown area - and that the owner was a really nice person.

I learned that there was a bead shop also in the downtown area - and that, ditto, the owner was a very nice person.  (Yes, I've dabbled in beading as well on this journey.)

I learned that I could safely access the outside world - in small quantities at that time - and come home unscathed.

I learned that there was indeed a world outside the doors of my house - and that it wasn't as dangerous as I had feared.

I also learned that even recovery from a relatively minor physical injury isn't as straight forward as it may seem.


Several months into the therapy when it seemed that my wrist was coming along great, I started experiencing excruciating pain in my shoulder/back area.  So bad that at time it had to be taped to give me some relief.

Yes, I know.  I was in therapy for my wrist.  So what was with the shoulder/back acting up?

This was the question we all had.  Even my medical team who followed up with tests which gave no real clinical indication of what was happening.

The best we could come up with is that all the muscles in that area are interrelated so when one is affected, they all are.

Therefore, the focus of therapy and recovery shifted at that point from the wrist to the shoulder with different exercises and a different therapist; shifting from a physical therapist to a chiropractor.

Slowly, slowly it began to improve and localize to one area.

I'd like to say that with therapy and time, it was completely healed.

But it wasn't.  After eleven months of therapy, all concerned decided that I'd hit a plateau and was not likely to go beyond that.  That further therapy was not going to accomplish further healing.

I still don't have complete use of that arm - and probably never will.

I've learned to live with it.  Do what I can and ask for help with what I can't i.e. reaching for things.  I've learned that I can live life - and live it well - without the full use of that arm.

And yes, I have other lingering reminders of that injury, that broken wrist.  My hand is still stiff - and again probably always will be - from arthritis which made itself known while my hand was in the cast.  I have a finger which sticks and has to be manually unstuck - which is somewhat painful and very annoying since it happens frequently when I knit.

I can live - and live well - with these affects.

However, I learned something else from this physical experience which at some point I would like to expand to the larger focus of emotional healing from workplace abuse, trauma and PTSD.

If a physical injury as relatively minor as a straightforward broken wrist, a simple fracture, can cause long-lasting affects, how much more can injuries which are not physical?  I.e. those caused by trauma?  Those which we can't see?  Those which fall among the category of invisible illnesses?

This is where I will leave you today, dear friend, as we walk our different paths towards a common goal, that of recovery.  As we continue searching for the right key to unlock the next segment on our respective roads to recovery.

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