Friday, August 22, 2014

Post Workplace Abuse: Life in the Trenches Dodging .... More of the Story

Some days you're the statue, some days you're the bird.  I felt like I was the statue during this time.

Going away for a few days didn't change my situation, my reality at all.  I was still in the early throes of a stress breakdown.  I stuttered.  My cognitive skills were impaired.  Yet, at the same time, it gave me what I needed to muddle on and through.  It gave me just enough of a break to pull back from my new reality so that I was no longer actively in crisis.  Maybe not too far away from it, but a bit removed from it.  Able to cope.  Maybe barely.  Maybe not too well.  But still able to cope.

Coming home, it took me a few days to be strong enough to access my emails and discover what the phone calls a few days previously had been about.  Something about a posting I'd made on my Facebook, that it was an ethics violation and demands that it be removed immediately.  These emails were sent over the weekend while I was away so, of course, since I didn't get them immediately, I didn't delete the "offending" Facebook comments in the demanded time frame.  I sensed anger in the emails because my supervisor specifically mentioned frustration that I was not answering my phone and, thus, she could not talk to me voice to voice and was forced to resort to writing.  Maybe because she didn't want a written record which would be copied and kept?

On my part, I was under the assumption that once I was signed off on sick leave by a doctor that the workplace was not to contact me except for matters dealing specifically with the sick leave i.e. short-term disability forms, when I would return, etc., the mechanics of how long I would be gone and when I would return, that sort of thing.  But nothing personal.  Nothing dealing with discipline.  I was under the assumption that that sort of thing would have to wait until I was well again and back in the workforce.  I was wrong.  Or rather, if I was correct in my assumptions, HR and my supervisor never got that "memo" as my story reveals.  I kept responding to their emails that I was off sick and needed time to heal and asking them to respect that.  They didn't.  They just kept finding new, innovative ways to come into my home via phone calls or email.

Reading my supervisor's emails, I was thoroughly confused.  I had nothing on my conscience, so I asked my supervisor for clarification.

It came in the way of screen shots. Of my Facebook page.  Not just the current one that they found offensive, that the bullies identified with and saw themselves in, but ones made more than a more previously at the time of my first breakdown talking about going into ER and what it was like.  My supervisor was monitoring my Facebook.  Not only that, I felt she (and they) were like peeping Toms peeping in on my most private thoughts and feelings via the computer rather than a window.

I felt violated.

I know that my profile was public until that incident so that it was not invasion of privacy in reality.  Because Facebook is public.  Anyone can access it until you set your privacy settings so they can't.

But still, I felt violated.

I lost more of my innocence that day.  More of my belief that people, in general, were good and kind and respectful.

I lost more trust - especially in those I worked with and for.  I realized that I was caught up in something that was way beyond my control.

I felt like a very little boat in a very big sea caught in a storm with huge waves washing over me and threatening to capsize my little boat.

It was tough.  Very tough.

I am so glad that I didn't experience this a few days earlier as was intended by my supervisor or I would probably have been overwhelmed completely.

In that moment, FEAR came in - and stayed for years as an unwelcome guest in my soul.

I no longer trusted people - and over time that extended to people in general.

Basically, I had these strong reactions because, in effect, I'd been successfully bushwhacked by my opposition.

If I could draw, I would express my feelings by drawing a picture of the outside, brick wall of a building with no windows, resembling the production part of the compound I worked in with pairs of arms reaching out of it.  Workplace bullying reaching outside of the workplace.

 I no longer felt safe even in my own home because I had no idea what these people were capable of doing.  If I'd had fear of retaliation in the workplace before, I was now terrified of what retaliation outside the workplace could look like.

I have no idea why someone(s) unidentified decided it was appropriate to look up my Facebook file. I have no idea why management and HR felt it was appropriate and didn't ask appropriate questions and discipline people.  I only know that doing things correctly, i.e. seeing a doctor, getting booked off work, not communicating to anyone i.e. co-workers in the workplace except those I needed to keep informed that I was off and for how long, didn't work.  I felt like all my efforts to protect myself were futile.

I believe now and believed then that I was cyberstalked by these people.  I mentioned that in a follow-up email to my supervisor.  To no avail.  By that time, I feel I had been so thoroughly devalued in the workplace, my character so thoroughly assassinated, that no matter what I said, no matter how much truth it might hold, it was automatically disregarded.

The possibility of being cyberstalked, the probability of inappropriate office behaviour and misuse of company time and equipment was blown off as not being a significant issue.  My behaviour and only my behaviour was the issue.  Even when sick.  Even when in the throes of a stress breakdown and trauma when the victim is acting in what they think is a normal manner in an abnormal situation.

What I was experiencing, my friends, was not a normal situation.

This was when the fear not only descended but blanketed me so completely that I no longer felt free and happy and alive in my body.  I felt constricted.  Emotionally paralyzed.  I was afraid to venture outside the house even to a near by shopping mall as I was afraid one of these people might see me and perceive that I was stalking them perhaps?  My therapist and I have talked about this fear many times over the intervening years.  She felt my fears were irrational.  But in light of what happened after the fact, after I was in effect no longer in the workplace, I could not shake these fears.  They became a constant part of my emotional make up, my new reality.

Spontaneity left.

This was when I entered into what I now call the "shadowland" with all traces of who I really am removed from my Facebook and from my personal day-to-day life as well.  My Facebook made private.  Status updates changed.  I no longer shared anything even remotely public via Facebook.  

It's taken more than three years of working consistently through all the effects and affects of the entire trauma before I realized that I do have a story to tell - and I have a right to tell my story.  To work through the pervasive fear and begin to live life more fully again.

I have no idea what my former colleagues might think if they do chance upon this page.

We're all gone from that workplace now.  All of us.  The building we once worked in is closed.  Everyone has had to leave either in retirement or finding new employment.  Scattered to the four winds (hopefully).

After years have intervened, the question still remains that if these former colleagues did access this blog, read it, and see themselves in it, would they be willing to jeopardize what they have now in order to further victimize me?  I don't know.  I hope not.

Only time will tell.

Until Monday.  Have a good weekend.

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