Monday, August 18, 2014

Recovery Post Workplace Abuse: A Key Part of My Story - FEAR.

From this picture, you would never know the emotional turmoil I was living in at that point.  This picture was taken in 2011 when I was still in the acute phase from the second back-to-back stress breakdown when I went to visit a safe person in my life and experienced significant recovery.  Looking back our guess is that my GFA (Global Functioning Assessment) was probably somewhere in the 50s when I entered the plane for that visit and was probably somewhere in the low to mid 70s when I returned.

I've been thinking of making changes in this blog for a while now.  Changes such as reclaiming my name, my real identity.

It's been a long time coming, but I finally did it over the weekend.  Actually by accident as I want to make my blog more accessible.  I pushed one button.  The button linking this blog to my Google+ account which automatically linked my blog to my Google+ account.  Therefore, you wake up today to the same blog with a different name, Suzanne Guest, my real name and profile picture.

But, it's the same blog, the same writer, the same focus.

Only the name has changed.

It's another significant step on my road to recovery post workplace abuse.

I wasn't really going into this aspect now, but since I accidentally changed my name and picture from a pseudonym to reality, it's time to get into what has been holding me back all this time from using my name, my picture.  From being the real me.

It all comes down to one four-letter word:  FEAR.

My life post workplace abuse has been consumed by fear.  Not the fears I've mentioned so far such as heights, etc. which I've been working on for years now and blogging about.  But a very real fear (to me) of my former co-workers and what they might (or might not) be capable of doing.

To explain why I have so much fear of these people so long after the event, I have to tell a piece of my story.  Actually several pieces, so I'm guessing this blog post is going to expand into more than one post.  Kind of like chapters in a book.

I'm really not sure where to begin.  I could begin with that I've realized on the journey that I'm naive. I've always had a "live and let live" sort of policy in my life.  I also assumed that if you were kind to people, they would respond in kind.  In retrospect, I realize that I was so naive that I assumed that most people - or at least the people I was in contact with in my daily life - lived by the same philosophy:  live and let live.

In reality, that is false.  In all honesty, I had no idea of the lengths and depths some people would go to to get what they wanted.  I had no idea what people could be capable of.  Especially if they were in a group pushing each other on, so I was ambushed time and time again.

My second back-to-back stress breakdown occurred after my fifth shift after returning to work from my first stress breakdown.  I was trying to train a person to take over my duties so I could move to another shift and, hopefully, a better situation for me.  I never made it.  This trainee been hired and started working while I was off and had thus been in close contact with my adversaries.

I had found her difficult to train as she seemed to be resisting me at every opportunity at one time going so far as to say that when she was on her own she wasn't going to do things the way I said.  (?)  That question mark was my initial internal reaction.

Ever tried to train someone who doesn't want you to train them? Believe me, it's no fun.

On the fifth shift, she did something we don't do.  Not a big thing, but since I was operating under the perception and assumption that I was there to train her the correct way to do things, I told her so.  Things escalated from there, and she went running into the room where the managers' offices were not realizing that they were all gone home for the day.  I followed her.  I knew she was intent on reporting me to our mutual manager and, from experience, I knew how that was going to turn out.  I would be automatically be perceived as being in the wrong.  It would be perceived as another example of how I couldn't get along with people.  Not that there was something very wrong with a situation in which a trainee can battle consistently with her trainer or feel that she can report her trainer to management for trying to train her.  But following her to that office and confronting her would also not work in my favour.  Anything I did was scrutinized under the microscope of the manager's perceptions and assumptions, and I always came up on the short end of the stick.  Following her and confronting her would be wrong because I would be perceived as loud, confrontative, and possibly threatening as I am a passionate person who talks not only with my hands and arms but with my whole body.  I would be (and had been several times before) perceived as not being in control of myself.  Sigh.

But to do nothing would not work in my favour either as this person's tale would be taken at face value and believed as being the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

I was very much in a catch-22 situation.  Staying silent didn't work.  It perpetuated the on-going situation.  Confronting the situation didn't work either as it ended up being a power/control play in which I consistently lost more power over my situation.

In other words:  I was dammed if I did and dammed if I didn't.

I didn't know when I left the office that day that I would never, ever enter those days again.

I had no idea of what that confrontation had done to me until the next day.

I wanted to die.

I wanted to kill myself.

Life was no longer worth living.

I couldn't do anything right.

In short, I was despondent.  Without hope.  Hopeless.

I made an emergency appointment with my specialist i.e. psychiatrist.  When he asked me what he could do to help me, I broke down and cried out "Kill me.  Kill me."

He gave me six more weeks off so that I could be totally separated from the workplace to give me time to heal.  "Totally separated from the workplace" were his words.  Apparently, in retrospect management didn't get the memo that people on sick leave are supposed to be separated from the workplace and left alone.

You might ask at this point why feeling as I did I was allowed to go back home and not hospitalized.  Sometimes I wonder that one myself.  In some ways, it would have made things easier for me.  It would have put the situation in a different perspective:  my life was in danger.  I was ill.  I could not work.

However, I have had some very good coping mechanisms in place.  I had also built up a small but strong support system with hubby and my family.  In addition, I did not have a "plan" to do away with myself.  What I did have was a desperate desire not to give in to the waves of despair which were washing over me, drawing me down and threatening to overwhelm me.  I had struggled so hard and so long against giving in to suicide that I really didn't want to give in now.  Bottom line.

I had a therapist who worked with me.  I had a family who loved and supported me.  I wanted to live.  And. I. Had. No. Plans. To. Hurt. Anyone. Else.  Which is very important.  Under the mental health act, if you are deemed to be a threat to yourself or anyone else, you are automatically hospitalized for 72 hours.  I was deemed not to be a threat to anyone else.  Believe me, they (the mental health officials i.e. the psychiatrist in this case) ask some very pointed questions.  Including if I had plans to hurt these people who were hurting me so badly.  Also, asking if I had access to any weapons.  Which I don't.

Those words, italicized, underlined and bolded, are important to remember in the next part of this story (which will be told in another blog) about why I fear these people so much.

This is why I was allowed to go home to heal.

However, apparently things were going on back in the office which to this day I still don't understand.

My manager started phoning me at home, in the evening, my second day off.  Hubby refused to let me take the call or access the voice mail so it wasn't until the next week when I accessed my work emails that I found out the reason for her calls.  Some unknown person(s) in the office had gone on my facebook page, seen a post and gone to management with the claim that I was violating ethics by that post.

The offending post?  I had written:  "Bullies 100; Suzanne 0.  Off work again.

Originally, I was confused by her demands to delete something on my facebook page.  I had no idea what she was talking about.  Until.  She sent me screenshots of my offending post.

Screenshots?  She's getting on my facebook page and monitoring it?

I felt confused.  And then violated.

Please note, that nowhere on my facebook was ever written where I worked who, more importantly, the names of these people.  There was nothing there to identify them.

That posting was essentially a cry for help.

In essence, going back to what H. Norman Wright has written, I was reacting what I thought was normal in an abnormal situation.

Having a stress breakdown is not normal.  It affects the thought processes.

All I knew at that point was that I was in big trouble emotionally, and I needed help if I was to have a hope for survival.  I needed those on my facebook page who knew me to pray for me.  To reach out to me.  To affirm that I wasn't the horrible person those in the workplace were believing me to be.

I never thought for one minute that the people in the office would ever think to access my facebook - let alone do a search, find my profile and took a look.  None of these people were Facebook friends of mine, so they would have had to do a deliberate search.

And I made it so very easy for them.  Below is my profile picture at that time.

My file was in my real name.

My file was public.

As I've said, I was naive.  I had no idea someone would deliberately seek out my profile for nefarious purposes.  I had no idea that what I had posted as a cry for help would be perceived to be an ethics violation by those in the workplace who saw it.  I had no idea.  I was naive.

Immediately, I made my profile private - which seemed to anger my manager even more as it appeared that she was closely watching my profile.

I changed my profile picture so that it was of something other than myself.

It was then when I realized that workplace bullying could and did go outside the workplace.

I no longer felt safe, even in my home, and especially in the outside world.

More followed, but this is enough for now.

This gives you a glimpse into my world.

A world not only constricted by workplace bullying but by fear.

So I stop for today.  This has been emotionally wrenching to write.  But it's a key part of my story.  A key part of what has been holding me back from complete healing and why the internal, emotional damage was so extensive.

More of the story tomorrow....

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