Thursday, September 11, 2014

After Workplace Abuse: When emotions buffer, therapies and coping techniques come in

After spending three days writing Monday's blog and reliving that horrific (to me) event in the local doughnut shop with the Union representative, I have had a rough go of things both emotionally and physically.  I didn't really expect the emotional backlash to be as severe as it is.  I thought I had dealt with things emotionally.  And to a huge degree I have.

But ...

I have never told the story of that experience in the doughnut shop in one logical sequence.  I've told bits and pieces of it before ... to my family, to my therapist.  But have I ever really told the whole story complete with how I was feeling sitting there in the doughnut shop?  The answer is no.

Many people would say that I am doing the wrong thing by bringing up old memories and that I need to "let go" - whatever that phrase really means.

I received a comment from someone I did not connect with at the writers conference this year, I connected with her later when she read my blog and empathized with it as a former target of bullying in the workplace herself.  She wrote me this week that it was rough for her to read my post as it brought the memories back.  I apologized to her and wrote that I didn't know if I was doing right or wrong by writing about my experiences.  Part of her reply sticks with me.  She wrote that it brought back things she thought had long been dealt with and that she now feels that some things never completely go away (emphasis mine).

I think I'm learning that the hard way.  Some things never completely go away.  The hurt, the damage, runs too deep.

So what do I do when the depression, the lethargy, the inability to take interest in anything come back?  When the feeling of heavy pressure on my chest comes back so hard that it makes it hard to breathe?  What do I do then?

What have I learned to do in the past?  What has kept me stable and enabled me to get up and go on with my life during these past years?

I doubt I can give you a complete listing here in one blog post.  Nor do I think I am able to write them in any logical order at the moment, so this could get interesting.  But here goes.  Here are some of the coping mechanisms I've learned in the journey.

Photo Therapy:  

By "photo therapy", I'm not talking about going out on an adventure, camera in hand, taking photos because when I'm having the intense difficulties I've been experiencing this past week, going outside the house saps the strength.

I came across this method of therapy quite by accident just the other day as I was on my laptop culling through my photos to delete some and make more room for new ones as the disk is full.  I started at the bottom of the list and came across almost 1000 photos of a trip we'd taken to Scotland in 2009 when our daughter was a grad student there.  The pictures flooded me with peace - and good memories.  I discovered that day that certain pictures bring back exquisite memories.

Since I could dedicate not just one posting but a whole series on what I'm calling "photo therapy", I've selected just one significant photo for this blog post:  the Oktoberfest Thanksgiving parade, 2012, held here in our town.

This particular photo is a good memory of both a victory and a one-time family happening.

Two of the boys in the float below are my grandsons.  It was a one-time only occurrence in which they were invited to participate in this float with their grandmother.  It meant a lot to all of us that I could be there and see it - and wave to them.

It was a victory in that I had not been able to attend the annual Oktoberfest/Thanksgiving (Canadian) parade for years because of the fatigue associated with the bullying.  It took a bit to make this happen.  A family member came early, staked out the corner, brought extra chairs and blankets and watched over me to make sure I was OK. 

I felt cocooned in love.

 Knitting therapy:

Ah, knitting - and/or crocheting.  You knew I was going to bring this up at some point, didn't you.  When I feel so bad that I cannot go outside, I don't feel like talking to anyone, I pick up the needles and yarn.  It helps if I either have a simple project already on the go or some of that twirly yarn for fashion scarves.  These are not the times to start a "masterpiece".  These are the times to do a simple, repetitive task.  I've found that repetitive hand/arm movements stimulate peaceful/restful feelings.  Plus the sensory experiences of feeling the yarn as it goes through the fingers and seeing the item take shape below my needles brings peace.

DVD therapy:  

I haven't been able to watch an entire, long movie for years but I can do the bite-sized nibbles of TV series on DVD (we don't have a TV).   These bring me out of my problems for a short period.  They show me that there's a life out there ... somewhere ... and let me relax and enjoy - for the short-term.

Book therapy:

This is a small selection of books I have read or am reading.  Books like Teh Holy Wild I can only read in short segments - sometimes only a page at a time.  Books like Call the Midwife, I can gobble.  When I find sitting in a chair difficult, I can usually pick up the latest book I'm reading (I usually have a selection on the go) and lie down on my bed, pull the blankets around me and read. 

Than there's always "Cat therapy" (in my case since I don't have a dog):

In this picture, she doesn't look very therapeutic, but she has very soft fur.  During the journey, she has adopted the habit of lying close to me on the bed especially when I'm attempting to read a book, sometimes putting her check and paws on my shoulder which comforts me and makes me feel so much less alone in the journey.  Just the sensory experience of stroking her soft, silky fur brings about feelings of peace and contentment.

Last but definitely not least "bed therapy":

When all else fails, when I can do nothing else, when I can't even sit up in a chair and watch a DVD, I lie down on my bed and rest.  I don't consider this a defeat.  I consider it part of the healing process.  My therapist has told me that in order to fully recover, I need to rest.  So I've learned to listen to my body in the journey and if it won't allow me to do anything else - even read in a lying down position - then I curl under the blankets and allow myself to find comfort in the feel of the sheets, the blankets, the hand made afghan.  I allow the tiredness to take over and I sleep.  I rest.


Yesterday was a particularly bad day in the journey.  I'd been depressed for several days and then, yesterday, I felt like I couldn't even sit up.  I felt tired.  Not sleepy, but tired.  My chest hurt.  So I followed my body and laid down with my book and my cat nearby.  I read when I could.  Prayed when I couldn't.  But most of all, I simply allowed my body to restore itself.

Later, hours later, I was finally able to sit up for brief periods.  Eventually, I was able to take an interest in a simple knitting project, a fashion scarf.  I was able to make myself a goal on that scarf.  As it takes two balls of yarn, I wanted to completely finish the first ball and do five more inches on the second.  I am proud to say that I succeeded in that goal.

At first, very on in the journey, I would feel anger that I was reduced to this.  Now, I look back and feel pride at how much I've accomplished.  I realize that the journey is not a progressively forward trek, but a backward and forward motion.  This week, after writing down and getting out that part of the story, definitely initiated a backward motion in the journey.  Yet ....  Yet, I feel that I finally uncorked the plug which was holding in a lot of bad stuff and that now that the bad stuff is finally out, I can move forward even more.

Healing comes slowly.

One step at a time.

Until tomorrow ....

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