Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Surviving Workplace Abuse: The value of coping techniques

As I walk - OK stumble and bumble - through this journey of recovery post workplace abuse, I often feel like this road construction project near our home which has been on-going for months now and is causing a lot of disruption in the traffic flow in our area.  It also doesn't look like it's about to finished any time soon either.  Riding on the bus on this road yesterday was a torturous experience at best.  Bumpy.  Scary even with heavy equipment seemingly everywhere - one of which, I think, came perilously close to hitting our bus with its bucket.  At least, I think the driver thought so as he braked suddenly and waved at the driver of the heavy equipment.  Frightening.  Definitely, not a fun experience and it's one which the driver has to navigate time and time again on this route.

I think the road to recovery after workplace abuse is similar to this piece of on-going road construction.  Difficult to navigate, needing careful consideration - and sometimes help.

Will it ever get done?

I have faith.


I kind of stumbled onto this series about the value of coping techniques when recovering from workplace abuse when I had a really bad series of days after writing the post about being coerced into resigning during a surprise (to me) meeting.

Writing that post was both good and bad, I think.  It was good in that it uncorked the bottle so to speak and let out those emotions that had been stuffed inside since that time.  It was bad in that once let out, the emotions battered and buffeted me for several days until my coping techniques started to re-kick in.

Workplace abuse is a form of violence because it is about power and control.  Violence damages its victim.  Sometimes the damage is severe enough that it doesn't go away for a very long time, even with treatment i.e. therapy.  A case in point.  I still have limitations after breaking my wrist almost two years ago.  I've come to the conclusion that I'm just going to have to live with them - and work around them.  Similarly, a close friend was mauled by a dog several years ago.  She still has scars - and will always have them - from that attack.  Plus coping with the after effects of the trauma of having been mauled by the dog that night.

Yesterday, I wrote about the value of routines in my life as I progress along the road to recovery - and a somewhat normal life.  As I wrote about it, I realized that another huge coping technique throughout the entire journey from the early onset until now can be summed up in the word "comfort".

We all know about comfort foods.  Foods which make us feel good.  Early on, I enlarged that concept in my life to include "comfort clothes":  clothes that I feel especially comfortable in.  A large part of which are wraps, shawls or ponchos that I've made.  As I wrapped them around me, I felt not only comfortable but protected.  Maybe it's only a mind game or an illusion ... but it worked.

Today, though, I want to expand that concept of comfort onto places and people.

I've long since realized who the safe people are in my life.  They are those who are aware of my journey and the challenges I experience on it and work very hard to help me rather than hinder me on my road to recovery.  These "safe" people are also people I'm comfortable being around.  And I can trust them.  They would not deliberately say or do anything to hurt me like the only woman from my church who I thought was "safe" and allowed into my safe room only to have her hurt me and buffet me with words.  She is not on my list of safe people.  Neither is that particular church on my list of safe places - because safe places are inhabited by safe people.

There are places where I feel safer than other places.  As I've mentioned previously, because the co-workers got on my Facebook page and ran to management with their claims of ethics violations as well as writing and circulating a petition for signatures with various unproven - and probably unprovable - allegations, I did not feel safe in the outside world after I signed that document in the donut shop that day.  I was afraid of what these people might possibly conceive of to do to me - even after they had won and I was long gone.

The fear has lessened in the last year, but it is still there to some degree.

In addition to developing a routine, or routines, in my life, as I've started accessing the world outside my house usually in small bits rather than large bites, I've developed a feeling of comfort in some places such as the local yarn shops, the library, the uptown core of our city, the bus getting there and back, the pharmacy, the doctor's office, etc.

I realized the need for that feeling of comfort when hubby gave me the task of making the reservations for our little mini vacation a few weeks ago.  I thought of all the places we could go.  Some didn't feel right because of the distance involved.  Some felt right but there was camping involved - which we both love, but were we realistically capable of the physical rigours of setting up the tent, etc.?  Especially after driving hours to get there?

So, finally I let me mind drift to where I felt most comfortable - which is around water, in a canoe, camera in hand.

Then my mind settled on the town of Parry Sound Ontario on Georgian Bay where we've gone numerous times in the journey.  For years, we've stayed at the same one star motel.  We've gone through three owners now and are treated like long lost friends.  I feel comfortable there.

In our various wanderings, we discovered years ago where there is an Outfitters which rents canoes.  Again, they're on my list of comfort zones, so we rented a canoe from them.

We ventured outside of our comfort zone when we put the canoe in close to the town of Parry Sound itself and ventured into a narrows which was heavily traversed by motorized pleasure craft of all sizes from skidoos to cruisers - and some boats that defied description.  We ended up at one point stuck in a little cove where the wake from passing watercraft threatened to swamp and capsize us.

Putting in at the Swing Bridge in Parry Sound and traversing Two Mile Narrows at high noon on Labour Day
We were actually trapped in that cove for a while as whenever we tried to get out, another fast boat came along.  Yet, this may have been way outside my comfort zone and may not be something I would attempt again in the same way, at the same time, but yet it was not an experience which provoked trauma.


Because we could see the boats and their wakes coming.  We could anticipate things.  And some of the boats saw us before passing us and slowed down.  Others saw too late what was happening and stopped and looked back to make sure we were safe before going on.  But most of all, because I've learned to trust the person in the back of the canoe.  The one who is trusted with steering and keeping us safe.  I've learned to trust his instincts and his knowledge.  He knows that getting hit broadside by the wake is the surest way to capsize the canoe; therefore, he tries to head the canoe into the wake.  A bumpy ride to be sure, a little harrowing until the wake passes and the water is calm again, but still the safest way to meet this danger head on.


Workplace bullying aka abuse aka psychological harassment aka small "h" harassment is all about broadsiding the victim aka target.  It is all about swamping and capsizing their little canoe which they do in ways over and over that the target cannot anticipate which is what has caused the severity of the trauma I experienced and the difficult of the road I travel toward recovery.


Heading out onto Georgian Bay from Snug Harbour, Ontario towards Kilbear Provincial Park the day after Labour Day

We went again in the canoe again the next day.  A different put-in point.  Almost no pleasure craft around.  Calm waters, sun and fluffy white clouds.  A place we've been before.  A place we're comfortable with.

During both experiences, as I held that paddle in my hand and dipped it into the water feeling the power and strength propel our canoe forward, I felt fully whole and alive for the first time in years.  Fully in my element.

I came home from our mini-vacation feeling totally relaxed and laid back.

Hubby came home with a bad sunburn.  I guess you can't have everything.

Experiences like this give me hope and encourage me to believe that I will heal.  I will eventually fly again.

Until tomorrow dear friends ....

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