Thursday, September 18, 2014

Surviving Workplace Abuse: Where Am I Now?


I took a walk along the river by my house yesterday in the early morning - mandatory camera in hand.  As I walked, I snapped this picture of two paths converging - or separating (depending on which direction you're going).  I often feel like that on the road to recovery.  Many times, I feel like I'm at a crossroads and am not sure which fork in the road to take.  Which one will be the most productive.  Which on will lead me to where I want to go?  I feel I am at such a crossroads right now in my personal journey towards recovery.

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On my road to recovery surviving workplace abuse, where I am now?  Right at this moment in time and space?  Where would I put myself if the road to recovery were a straight line with one end being the beginning and one the end?

I don't know.

Because workplace bullying and recovering from it, doesn't work that way.  It's not a straight line.  In my experience, the bullying had no clear cut beginning.  It just sort of started with one person, one incident and grew over a period of months and years into something formidable.  Somewhat like a bulldozer which levels everything in its path.  Only in this case, the bulldozer called bullying was aimed at only one person.  Or, usually, one person at a time.  In this case, it was me.

Because there is no clear cut diagnosis or treatment, the "line" is not clear cut either.  Or straight.  In my experience, it meanders all over the place like those creeks we used to cross on the way to grandma's years ago before expressways were built.  There was one creek, we would cross about six or seven times on that particular journey.  We kids used to love to shout out the name of the creek each time we crossed it. But we also knew, that each time we crossed it, we were one segment closer to the ultimate goal - arriving at Grandma's house and all the delights that waited for us there.

How many times am I crossing the same creek on my road to recovery?  This time without even knowing it?  Again, I don't know.  But I do believe that with each bend in the road, each milestone I pass, each creek I cross, I am further along the road to recovery and closer to the ultimate goal.

Where am I on the road to recovery, three years plus after I signed that paper in the donut shop with only the union rep present?  With no prior warning that this encounter was to be a meeting rather than a casual cup of coffee and getting more acquainted with me and my situation?  It depends on how you look at it and from what perspective.

According to my therapist, whom I saw this week, I am doing well.  I am processing things well.  She is very pleased with my progress.  In fact, she is so please that we are slowly backing off the counselling process down to every four weeks from every two weeks and soon to be every six weeks.

Yet, it still feels like the tentacles of the octopus called workplace bullying which in my case escalated to mobbing still have their clutches on me.  Still reaching out to suck me in and drag me down to the depths of despair.

Yesterday was cleaning day at my house.  About a year ago, I adopted one of the best coping mechanisms I've come up with yet.  I hired a cleaner to come once a week.  Not only does this dear soul clean the dust, vacuum, etc., but she's helped me on the road to de-cluttering my house.  To getting rid of lots of unused "junk" taking up precious space in my house.  We've accomplished a lot over the past year - as I've been able.  Yet, we still have a ways to go.

The on-going journey towards recovery from workplace abuse is a lot like that.

Yesterday, as part of the cleaning process, I gathered up all the papers on the floor in my safe room and deposited them on my bed to sort through and attempt to organize.  Among those papers are knit and crochet patterns I've printed off the net (duh!), recipes, resumes, financial stuff and reams and reams of articles I've printed off re: different aspects of workplace bullying from Bill 168 to mobbing, to psychological harassment to bullying, to psychiatric injury and so on.

As I picked up these papers to sort out and put into piles, I glimpsed at each one and read just a little bit to determine which pile things should go in.  Looking at those articles regarding workplace bullying and its different aspects brought back just how wronged I was in the workplace.  It brought back all the feelings of helplessness.  Of voicelessness.  It made me feel like crawling into a hole or under the bed or somewhere.  It made me realize the enormity of what I faced then, of what others in the workplace have either faced in the past or are now facing.  It made me feel like giving up.  It's such a huge task confronting workplace bullying and I'm only one person.

I feel like I stand alone now because many people who have gone through it don't want to revisit that horrible place in their lives.  They just want to forget.

United we stand; divided we fall.  The effects and aftereffects of bullying, the shame it brings to us, the lies we've internalized all cause us to stay under the radar and remain isolated.  Divided.  Separate.  Worthless.  Worth less.  We are afraid to stand up and become visible because the tentacles of the octopus are still reaching out, trying to continue to cling to us and pull us down.

How can we be heard?  How can one voice alone be heard?  And ... is it worth it?  Or should I just crawl back under the covers, curl up in ball and lick my wounds?

I feel insignificant:  my name is not David.  Yet workplace bullying is my Goliath.  I don't have a slingshot and a stone.  I'm not skilled in those arts.  Yet ... I have my words.  My strength and skill as a writer.  Will it be enough?

So today, I find myself at a crossroads in a sense.  During the process of recovery, I've come to realize just how wronged I was.  How the bullies used the very legislation that could have protected me to have me terminated because it combines violence and harassment in the same document.  All these people had to do was to raise the spectre of possible violence - whether there was anything substantial to back that allegation or not - and I was gone.

It's been three plus years now - which is well over the year allowed by the Workers Compensation Board for complaints.  I found one of the documents I signed that fateful day agreeing that I would not come back to them in any way, shape or form.  Legally, I have no grounds any more on which to stand.  Financially, I have no money to fight for my rights anyway.  Looking at it that way, it's a done deal - and has been for more than three years.

Yet, those people who tormented me in the workplace and caused so much stress and injury are still out there in the workplace.  Not the one we were together in because that one has closed.  Yet, they are still out there in other workplaces.  Are they doing the same behaviours in these new workplaces that they did in ours?  Are other people, good people, in danger from these same people?

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Today, I will leave you with that question which I hope is thought provoking and head back to bed, crawl under the covers, curl up into a ball and figuratively lick my wounds.

I need to rest to regain my strength.  After resting will come nourishment.  After that ... I'm not sure.  But always, always the road to recovery beckons.

I may lay down for a wee bit, but I am determined not to stay down.

Until tomorrow....

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