Thursday, November 20, 2014
Surviving Workplace Abuse: An unlikely friend
As I continue writing about what happened to me in the workplace, mixing my own experiences with research and learning more, much more, about what happened to me and coming to terms with both the experiences, the dynamics that caused them and the resulting damage, I've come under attack from various unrelated sources about being negative which has caused me to struggle.
Am I negative because I keep looking back into the past, analyzing it and realizing what happened to me so that I can (hopefully) prevent it from happening again and have a better future?
And so that I can come to terms with my past traumatic experiences, accept them for what they are - and move on in my own time and my own way?
Am I being negative because I want to get workplace bullying out of the "closet" and into the open where the victims of bullies have the freedom to say what happened to them without fear of reprisals? And hopefully be better understood?
Am I being negative because I want to educate people about the dynamics of bullying? How subtly it begins so that they can protect themselves in the workplace?
Am I being negative because I share freely with others what my life is like post workplace bullying? How it has changed my life? The after effects such as weakness, feeling shaky, breathing problems, cognitive and speech problems resulting from the trauma that scattered my brain cells similar to a real brain injury or a concussion?
Am I being negative?
Am I a negative person?
This plus the very real aftereffects of what happened to me which persist even three plus years after the fact, are things I deal with - and struggle with - on a day to day basis.
I like to think I'm not a negative person. I like to think that bringing my experiences into the open will someday help others.
I also know the positive things that have come into my life that probably wouldn't have come into my life if all this hadn't happened. These are harder to share though.
For example, take A - a younger woman I had originally met in 2009 at a women's retreat we both attended. We didn't have much in common, but we did hit it off and had fun together.
Life intervened and a few years later she was diagnosed with schizophrenia and I went through workplace abuse.
We accidentally reconnected last year in a surprising way. We both went to a women's breakfast sponsored by her church. Somehow, I ended up losing my chair and sat down elsewhere. Unfortunately, that chair happened to be empty, but claimed by someone else. Someone who came up to me, confronted me and demanded that I get up.
To others that wouldn't be such a big deal, but to me who sees things through the lens of trauma, the lens of isolation and exclusion from what happened in the workplace, it pushed my triggers. I wanted to grab my coat and run out. I felt soiled like I'd done something wrong. Immediately others who were aware of my past and my issues and limitations, found a place for me - a small student's desk in the corner.
A contacted me afterwards and made sure that I knew that she was glad that I had come to the breakfast. She says that even my presence makes her feel good.
A bit later there was another breakfast and I wasn't going to attend, but A made it clear that she wanted me to go. She also made sure that I always had a place to sit - beside her. Our friendship began to grow from then on.
We're an odd couple in many ways. I'm petite, she's large. I'm urban, she's more rural. I'm from a high church (Anglican) background, she's from a Mennonite background. I have a university degree, she barely has an elementary school education. Frankly, we have nothing in common.
... Except that we're both marginalized: she by schizophrenia and I by trauma. Both of us struggle in ways others can't understand. Both of us deal daily with things we'd rather not.
And for that reason, we both understand each other in ways others cannot.
Our friendship is based on mutual acceptance. I can talk to her about things I can't talk to about with others. I don't mind being with her on the bad days when the words don't come or they come garbled. It doesn't bother her a bit. She understands and allows me to be me. I feel relaxed in her company. I don't have to pretend to be anything other than what I am. I don't have to pretend to be strong. I can just be plain old, unvarnished, imperfect me.
The other day, she called and wanted a change of scenery. She was tired of staring at her own four ways and wanted a different set of four walls to stare at. I'd been having one of my bad periods where I hadn't been able to do much, where I felt like something heavy was on my chest and I was having trouble breathing and feeling weak but I allowed hubby to go pick her up and bring her over for a few hours.
We laughed. We talked. We shared experiences. We watched videos.
I felt the load lessen. The heaviness lift. More energy seemed to flow in.
Together we shared various gifts: the gift of laughter, of conversation, of understanding, of valuing each other, of not judging.
At the end, we were both aware that I was in a much better space than when I'd answered the phone a few hours before.
Would A have come into my life in such a positive way if I hadn't gone through the trauma of workplace bullying and it's resultant damage? Or would I have shunned her because of her mental illness? I'm guess that this friendship which blesses me so much would never have happened if I had not gone through workplace bullying.
Workplace bullying has changed me. The way I look at life. The way I react and/or respond to things.
It has caused damage - yes. But it has also brought me special gifts.