Monday, February 16, 2015

On the journey of recovery post workplace abuse: Warning: (Re)construction ahead

Last summer, the region embarked on an ambitious two-year reconstruction project in our neighbourhood.  This picture shows only one part of phase one which was on the street below us.

Eight years ago, I embarked on a major reconstruction program of my own.

There are major differences between the two projects.

The regional one cost millions of dollars, was pre-planned, involved committees and drawn up plans.  Machinery had to be ordered.  The plans had to be carried out in a methodical, organized manner.  Inconvenience to the residents ensued as the road was torn up, there were traffic delays some over an hour long at points in the project ... and the dreaded detour.  Lasting inconvenience with the permanent loss of our home mail delivery occurred.  Approximately seven long months later, the project was finally completed.

Many people were involved in both the planning and implementation of this project.

Once completed - at least the first part has been while the second, my street, begins this coming spring - the results of the construction are obvious.

But ...

But once it's done, it is beautiful.  The project is also very visible in all its phases of implementation except the planning one.

The inconvenience caused by the detour and increased traffic on other roads also due to the detour caused by the construction, are (mostly) forgotten.

Road construction, or any other physical construction, is highly visible by it's very nature.

However the type of (re) construction projection I embarked on in the fall of 2006 was neither planned nor visible.  It's not something that can displayed in photographs like the construction scenes above or the pictures of a WWI helmut in the process of creation below.

Because it involves a reinvention of myself.  Who I am.  How I perceive life.  How I react to things.  It involves change at the very core of my being - who I am.  Who I perceive myself to be.  It involves recognizing and getting rid of lifelong habits.  It involves total change from the inside out including a reinvention of relationships.

My (re)construction didn't stop at night and on weekends.  It was constantly on-going.  24/7.

It was not planned, nor did it follow any designated format or path,

It just was.

And it's still on-going.  Still in progress.

Never visible.  Always there.  Although I was able to feel changes fairly quickly, because this kind of (re)construction is inner, it was not visible to those around me for weeks, even months depending on who these people were and what place they had in my life.  It was on-going and fluid.  Ever changing.

This kind of inward (re)construction is totally invisible.  For me, it was unplanned.  It began back in August of 2006 when I changed counsellors as the first one had become abusive and I felt like I needed a counselling session after the counselling session to deal with it.

This counsellor is unique.  She is also a Christian, like me and like the first one.  The difference is that she invites God into the process.  She has come to realize that God does the work through her.  I didn't know this when I walked into her office that first day.

I was sure she was going to kick me out and say that I could not be helped.

She did neither.

She simply listened and offered encouragement.  She knew more of the dynamics of trauma and PTSD than my former counsellor had, so she had the right "equipment" to deal with me.

As with most (re)construction projects, things got worse before they got better.  I threw my Bible on the floor of the library in my former church and had a very angry pastor at my door.  One who came to condemn not to forgive or minister to a hurting person.  One who didn't understand trauma.

Yet, through it all I stuck it out.  Unlike the road which had no choice in the matter, I did have choices.  I could have just quit.  Or done other things like suicide - which I did think of.

Yet, ultimately my counsellor offered me something no one else had in that part of the experience.  She offered me hope.  She gave me unconditional acceptance.  She never flinched or got mad at me.  She simply accepted me as I was at that time.  She looked beyond appearances and saw hurt.  Damage that went way back to childhood.

This kind of (re)invention is hard to describe and impossible to show in pictures as outwardly I'm the same.  It's inwardly that is vastly different; totally different from before.

My (re)construction followed no set plan.  It wandered all over the place and back again - like my blog posts sometimes.

First, I had to learn to accept myself.  I had to learn that I had value.  I had to learn my talents.  I had to learn both my strengths and my weaknesses, to accept them and to work not on my weaknesses, but on further strengthening those things I was good at.  To even start the (re)construction, I had first to realize that I was not a stupid person.  That was lesson #1.  I had to realize early on who those people were who counted the most in my life - my husband, children, grandchildren, etc. - and to forge good relationships with those closest to me.  Concurrently, I learned that those relationships I had put the most trust in, my co-workers, were transient.  I learned to trust God and to pray.  One of the hardest lessons I learned was to forgive - which is still ongoing as life intervenes with recovery and (re)construction.  I learned to laugh instead of getting angry.  I learned to look at life and circumstances differently.

Even though ironically the period where (re)construction began was also at almost the same time as the second incident of workplace abuse began, it was for the most part a good time in my life as I was happy and whole for the first time ever - even though those I worked with refused to realize that.

My family realized it though.  During those awful years of escalating abuse in the workplace, my life outside the workplace prospered.  My relationships with my family grew and prospered.  We have had experiences and made memories that we would never have made had I not undergone this unplanned (by me) (re)construction project.

Today as I end this blog post, I can say that despite the workplace situation, despite the incredible stress, despite the resultant injuries, for the most part these have been good years due to the ongoing (re)construction.

 Until next time ....

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