Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Recovery from Workplace Abuse: Things I've learned on the road to recovery (updated)

When we hear the term bullying, we think of the playground bad boy who has a permanently bad attitude. We think of a little weakling being terrorized, shrinking and shrivelling.  We usually have full sympathy for the weakling, the underdog. We realize that the little kid is being victimized by the other kid.

Yet when we hear the term workplace bullying, we don't think in quite the same way.  Especially if we're a bystander in the arena where it's occurring.  Especially if there are dominant personalities involved which compel us to believe that they (the bullies) are the weaklings being preyed upon by one individual who must have superpowers to be able to terrorize an entire department.  It might be possible to believe this kind of group think if the person being portrayed and perceived as the super bully of all bullies capable of super human power of causing stress if that person is a supervisor or manager.  However, in my case I was not a supervisor or manager.  Not even close.  I was at the lowest level in the office - an entry level position which I was good at and happy at. 

However, I am guilty of some character traits which may or may not have exacerbated the situation at that time and in that place.

I am outspoken.  I am strong willed.  I'm not a quitter.  I was intent on recovery.  Instead of taking the hint and leaving i.e. being compliant, I worked hard on recovery.  Instead of becoming wrecked (at least for years) and leaving either quietly or under guise of illness, I became a happy person.  Ironically, up until the bullying intensified to the point where the stress was brutal and I was being called in to the "principal's" i.e. manager's office often to be threatened with discipline, I became the emotionally healthiest I've ever been in my life.


I believe I've shared previously a document I wrong prior to my two back to back stress break downs in the workplace here before.

Today, I'm sharing it again.  Edited.  Updated.  Most of the things I've learned on the road to recovery were from 2006-2010.  From that point on, the task became to stay alive and to continue to live in the recovery that had already happened.  Not to lose the ground I'd already made.

Here are some of the things I've learned in the journey of recovery.
  •  I’ve learned that good can come out of bad.
  • I’ve learned that the relationships that are the most important to me are my family.
  •  I’ve learned that my husband does care for me; he may not understand me or know what to do in certain situations, but he does love me and he finds ways to share me how much he cares and values me.
  • I’ve learned that I am loved.
  • I’ve learned to value, honour and respect my husband.  As I value him, he "retaliates" in kind - by valuing me.
  • I’ve learned to pay attention when he wants to talk about things that don’t really interest me because they do interest him and that shows I value him.  As I listen to him talk about his daily life outside in the workforce, I learn more about him and love him even more.
  • I’ve learned that the only person I can change is myself.  But when I change myself, others change towards me as a result.  Or at least some people.  The problem is when I hit a hard time, because I'm the one who has been changing sometimes things slide back - at least for a while.
  • Concurrently, I've learned that the only person I can control is myself.  And that's a hard enough challenge in and of itself.  I could not control the bullies or the bystanders or management or HR.  I can only control myself.
  • I’m learning to trust God in the small things because if I can trust Him in the nitty-gritty aspects of my daily life, then I can surely trust Him in the BIG issues.
  • I’m learning to talk to God just like I would to a real person. I find it hard but I also find it exhilarating as He directs my petitions and thoughts in completely unthought of directions.
  • I’ve learned that I am not stupid.
  • I no longer tell myself that I’m stupid.
  • I’ve learned that I do have talents and what they are.  I'm learning that I do have value.  That I'm not as black as I was painted in the workplace.  Some of it was just plain dirt.
  • I’ve learned that my strengths are more numerous than my weaknesses and to concentrate on them.
  • I’ve calmed down a lot.  OK for those really close to me, please don't laugh!  I'm not perfect, but I am working on taking things in stride.
  • I’m still learning to say I’m sorry when I’m wrong – and work to make things right.
  • I’m still working on relationships and seeing the continuing rewards of hard work in that area
  • I’m continuing to learn about trauma, how it affects people in general and how it affected me in particular.
  • Concurrently, as I continue to walk this road, I realize how badly people like me who have been traumatized are misunderstood by "normal" people in our life after workplace abuse such as pastors, etc.
  • I’ve learned that I’m pretty typical of people who have been affected by trauma.
  •  I’ve learned that there is life after trauma – and that it can be good.
  • I’ve learned that detours can be fun – if you let them be.
  • I’m learning not to take things personally.  That is still on-going as I edit this.  It's hard because some things like the isolation and exclusion in the workplace were deliberate, they were personal.  However, the postie who complained that our street was not safe for home delivery, that was not personal.
  • I’m still learning what my triggers are.  The more I learn what they are, the more I can control my reactions and responses when those triggers are pushed.  Not always.  But more and more.
  • I’m enjoying life a lot more.
  • Concurrently, because of the recovery that has already occurred, not only am I enjoying life a lot more, I am having experiences with those closest to me that I might never have had otherwise like canoe camping with hubby, the CN trip last summer on my birthday, etc.
  • I’ve learned that although I might go through a rough patch, overall I am doing well overall.
  • I’ve learned that it’s more common to listen than it is to hear.  Most people hear not listening to the other person exactly, but formulating what they're going to say.
  • I’ve learned what secondary wounding is and how to recognize it when it is happening to me.
  • I am also careful in my interactions with people to not inflict secondary wounding to others who are going through difficult times.
  • I’ve learned what people who are experiencing trauma are going through and what kind of support and encouragement they need.
  • I’ve learned that relationships take effort.  Continuing effort. It's not a one time deal.
  •  I’ve learned that people respond to initiatives.  Not always.  But often.
  •  I’ve learned that good relationships are built slowly – one block at a time.
  •  I’ve learned to take the time to enjoy moments of companionship with people.  I love watching the moonlight dancing on the water, hearing the call of the loons, seeing rain ripple on the water standing snug and dry under a huge tree ….  Those are good times.  Good memories.
  • I’ve learned that while some people don’t smile, a surprising number do.
  • I've learned to laugh.  Even when I could get angry, I've learned to laugh.  It's surprising how well laughter works.
  •  I’ve learned to recognize the hand of God in things.  If I can't immediately recognize it, I start looking for it.
  • I’ve learned to be thankful for all kinds of things even - actually especially - things most people like myself take for granted like indoor plumbing especially when it's freezing outside, a warm house, flannel sheets, my cat.
  • I’ve learned to appreciate people and the things they do and express that appreciation.
  • I realize now that I’m “wired differently” and that’s it’s OK to be different.  In fact, I like being different.  It's fun.  And fun is good.  I like being unique.  
  • This is a hard one and still very much on-going and part of my current journey.  I've learned to accept myself for who I am and while I still feel the need to be validated, I am slowly learning that I shouldn't need that validation.  It's not what others think about me.  It's all about who I KNOW I am
  • I’m learning to savour the good moments like a gourmet chocolate and not to devour them quickly.
  • I discovered by accident one day in a thrift shop that if one takes a few steps back, the scene/perspective is totally different and different things come into focus that were not seen in the close up view.
  • I’m learning to face my fears and break their power over me.  I was actively working on some of these fears during what I now call phase I of the recovery process (2006-2010) and now I'm at a place in phase II where I'm able to resume working on them.  Not as aggressively as before, but still work on them.
  • I’ve learned fears are irrational. They have nothing to do with facts 
  • I’ve learned it’s absolutely awesome to face the fears head on and start to conquer them
  • I’ve learned I can lean on hubby for support – both physically and emotionally – if I let him be that support.
  •  I’ve learned hubby has his own insecurities, I have mine.
  • I’m  still on the road of learning to forgive those who have hurt me and enjoying the freedom that comes from forgiving others.
  • I'm learning that there are always stumbling blocks on the continuing road to recovery.  Life goes on and adds more pain while I'm still dealing with the trauma and PTSD.
  • I’ve experienced God’s grace and mercy when I was finally able to forgive those who have wounded me deeply.
  • I’ve learned that we can only show God’s grace and mercy to others once we have experienced it ourselves. 
  • I've also learned that it's impossible to show God's grace and mercy to even ourselves let alone others when I've never experienced it.
  • I’ve learned that once we experience God’s grace and mercy, it just flows through us freely
  • I’ve learned that I cannot expect grace and mercy from people who have never experienced it.
  •  I’ve learned not only to identify my supports but to rely on them in times of crisis
  • I’ve learned to take a step back when thoughts of anger and rage assail me and look at things logically for logical solutions and next steps.
  • I’m learning not to blame God when things go wrong according to my way of thinking and to trust that God knows what He's doing even if I don't.

Because of the above things I've learned and am continuing to learn:

  • I'm more spontaneous.
  • I’ve gained confidence
  • I'm happier
  • There’s usually a bounce in my step that was never there before
  • Sometimes I feel like pinching myself to realize that the change I've experienced on this journey and am still working on is real.
In short, it’s been a hell of a ride, but I’ve learned so much through it.

Until next time ...

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