What was life, my life, like before workplace bullying changed my life? Before it set its hooks into me? Tried to destroy me?
I remember reading an article many years ago by a journalist who was visiting China in the aftermath of the Chinese Revolution during the rule of Mao Zedong.
Some villagers were proudly showing this journalist how the great Chinese leader had improved their lot in life by showing them a hospital he had built for their village. The villagers were so excited, so proud of it. Yet, to the Western journalist, it was very rudimentary. Basic. Very lacking.
He wrote this sentence which became emblazoned on my memory: "If this is after, what was before like?"
This blog covers a lot of what my life after workplace abuse is like, but what was before? Before will put some of my abilities and (what I like to call) "altered abilities" in this phase post workplace abuse in some form of context.
I've mentioned cooking several times in past instalments of this blog. How it is a huge victory for me to be able to cook a meal for my husband. And how, so far, cooking company dinners is still more or less beyond my capability.
To understand why these things are either a victory (as in the former) or a concern (as in the latter), you need to understand what before was like in regards to the simple task of putting food on the table.
As I write this, in my "after", before seems like a very long time ago.
Before was not an idyllic time in which the skies were always blue, the grass green and we danced joyously all day long.
That, my friends, is a pipedream. It ain't gonna happen in this life.
Before definitely had its ups and down, its times of depression and anger.
But one thing was almost always constant - I enjoyed cooking for my family. From scratch.
When I first left home at the tender age of something like 27 or so to move to the mission field, I basically did not know how to cook. I bought a few pans. My mom bought me some cookbooks for cooking for one. And I was off. Like the proverbial herd of turtles.
I learned how to cook for myself. How to freeze stews, etc. and freeze them in one portion servings. I even learned how to make bread. The old-fashioned way by hand. I was a very popular person at the mission on those days in which I made bread.
Then I got married and I had to learn how to cook for two. Then I had children and I had to cook larger quantities. I will not tell you of the struggles - and failures - in this post today, but suffice it to say that the learning curve went straight up.
By the time the kids were grown and leaving the nest, my ability to cook was so well known that the kids asked for a collection of my recipes.
At one point in the journey, I worked part-time at a local call centre. I enjoyed bringing in my home cooked meals and heating them up in the microwave for my lunch so much that one of my younger co-workers once commented: "You like to cook." It was not a question. It was a statement of fact.
I became known for hospitality among my children's friends. At one point, two young men would stop by every Wednesday evening like clockwork on their way to their church for midweek service for some good, old-fashioned home cooking. I'm not sure who enjoyed it more, them or me.
Cooking was my recreation. It was something I enjoyed. I loved to pore through my recipes and try out ones that interested me.
One of the best periods in my life was when I was taking some re-training after the aforementioned call centre closed. By this time, we had taken in a friend of one of my daughter's who we call our .5. Our daughter of the heart. At that time, she was also at the same school. Often we would come home together and I would start to cook something. She would often sit at the kitchen table while I chopped, diced, etc. and we would talk. Often, we would taste what I had made before the rest of the family arrived. Those were good times.
After the first breakdown, when I was off work for four weeks, I could still cook. I could still follow recipes. I could still do that one thing that made me happy: cook.
By this time, I had been working an afternoon shift for several years, which meant that most of my cooking had been crockpot stuff for hubby to serve himself when he came home from his day job.
Even though I had some serious affects such as speech (stuttering which was never there before), cognitive skills, etc., I could still cook. I could still follow a recipe.
Hubby would work in the side door and sniff the air and say: "It smells like someone loves me." Those words were balm to my wounded soul.
I went back to work after those four weeks, still very fragile. Vulnerable. Not completely healed. Things were rough at the workplace. Very rough. No one would talk to me. Even those who did not work with me on the same shift refused to even acknowledge my existence. I was well and truly isolated.
I lasted five shifts before having a second breakdown. This time much more severe.
My cognitive skills were so disabled that I could no longer read - or follow - recipes which meant that cooking for recreation was a thing of the past.
I did though become more creative. Before I could read recipes. I could follow recipes. But I could not cook if even one ingredient from the recipe was missing.
Here in the beginnings of the after, my creativity began to kick in. But perhaps that is another story for another blog.
During this time, I remember getting a cookbook which I'd put on hold at the library long before. I opened it up. Each recipe had many ingredients and multiple steps. I looked at those pages. I couldn't even assimilate the recipe list let along follow those steps. It was impossible. Sadly, I returned the book to the library.
As I've walked through these 3+ years of recovery post trauma, post stress breakdowns, the abilities are returning, very slowly. There are still significant challenges. Breaks. Periods were recovery appears to be coming along nice and then stops suddenly. Downtimes.
How far will I be able to go on this journey of recovery? How much of the former skills will I get back? I don't know.
But I'm certainly going to have fun finding out.
More next time ....