Recovery post workplace bullying is not only an on-going process but also a very fluid process. Like a river flowing downstream, it changes constantly. It all depends on the day, the hour and whatever else is going on my life at that particular space in time.
It's easy to feel that recovery is going well when staying at home in my "safe" place doing safe things like watching DVDs, knitting, etc. It's easy to connect with people via social media because there's a distance to the relationship. And, if a relationship or conversation becomes unhealthy, it's easy to disconnect. To pull away. To put distance between myself and the other person.
However, recovery is not accurately measured in those moments. It's measured best when going outside the box, testing the limits, seeing how much better - or worse - I react to things that happen when I'm not home in my safe place doing safe things. It also measures how my body reacts physically after the event and also how I react emotionally/mentally in those days and hours after the event.
I find that living through - and even enjoying - the event is relatively easy. It's the aftermath that is difficult. I never know how, when or where that aftermath is going to happen.
So a little over a week ago, I decided to go outside my little safe box into the big bad world. It was more or less a spontaneous decision although I had been thinking of it for a year. Ever since my daughter with her youth group and her in-laws with their youth group went on the walk.
My daughter and her in-laws have been doing this walk for years. Sometimes my young granddaughter has done it as well.
This year I didn't have any money to contribute so when someone from my LinkedIn connections wrote to ask if I would sponsor the walk, my mind recalled a story I know from the Bible about Peter and John encountering a lame man who was asking for money. Peter said to him: "I don't have any money, but I'll give you what I do have" and preceded to heal him of his lameness. (Acts 3:6)
I'm not Peter or John. Not even close. I can't heal people BUT I do have one thing in my hand: my camera. One of my right brain therapies during this period of recovery post workplace abuse. One of the things that gives me pleasure both while I'm taking the photos and afterwards as I look at them, they bring back good memories.
However, I forgot a couple of details: (1) This is an evening event and I almost never go outside the house at night - so I'm way outside my comfort zone right there; (2) I go to bed early - as in like 8 or 9 p.m.; (3) Because of #1 and #2, I'm not experienced with night photography.
This was going outside the box big time for me. It was the equivalent of going straight from taking quizzes to taking the final exam - without studying. Or tackling the Black Diamond hill when I wasn't sure that I'd found firm footing on the Bunny Slope.
But still ... there's a method to my madness. If I can survive this test, I can pretty well do anything.
If not ... well ... then it may be back to the drawing board, but there are still lessons that are learned to guide me in my next adventure.
I was fine during the event itself. I enjoyed being among people - which is one thing that staying in my little room denies me. The energy I felt from the other, younger volunteers was contagious. They were friendly. They were helpful. Their smiles would light up a room ... or a dark sidewalk. We were all in this together.
My insecurities rose big time. When I saw another photographer with a bigger camera and longer lens, I felt like such a fraud. I felt like a little kid with my brand new Brownie Starlight trying to compete with my dad and his Single Lens Reflex camera. I felt like I didn't measure up. Like I wasn't good enough (that lie that I wrote about earlier in a different blog reared its ugly head big time once again.)
I had mechanical failures as well. I'd brought my brand new, never used, external flash. Since my hands shake badly even at the best of times, I'd brought my tripod - and hubby to set it up for me. I did do some test photos of willing victims inside (the one with the Starbucks personnel wearing their touques). I set up my equipment outside, right in the middle of the sidewalk so I could get photos of people coming. They had to walk around me like the parting of the Red Sea.
I was using my big, serious lens, so I could only get "close ups" if they were far away. (Note to self: scout out site earlier in the day and pick good site.) (Another note to self: try out all equipment beforehand). (Third note to self: if you're going to do this again in the future, you'd best learn about night photography.) (Should I make any more notes to self?)
I'd also brought my "second best" camera: a Canon powershot with a good zoom. In the beginning I loaned it to another volunteer who took some incredible inside shots with it.
And then failure happened. Or should I say a fall? I fell (and no, I didn't hurt myself), but the tripod fell with me. And the external flash came off. Some helpful walkers helped me find it, but I couldn't get it back on as the piece which holds it to the camera had broken off with it. Oops!
And that's when the second lie - that of "my best is not good enough" came to life. A lie I probably swallowed hook, line and sucker early in childhood which got reinforced during the workplace bullying and afterwards during recovery.
Something cool did happen, the volunteer who I'd loaned my camera to came by to give it back to me. So I still had a camera. Yes!
Problem? I hadn't used it in quite a long time so I couldn't figure out in the cold and the dark how to set it for night pictures. :(
I ended up taking the rest of the outside pictures (the ones with a yellowish background) on the sports setting.
Then as the last of the walkers left the rest stop and headed back to where they came from, I got tired and the letdown after the event started to happen. Not only was I exhausted, but I felt the familiar beginnings of depression rising up. Enveloping me and hanging on with their tentacles refusing to let go.
As I've slogged away through this period post the walk, my body has been in perpetual rebellion and I've been very fatigued, lethargic, not much interest in anything.
I not only have some good memories and pictures, I've learned a bit to help with future outings/testings which I wouldn't have learned any other way.
Until next time.