Monday, June 30, 2014

My Key to Recovery post Workplace Abuse: Debunking the Myth ConcerningPerceptions and Assumptions




I cannot remember the first time I heard the phrase "perceptions and assumptions" from my supervisor's lips.  I only remember the impact.

The words were clearly enunciated.  The middle syllables on both words - cept on perceptions and sumpt on assumptions - were stressed with the p's and t's at the end of both syllables clearly enunciated.  To my psyche, the stressing and enunciating had the effect of a cell door clanging shut.

Which was probably the desired intent.

To demonstrate power and control.

To shut me down.

To render me powerless and defenceless.

If that was the intent, it worked.

Each encounter left me not only feeling bruised and battered emotionally and shut down, but also confused.

What was wrong with the thoughts I was expressing?  With the way my mind worked?

I was trying to present my case in a rational and logical way, and it was not working.

Why?

I clearly remember one occurrence.  (Remember this is only one incident out of a long series of related incidences.)  My supervisor had arranged a meeting with HR at the suggestion of her supervisor.  My "perception and assumption" of the meeting was that it was to see if we could move forward on the issue and bullying.

I spent hours writing a letter which I handed out to both my supervisor and the HR rep.

While we were engrossed in our meeting, the HR rep was listening.  My supervisor was busy reading.

What she read did not make her happy.

One incident I outlined in the letter was the behaviour of one of the major players in the situation.  My "perception and assumption" based on what I was witnessing in the workplace was that she was doing very little in the way of work - while I was busy working my head off.

This person would sit at her computer - when she sat at all - and go on the net, check out this and that, etc.  It became a cat and mouse game as I kept trying to see if she was actually doing any work.  With very little success, I might add.  If she was actually working, she kept it very well hidden.

I had brought up this lack of work activity to my supervisor many times as a major concern.  Her response?  Beside being that it was all about my "perceptions and assumptions" was that I was not to be noticing her at all - which according to my "perceptions and assumptions" is very difficult in a small office with no walls dividing work stations - and that we both had jobs to do and we were both doing them.  End of story.  End of conversation.

Really?  We're both doing our jobs to our supervisor's satisfaction?  When only one of us is doing any real work?

Now here is where a real assumption does come into play.

For my mind, it's not a hard jump to take what I've observed about my co-worker's work - or should I say non-work? - related activities, my supervisor's statement that we both had jobs to do and are doing them to the assumption:  If this is true, then her job is to do nothing work-related.  Followed closely by the thought:  "Where do I go to apply for such a position?"  I mean to show up, sit at the computer for eight hours and surf the net, text message my friends, talk to them on my ever present cell phone, plan my vacations and get paid for it? Hey! This sounds like a dream job (except I'd get bored too easy if I had nothing worthwhile to do).  I said as much in this written document.

My supervisor took issue to this and on her way out the door of the meeting room pronounced:  "Perceptions and Assumptions" before sashaying out.  She also said she wished that I had talked to her about this before I wrote it.  To which I responded:  "I have.  Many times."  There was no further response except to watch her backside swish as she went out the door.

The HR rep never followed up.  At least not to me.

The situation continued unresolved and unchanged for several more years.

Years in which the situation increasingly escalated.


I am working hard to keep this post focused on my key point (no pun intended) re: perceptions and assumptions, which it is not easy.

Workplace abuse aka bullying is very complicated.  For one, there are many different players involved from the bullies to the bystanders to those who should have known better i.e. HR, management and even the union.  It would be so easy to go off onto a tangent at any given point.  

In fact, writing this series is bringing up so many thoughts, memories, etc. that the only way I can focus on the this one key point is to write all the other intrusive thoughts down to give them their time, their opportunity to be heard later.

*******

Tomorrow, July 1st, is Canada Day.  For those of my readers who live in Canada, enjoy your National holiday to the fullest.






Friday, June 27, 2014

Post Workplace Abuse: New Series: Conquering the Lies

Today, we are starting a new series:  Conquering the Lies.

Before we can conquer them; however, we have to identify them.

Before we can conquer them, we have to realize the power we have given them in our lives.

The control they have over us - and our thought processes.

How they intertwine with every piece of how we perceive ourselves.

This is not going to be an easy series to write as it goes into the core of what happened to me in the workplace, what I believed because of the lies and how those lies have ultimately impacted every aspect of my recovery.




In a recent post entitled Keys to Recovery from Workplace  Abuse, I talked about several components to recovery.

Hidden in the middle of the post, was a crucial aspect of the damage and, thus, a crucial aspect of the target's recovery.

The. Lies.

Those perpetuated - and believed - by the bullies.

Those internalized - and also believed - by the target.

With me, it boiled down to one phrase.  One crucial lie upon which the rest were based:  "perceptions and assumptions".  The key lie that needs to be unlocked before any more recovery can happen.



I heard these words consistently by former 1-up, the one who "solved" the problem of emerging and escalating workplace abuse aka bullying by becoming close friends inside and outside the office with those involved thus adding not only another member to the clique but also an influential member.

These words, this phrase, was not said nicely or factually in a low key manner.  They were said in a very demeaning way.  I consistently felt as though I were a five year old who was being criticized for something that I really didn't understand.  A behaviour that had always been Okay up to then.  A behaviour which had stood me in good stead my entire life.

Why were perceptions and assumptions suddenly so horrifically bad?

What was wrong with perceptions and assumptions in general?  Were they really that bad?

I've lived with my thought processes for over 60 years now.  They were never considered wrong or  bad.  Until then.

That one situation - in a lifetime of situations.

That one work experience - in a lifetime of work experiences.

I'd always been able to trust myself, my cognitive abilities, my intuitive abilities.  Until then.

Anything thing I said was wrong ... because of "perceptions and assumptions".

Any argument I presented to validate what I was going through in the workplace and how wrong it was was blown off ... because of "perceptions and assumptions."

The oftener I heard this phrase, the more confused I became.

What was wrong with me?

*******

Or was there anything really wrong with me?  

But then I'm getting ahead of myself with this sentence.  So let's go back just a moment.  To that moment in space and time.  To the place where I was experiencing the impact of those words.  That judgement.  That condemnation.  That ax applied to the very core of Who. I. Am.

*******

Being an analytical, research-oriented person, I tried to discover what perceptions were and why they were bad.  I did a Google search - without much in the way of results.

I wanted to find an article which clearly spelled out what was wrong with perceptions.

I couldn't find any.  Nor did my search pop up any research or articles really on the positives of perceptions.

So, finally I went to a dictionary search.  Which really didn't help me either.  At least to defend me.  Or to clarify what was so wrong with me.

However, we need a definition for both this blog and also for my journey into recovery.  For this purpose, I'm using my old trusty, dusty Webster's II New Riverside University Dictionary which I trusted intrinsically with my research while a university student way back when.  When dinosaurs roamed the land.  Therefore, I will trust it now.  Even though dinosaurs no longer roam the land.

So here goes:

This dictionary defines the word "perception" (noun): as 1.  The art, process, or faculty of perceiving.  2.  The effect or product of perceiving.  3. a. Insight, intuition or knowledge gained by perceiving. b. Capacity for such insight.

The entry below perception, defines the word "perceptive" (adjective): as 1. Of or relating to perception.  2. a. Capable of perceiving. b. Marked by understanding and discernment : SENSITIVE.

Going up the page a bit, we find the verb "to perceive" defined as:  1.  To become aware of directly through the senses, especially to see or hear.  2.  To take notice of :  OBSERVE.  3.  To achieve understanding.

Note: the words sensitive and observe are in capital letters in the dictionary which is why I've put them in capital letters here.  These are not my emphasis but rather those of whoever edited this particular dictionary.

*****


Now we have to stop for today.  Writing this post has taken a lot out of me as it takes me back to a dark place emotionally and psychologically in my life.  A place where flowers didn't bloom.  Where the sun didn't shine.  A place most people instinctively shy away from revisiting ... ever ... in their journeys post workplace abuse.

Yet a place that is necessary to revisit,  to come to terms with and, ultimately,  to conquer in order to heal.

The weekend has come.  It is time to lay this blog and these memories aside for the moment and focus on the good and beautiful in my life.  Flowers in my garden.  Family.  Etc.

See you Monday.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Hidden Dynamics of Workplace Abuse

We've travelled a long distance since I started this blog in what? 2012. We've seen a lot of different destinations, roads and paths in that time.  This one in Scotland, I've posted before, but it seemed like a good one for today.
I am finding this blog at times incredibly challenging to write as there are times when it is necessary to go back into a dark time in my life.  A time where darkness dwelt.  A time of incredible stress.

Yet, I feel the need to write about this topic which has intertwined itself so deeply into my life.

To regain not only my voice, but the voice of all those faceless, nameless, voiceless others who have been trampled in the workplace by bullying.

Why?  Why me?

Why indeed?

Maybe because I've always been an open person.  Even in the workplace when the abuse was on-going, I was open about it.  I admitted that it was happening.

That is not a smart idea.  The abusers do not want anyone to say bad things about them.  HR listened at first, but then as the abuse continued and escalated, HR closed ranks against me.  The original supervisor solved the problem (at least for her) in her own way ... by becoming friends inside and outside of work with the bullies.  Thus, adding one more member to the clique.  To the adversaries.  An influential member at that.  One who could no longer fairly and objectively deal with her part of running the business.  A conflict of interest.  But a conflict of interest which no one was able to recognize or deal with.

My concerns were continually blown off as "perceptions and assumptions".  Meaning valueless.  Having no substance or merit.

When management made changes and there was a change in supervisors, the abuse continued. My new supervisor had been my 2 up, supervising my former supervisor.  She was not only my 1 up now, but she had heard all the stories, from the viewpoint of me former supervisor.  Her former supervisee.

The change I had hoped would happen, did not.

The relief I longed for was short-lived.  Lasting approximately a nanosecond.

A new barrage started immediately.

I thought if I kept going, if I kept working on my issues, if I revealed who I truly was inside, not the made-up version of others' perception of who I was, I would eventually get her to come around and see me for who I really am.

That did not happen.

The other voices were too loud.  To insistent.  Too insidious.  Too compelling

Too .....

*******

Post bullying, I have discovered others like myself lurking in the shadows of on-line groups.  While the specifics differ among our various stories, the commonalities are all too consistent.

So is the confusion.  The fear.  The trauma.  The questions:  "Why  me?"  "What did I do to deserve this treatment?"

Some are able to move on - at least a bit.  Most are not.  Most are stuck.  Not by choice, but by circumstance.

Many wonder if they will ever work again as they not only deal with the incredible damage workplace bullying has done to their self-esteem but with practical issues as well, ssuch as:  "What do I say in an interview?";  "If I find a new job, will it happen again?";  "I have no references, will anyone hire me without them?"; "Who can I use as a reference?" The list goes on and on and on.

Then there's the issue of on-going disabilities or as I like to call them "altered abilities" which the victim often faces post workplace abuse.  Some develop diagnosed diseases.  Others, like myself, lurk in the nether land of undiagnosable disabilities.  A decade or more ago, I would have been diagnosed with chronic fatigue.  But that diagnosis has gone out of vogue, so I - and others like me - are left in limbo land.  A land of incredible, undiagnosed, unrecognized challenges and disabilities.

We face innumerable challenges from both inside and outside as we attempt to pick ourselves off the floor, boot marks all over us, and move on.

As I continue the process of recovery, I feel the need to stand up, to be counted, to speak for those who at this point in time do not feel like they can speak for themselves.

To me, the only way to confront workplace bullying is to get it out of the office, get it out of the recesses of the net and put it into the open.  To put faces to the faceless.

This blog is, hopefully, my first step in getting this critical issue out in the open.

Until tomorrow ....

Looking backward, or rather down as in this photo taken at a bird sanctuary on South Padre Island, Texas in 2010, we can see more clearly where we've been.  What it looks like.  I had not idea when I was walking this particular path what it actually looked like.  I was too busy taking pictures and experiencing the journey.  So it is with the journey of workplace abuse.  At the time it's happening, we're too busy surviving to see it clearly.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Today on the Journey of Recovery from workplace abuse.

Stratford Ontario - behind the main drag

Today is what I call my "Stratford day".  My counselling day.

The main constant throughout this journey has been my counsellor who has stuck with me through thick and thin.  Who has affirmed me.  Who has constantly believed in me.  That. I. Can. Do. This.  I can recover.  I can become whole.  In time.  It is possible.  No!  It is probable.

I was originally told this woman was amazing.  I was sceptical, very sceptical when I heard that.  After all, I was looking for a new counsellor because my old one had turned abusive and I was leaving her office distraught, crying, suicidal.  Besides that, amazing was not a word I would connect with a therapist.  But what the hay! I decided to try her.  Simply because my son-in-law recommended her.

I learned.  She is amazing.  She is getting the results my former therapist wanted but was unable to get with her methodology.  My current therapist has simply provided a safe place for me to be me.  To express my opinions and feelings without fear of repercussions.

My biggest concern going into this counselling relationship (besides a very real fear that I was beyond redemption based on my former counselling relationship) was her office location.  It was housed in a very small town, Milverton, Ontariohttp://derangedmindtalk.blogspot.ca/2012/02/beautiful-downtown-milverton.html which necessitated a 45 minute drive through the countryside.  I hated driving.  Scratch that.  I was extremely afraid of driving.  Ok, I could do well in the city itself, but it was intracity driving that terrified me.  However, I committed myself.  By doing so, I gradually conquered that fear and learned to enjoy the ride.

Several years ago, my counsellor changed her office location to Stratford Ontario - another 45 km away.  Just in a different direction.

Stratford, Ontario:
Today is part of my continuing journey through the devastation workplace abuse left in my life.  Devastation that is slowly being cleared away.  Piece by piece.

Yet, the journey has not been all "sackcloth and ashes".  There have been times of victory.

My continuing journey, lengthy though it has been, has also become a celebration of courage and strength to keep going when every fibre of my being wanted to lie down and sleep for a very long time.  To give up and give in to all the constant negative feedback I received in the workplace.

I never gave up.  Partially because of an inner strength which I never knew I had.  Partially because of my counsellor who never failed to remind me of that core of inner strength and affirm her belief in me.

At the beginning of 2014, another victory on the road to recovery occurred when we stepped down the frequency from sessions once every two weeks to once every four weeks as that inner strength kicked in and I started to be able to hold my own between sessions.

I can see the faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel these days.  The day when I will be able to hold my own.

For now, though, I have to go.  Stratford awaits me.

See you tomorrow....



Monday, June 23, 2014

Post Workplace Abuse - A glimpse into life before


Once upon a time, in a land that was more or less just and fair before abuse and bullying in the workplace existed and was condoned by management and HR, there was a middle-aged couple who bought their first home which came complete with a long backyard and a fire pit.  Friends and family would gather around this couple like honey bees to pollen to enjoy the warmth (both figuratively and literally) of this couple's hospitality.  They came for the barbecues, bonfires, friends, fellowship, and good food.  They relaxed.  They talked and shared stories with one another.  They came away refreshed - and full.  The wife loved having her own home, being able to enjoy the big backyard with no superintendent yelling at them.  She loved people.  Most of all she loved feeding them.  The joke was that if you came away hungry from this couple's house, it was your own fault.  It didn't matter who you were, you were always welcome at this couple's fireplace - even if you weren't expected.  Or were a child passing through on their way home from playing with friends.  There was always enough to go around.  Both food and love.

And Then Things Changed

Reality.  

Reality in the form of bullying aka abuse aka psychological harassment aka small "h" harassment in the workplace raised it's ugly head.

Life was no longer fair or just.  It became a long, tiring journey through a mine field which the wife did not recognize and could not see.

For four years, the wife fought against the ever escalating situation in her workplace. 

She tried everything she knew to do.  

She worked on her issues with a competent (also amazing) therapist.  She grew emotionally (unfortunately not physically - I guess the poor soul will always be 5 foot nada - unless she shrinks with old age).  

She learned good coping techniques. She "reinvented" not only herself but also her relationships with those closest to her i.e. her husband, her children, etc.  She became happier and healthier emotionally than she'd ever be in her life.  In short, despite the situation in her workplace, she was thriving.

Which turned out to be a bad thing.

Why?

Because bullying is not about the target.  It's all about the bullies.  It's about how they perceive life, how they think, how they feel, how they interpret things.

It's about their own short comings and insecurities.  They target people who are good, competent people.  Who are well-liked by their co-workers.

Their goal is to make that person as unhappy and miserable as themselves.

Their goal is not to change, but to keep the status quo.

To see their target continually grow and even be happy in the workplace, to come into work with a smile on her face even in the worst of times, was probably galling in the extreme to these people.  In short, instead of a good thing, it became one more log in the fireplace of animosity and conflict.

The toll these things - the stress, the uncertainty - took on me were enormous.

Those gatherings in our backyard became impossible.

I was no longer capable of planning and preparing food.  

People scared me.

An open venue such as our backyard fire pit left me feeling exposed and vulnerable - even among friendly people like my family.

So today in this blog, we celebrate another victory, another milestone, on the road to recovery.

This past Saturday, I instigated a neighbourhood barbecue to introduce some new neighbours in the "hood" to the older, established ones.  A first on my road to recovery as any outdoor events in recent memory have been spontaneous affairs usually instigated by my daughter and son-in-love.  Casual affairs.  Any food either brought in by them or purchased at the store.  Son-in-love took over the grilling as I wasn't capable of doing that any more.

So even wanting to have a barbecue, even wanting to invite the neighbours, even wanting to go beyond my comfort zone and push the limits was a victory.

I knew I couldn't do it by myself.  I knew I still was not completely capable of planning and preparing, let alone carrying through and socializing any event, so I enlisted the help of my next door neighbours who know my story.  Who are aware of some of my challenges ... and victories.  Who cheer me on with smiles, waves and words of encouragement when we meet outside.

Together we pulled it off.  Together we did it.

Another milestone on the road to recovery

Hmmm.  

Now what can I think of next?

Pushing the limits is both challenging and exciting.  I get excited when I accomplish something new that I couldn't do the year before.  Yet, I still cope with differing affects.  My speech and cognitive skills are still affected.  As well, the incredible fatigue which tends to set in after a victory and seems to get worse for a period of time instead of better.

I still have to count the costs and realize that for each victory, there very well may be a set back in the physical realm.

Yet, I'm willing to take that chance.  I'm ready ... and willing ... to push the envelope.  To see where life goes on this continuing journey of recovery after workplace abuse.

Until tomorrow....

P.S. - Kudos to my neighbours.




















Friday, June 20, 2014

Post Workplace Abuse: Everyday victories on the road to recovery

Today.  Friday, the 20th of June, 2014.  The day before the summer solstice.  I wake up tired.  Not really wanting to face the day.

Or write another blog.  My fifth consecutive this week.  Another small victory in my journey post trauma, post workplace abuse, post PTSD.

But let's sidestep that for the moment.

As my mind slowly - and rather unwillingly I might add - came to consciousness today, I was thinking of this past week.  Of the small things which most people take for granted.   Which are no big deal for them.

The dailyness.

So today, I decided to write about the everyday victories.  The ones that most people take for granted.

This week, I made a meal every day.  I was able to think, plan and prepare an evening meal every day this week.

What!?! you might think.  I do this every day.  I don't consider it a victory.

But look at it for a moment - or at least for the duration of this blog post - from a completely different perspective.

For those of us working through the devastation, the aftermath of trauma - which workplace abuse is - even being able to do simple everyday activities is a struggle.

Many years ago, during the reign of Ho Chi Ming in China, I read an article by a journalist who was enthusiastically being shown how great the Chinese leader was and how much life had been improved during his leadership by a group of villagers.  They proudly showed this journalist their hospital.  The journalist was appalled as it was very rudimentary and he commented, if this is after what was before?

If this is after in my life, what was before?

If being able to cook dinner every day for five consecutive days is a victory, a success after workplace abuse, after trauma, what was during?

If being able to write a blog for five consecutive days is after.  What was during?

So today I concentrate on and share with you the daily victories that have occurred this week.  The things that make life good on a daily basis.


I made a loaf of bread in my breadmaker this week.  Not a usual occurrence any more because I have to look through my recipe books and choose a recipe which I have the ingredients on hand for. Next,  I have to go to our storage room in the basement and lug up the breadmaker.  I also have to lug up the flour from same storage room.  All of these things take thought.  Cognitive skills.  To be able to read and follow the recipe.  To lay out the ingredients.

Throw in a dash - or more - of lagging energy into the mix and you have a general idea of the uphill battle (literally in the form of the basement stairs) this one small activity involves.

Inhaling the yeasty small of the bread as it rose, made me feel like a David who had just conquered his Goliath.


I went to the Farmers Market yesterday with hubby, even though my energy levels were still very low after the Writers Conference last weekend.  I went with a purpose - to buy vegetables to make salads for us.

I also went with the purpose to continue taking control of my life by doing things I used to do on a regular weekly basis and thought nothing about.  And what better way to do this then to go to the market and mingle with the vendors - and other assorted people who are there.  This is taxing for me as as the season progresses, the crowds multiply.  Especially in the indoors market.  I have to closely monitor my "inside" feelings i.e. anxiety, hypervigilence.  Sometimes, I have to tell myself that it's OK.  These are simply people.  They don't know me.  They're not going to hurt me - at least not intentionally.  I have to do with all sorts of emotions and reactions, that I never had to deal with pre workplace abuse.  It is both taxing and tiring.  But again, after all is said and done, I feel like I have conquered another giant in my life.

My garden.  Or rather what I call "Mom's garden" - the one I'm creating in her memory as she loved flowers and taught me everything I know.  Literally.  In more ways than one.

No, I didn't have the energy to get out the old Japanese Farmer's knife this week  and tackle the weeds, but I did take daily walks to the very back of the yard - over 200 feet and counting - and let the beauty of the newly blooming flowers sink in and create peace in my soul.

I got out my knitting needles - the double pointed ones at that! - and knit - count 'em ... one ... two .... three ... four! - yes four coffee cozies which I hope to be the basis for upcoming craft tables in the fall.

You might wonder what the victory is in that since I knit and/or crochet - or both - routinely as part of my right brain therapy.

What you don't know is that there are not only days - but periods of time - when I'm so sunk in lethargy that I cannot think ahead to choose a project.  Nothing excites me.  The hands, the needles, the yarn.  They all lie idle.  Even recently.  To create, to have a purpose in that creation ... that is another victory.

These and more - things you can't catch in the lens of the camera - all make up the seemingly small, every day victories that made up this week.

And, as I push the button to publish this post, another everyday, seemingly small, victory occurs.  That of another post.

I am content.

Life ... while not perfect ... is good.

Note:  I don't post on the weekends.  Even - and perhaps especially - with all the victories happening in my life, I need rest.  Downtime to stop doing and just be.

See you on Monday with more of the story.










Thursday, June 19, 2014

Post Workplace Abuse: After Victory comes the Need to Rest

My sister-in-love  makes quilts.  Like me with crochet and knit, this is what she does and how she blesses people.
In May, she and a friend gifted me with this quilt made especially for me.  Each white section of each square has the name of one of the ladies from their church group and a Bible verse especially for me.  I rest under it feeling nestled in love.

Today.

Mid point (kind of) in the week.  (Because actually for all intents and purposes Wednesday is called "hump day" - not Thursday.)  But I figure I can get away with calling it the mid-point since what I experienced happened on Wednesday even though I'm writing on Thursday.  

Yesterday was a low point for me as the thrill of the victory of the weekend receded into the past and the physical reality of exhaustion sunk in.

Yet, I know from experience that this bone-sucking tiredness is part and parcel of the processor recovery from trauma as the body reacts ... or is it responds? ... to whatever stress I've put it through.  Whether the stress is good as in the Writers Conference or bad as in something negative happening or just so-so as in overdoing with exercise, my body will at some point in time at its own choosing respond.

Physical.  Mental.  Emotional.  Spiritual.  All are in this together.  It always seems that Physical - which I put first - has the last word.  It always gives me a delayed reaction on its view of things.

So it is now.

*******

But aha! physical.  I fooled you!  I expected you to show up to the party sooner or later.  I knew you would come.  And I was ready mentally, emotionally and spiritually for your appearance.

I have become so familiar with you during this sojourn since you started to rear your head in the fall of 2011 and demand my entire attention, that I know both approximately when and how you will show up after the party.

Knowing this.  I no longer fear you.

I no longer fight you.

I'm not sure I exactly welcome you, but I accept you for what you are.

The voice of reason in a sense.

The voice that says, you have to slow down, Cassie.  You've done enough for one day.  It's time to rest and regroup.  It's time to refresh and recharge.  It's time to stop doing and start being.

*******

So, I've learned to listen to my body.  To obey it when it says "stop".

Of course, I have to admit that sometimes it says "stop" in rather demanding, uncompromising ways much as a police officer in front of your car with his hand up.  Impossible to ignore.  To defy, yes.  To ignore, no.

As defying a police officer comes with unpleasant consequences, so does defying the physical.  Neither goes away.  They just ramp up their tactics to get your attention.

I've learned it's easier to acquiesce to the physical rather than defy it.

Befriend it, so to speak.  Make it my ally rather than my adversary on the journey to wholeness.

******

Yesterday was one of those times.  My energy sank like a stone to my toes, it seemed.  No matter that the young lady I euphemistically call the cleaning lady, because she is so much more than that, was at my house for her weekly ministrations.  No matter that I had grocery shopping to do.  No matter what my plans were, my energy sank like the proverbial stone and would not be denied.

I had to rest.  I had to lie down.  I had to leave all the newly acquired books and thoughts aside.  All the to-do list.  I had to go to that "other" safe place in my life.  My bed.

*******

At a long ago writers conference, the first one I ever attended, the key note speaker whose name I have long since forgotten, said something I've never forgotten:  "Lean into the pain."

I've done that through this sojourn - and blogged about it.

Now, I'm learning to lean into the tiredness.  Not to fight it.  But to lean into it, to experience it, to allow it to flow over me and, eventually, succumb to sleep.

Under my special blanket (pictured at the beginning of this post) made with love, I feel sheltered.

On the back side of the quilt, I always keep this square by my head to remind me I'm loved.
See you tomorrow.  After I wake up from my nap, that is.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

People: The Ultimate Challenge on the Road to Recovery from Workplace Abuse

Bonnie, the lady who made it
possible for me to attend
Write Canada 2013 and who
rejoiced with me in my victory this year.
P.S. I gifted her with the scarf this year to thank her for
her help last year.
People.

They scare me.  Whether it's one or two or a whole bunch of them at once.  They scare me.

Scratch out the word "scare".  Replace it with the word "terrify" and we get closer to the truth.  Which is why attending such events as World Wide Knit in Public Day at my local yarn store and Write Canada 2014 are such milestones on my road to recovery from workplace abuse.

A piece of background.

In January of 2012, when I was still very much in the throes of all the affects from my abusive situation in the workplace and very much struggling just to keep my head above water, I decided to try to get some (hopefully safe) socialization in the form of a book/Bible study called Moving From Fear To Freedom by Grace Fox, a Canadian author and speaker.   The leader of our group was also a writer and had apparently been to Write Canada 2011 where she met Grace  Fox.  Thus, the choice of Grace's work for our book/Bible study.

Ramona, the prayer warrior who
prayed me through Write Canada 2013
and looked out for me during this
year's conference.  I felt safe around her
As I've noted in previous posts, I'd been confronting my fears during phase 1 of my recovery process, before the rubber hit the road in the workplace of abuse.  I had confronted fears of heights, open stairways such as observations towers and closed in spaces such as elevators.  So, I thought I didn't have any fears to work on or confront.  I was just attending to try to get out more.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

About not having any more fears to work on.

It took me several weeks to realize why I was feeling such heightened anxiety at even the thought of going.

I was terrified of these people because I had deep-seated fears of being rejected.  Which is not surprising when you realize that rejection was at the core of both of my abusive workplace situations.

Heidi, the bookstore manager - or something like that.
Also dubbed the chicken lady as she and her husband own
a poultry farm and she has fantastic chicken jokes to liven
up the sessions.
Between the two of us we make up the long and short of it.
During the course of that study, I learned that these were people just like me.  Many of them had the same fears that I had.  We were all in this together.

Now fast forward ahead from 2012 to Write Canada 2014.

My recovery has progressed to the point where I felt ready to face that fear head on.  I had been taking smaller steps, now I was ready for that giant leap in the form of a three-day conference.

Going to a conference like this is so different from a workplace situation.  There are common threads among the attendees which make it easier to relate to each other.

First, we are all writers.  Some published.  Some just beginning.  But we all have that one thing in common.  We all have the love of the written word in common.  These people were just like me in that respect.

Sandra Orchard, novelist, author of Deadly Devotion and
Blind Trust.  She was also a faculty member at this year's
event.  She is modelling another one of my scarves.
Second, most of us are Christians - of one variety of another.  Just like me.

Third, most of us are Canadians.  Just like me.

Then there's the creativity which moves us to write - and also express ourselves in other forms of creative expression such as knitting, photography, etc.  Just like me.

Most of all, we're just people who are on our own roads.  On our journeys through life's difficulties.  Just like me.

When you look at it through that lens in the camera of life, these people don't look so scary after all, do they?

They're Just. Like. Me.

And probably you too.

Warts and all.

More tomorrow.

I hope you have enjoying this blog and getting something worthwhile from it.  I appreciate your comments and thoughts as I continue on these journeys ... blogging and recovery.

May God bless you richly as you walk your own journey on this path of life.



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Write Canada 2014: An adventure on the road to recovery from Workplace Abuse




Write Canada 2014.

I cane.  I saw.  I stayed.

I pushed my limits ... and had a whale of a time.

I reconnected with people I'd met in 2013 ... and made new friends.

I took pictures ... and gave away home made gifts to those I had connected with last year and others I met this year.

I came with business cards listing my blog ... and handed them out unashamedly.

I told people unashamedly and boldly what my platform is:  workplace abuse.

I told my fellow writers and attendees about my blog.  I was not ashamed that I'm with all these people who have written books, published books and/or are editors and article writers.

I. Am. A. Blogger.  Maybe in the future I'll expand.  But for right now I. Am. A. Blogger. on the way to recovery.

I learned that I'm not exactly a Christian writer.  I'm a Christian who writes.  There's a difference.

I picked up some really good nuggets unexpectedly - including the one above.

I came away tired both mentally and physically.  OK, OK, let's make that exhausted as my bed and I have been best buds since I got home.  But hey! it's a good tired.  A good exhaustion.  Because it means that I did something challenging on the road to recovery.  Healing occurred.

I came away with hope.

Hope that I can build this blog into something more.

I came away with the realization that I not only have a story to tell but that it's everybody's story.

My story is the story of everyone who has gone through workplace abuse.  Yes, there are differences in the specifics, but there is a common thread between my story and your story.  Or the story of the loved one you are trying to navigate this journey with.

Add caption
We are all travellers on the same journey.  We just take different side trips and have different means of getting there.

Note:  This is not the blog I intended to write today.  That posting in its infancy ended up being cut and pasted onto a new blog.  I'm sure it will see the light of day sometime ... even probably sometime soon.  But for now, I wanted to reinforce the victory of this experience.  The positive.  Forget the prose.  Forget the background.  

Experience the present.

That is what I did this past weekend at Write Canada 2014.

See you tomorrow for more of the story.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Following Up: Victory on the Road to Recovery from Workplace AbuseThis si






The scene of the crime ... er ... I mean conference:  Guelph Bible Conference Centre.  A gem hidden away smack dab in the middle of Guelph, Ontario.  Bordered on one side by Waterloo Street and on the other three sides by houses.

A small oasis of peace in the busyness of the city of Guelph.

When you're there, you feel like you're sheltered.  Like the world doesn't exist.  Like the big, bad world is way, far away and cannot come in.

Or at least it felt like that to me.

A pilgrim on the road to recovery.

Funny, I should word it that way.  On the road to recovery.  Instead of "on the road to a writing career".  After all, that is what the conference is all about:  writing.  

Not recovery.

But for me, overcoming my fears, getting out in public, facing the big, bad, wide world alone.  That is the intention - at least for now.  That is the victory.

The writing will come, I believe.  Once the recovery comes.

The first thing I saw when I wandered around the book store set up in the gym of the facility, was this bowl.  Welcome Friends.  I felt a warm fuzzy seeing it.  I felt welcomed.  I felt like I was among friends.  Old friends.

In my last blog, I wrote about my first writers conference in 2013 where I went with my niece.

This year, I felt well enough to try it alone.  To go out into the big, bad world by myself.

Yes, I did have a plan A, B and C.

Plan A:  to go to all the workshops, continuing classes, meals, etc. and live life as a "normal" person.

Plan B:  to hide in my room and take a nap or naps if necessary.  (I even brought a small knitting project along just in case it became necessary to hide behind my right brain therapy.)

Plan C:  to call hubby and get the hell out of dodge if it just became too overwhelming and the affects such as stuttering, extreme fatigue, inability to speak, lack of balance, shortness of breath, etc. started to rear their ugly heads.

I am pleased to announce that I kept with Plan A.

Yes!

I made it to each and every workshop and continuing class.  I even spoke up a few times in class.  And I didn't have to resort to right brain therapy.  Not even once.

I felt safe.

This cornerstone on the building which houses the chapel at the GBCG, says it all.

I know this posting is short, but here is where I will end for today.

Why?

For one, my mind is still busy processing all the stimuli from three busy, packed days.

For two, I'm tired.  Victories are great, but even super women get tired ... sometimes ... and need to rest and refresh.

For three, I'm peopled and socialized out.  Time to regroup for a few short hours.

So tomorrow, I will (probably) continue with this amazing victory on the road to recovery.

Until then ....

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Victory on the Journey: A Victory in the Making

The Picturesque Guelph (Ontario) Bible Conference Grounds where Write Canada! is held
Apparently this is a week that will go down in history as Victory Week in the life of Cassie Stratford.

The last two blogs have been about the amazing victory of last Saturday.  Venturing out in public, alone, unsupervised, unchaperoned, without my ever-present protector, encourager and supporter - my ever-lovin' and long-sufferin' hubby.  (He would have looked sort of out of place at a knitting thing attended by mostly women.  Especially as he doesn't knit.)

Today, I am venturing out again alone into the world that once contained so much fear.  This time for a three day writers conference in a nearby town.

The key word here is alone.

Except for very occasional short outings for counselling - which is a very safe place with a very safe person - and/or doing a few errands in the uptown core, I don't get out much.

When the damage hit its height around 2012 and into 2013, I felt safer and more comfortable at home holed up in the smallest room in the house - beside the bathroom that is.  Even I'm not so wacky as to want to hang out in the bathroom for extended periods.

This room which I later started calling my "safe" room has everything I need in it - except bathroom and cooking facilities - to maintain life as I live it:  my computer, phone, DVDs, yarn, patterns, needles, hooks, books, a space heater and a fan.

The only thing it lacked was people or rather socialization.  During that time period, most of my socialization needs were met either through my poor hubby, family members, or social media.  I even took a few writing classes via the net.

But healing has now progressed to the point where it's time to press the limits a bit.  To grow.  To change.  To expand.  To experience new things.  To start socializing.  With real people.

Always with a plan B and even a plan C which I hope I won't have to use.

So today, I go alone into the world.

I went to this conference last year - with a companion/caregiver who just happened to be a very special niece that I had bonded with along the journey.

Yes, I was scared.  Partially of the people.  But also of the affects I was continuing to have such as lack of balance which would come on suddenly, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, difficulty communicating as in sometimes the words wouldn't come or if they did they would come out wrong or I would start stuttering badly.

It had been a dream of mine to attend this conference and I had already put it off one year (2012) thinking that I would be magically better by the time it rolled around again in 2013.  But I wasn't.  So I decided to bite the bullet and find a way to go.

I wrote them, described my difficulties and threw myself on their mercy.  These gracious people made a way for me to attend.  They allowed me to bring a caregiver.  As she was there to support me and not to attend the conference as such, they waived the registration fee for her and she was allowed to attend paying only for her meals and lodging.  Because of the cause and nature of my difficulties, she was allowed to attend my classes with me.  We were joined at the hip so to speak.

My "caregiver", my niece, my friend.
I cannot thank you enough.
I cannot thank them or my niece enough.  Because other attendees came with a friend or daughter or whoever, a niece/aunt combo wasn't considered abnormal.  To the casual observer, we appeared to be two family members with a common interest who were out to learn more about their craft, thus not raising any red flags.  And because of her, I was able to act more normal, to feel normal, to relax a bit and enjoy.  She was there constantly.  Poor girl.  As I indicated earlier, the two of us were more or less joined at the hip.  Where I went, she went - except to the bathroom of course.  Even I have my limits - and pride.

We both had a great time.  I came away last year with a sense of pride and accomplishment.  I had faced a major challenge - and succeeded.

I was tired, very tired, exhausted in fact - but very, very happy.

To me, going to this conference was like facing my personal Mount Everest.

The 12 months between last year's conference and this year's has been filled with ... well ... life.  Good and bad.  Up and down.  Forward and backward.

BUT....

The most amazing happening in these last twelve months is that my pre-workplace abuse personality has come back from wherever it went on its long vacation.

With its reappearance, a lot of the major affects either disappeared altogether or dwindled to much lower, more manageable levels.

I'm ready to embrace life again.

To meet challenges.

To see where it takes me.

Look out world!  Here I come!


Note:  This will be my last blog of this week as internet connections there are iffy at best with so many attendees trying to use their computers at once.

See you next week with hopefully another tale of victory on the journey!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Victory Blog - in Pictures

This is a blog in pictures - with a few captions.  I'm a visual person.  I think, I see, I feel, I communicate in pictures.  Here is my victory....

Enjoy.
The location.

A house converted into an amazing yarn shop - with perhaps the best selection locally

Knitting in public.  Semi.  Sort of.  We were outside in the parking lot which runs alongside and behind the shop.  Cloistered away from the bad big world.  Creating - at least for a few hours - a (safe) world of our own.  Inhabited by the best people on the face of this earth:  knitters (and those who love them anyway)


I won a mug!  My very own momento to remember this victory.
Karin, the proprietor, hiding behind the mug.
I love this woman's hair!


Kate Atherley
Designer.  Her patterns are featured on Ravelry
http://www.ravelry.com/designers/kate-atherley
Knitting instructor
Super Kate!
The theme of the day was super heroes.
So here is Kate wearing her special super hero cape.
This shawl is one of Kate's designs called the Waverley Shawl.  It is asymmetrical.
I got Kate to show me how to wear it.

Another way to wear it wrapped around the head with the hood of your parka over it to keep your head warm on cold, Canadian winter nights.
The yarn dying demonstration by Indigo Dragonfly - creators of hand dyed yarns.
Held behind the shop, these artistes, demonstrated how they dye their yarns.


The Artistes at work doing what they love best - creating color ways with dye.





Cardinal Ruby in the making.  A blend of reds with a touch of black




The girls from the Breast Cancer support fund.

The resident (and friendly) photographer for the day.
Beth Graham
In charge of the Super Hero name generator booth
For the magnificent sum of a toonie, we were able to generate a superhero name for the day - complete with sticker on our nametag.
I was Amazing Superpurler.
Amazing - that's what my therapist always says I am.  She's said it so often, I'm beginning to believe her.
Super. That's cooler
Purler?  Well, there are only two stitches in knitting - so I'm told - knitting and purling.

Notice: how very (non) threatening - and friendly - all these people are.

A safe place.



Tuesday, June 10, 2014

On the Journey Back: A story of victory

























I've gotta admit it.  I had FUN.  In capital letters.  It was Saturday June 7th at the World Wide Knit in Public Day at our local yarn store.

To me, though, it was much much more than a specific day or event.  It was a another victory on my road to recovery.

One of many.  Some small.  Some bigger.  Most not recognized.  Especially by the lay person not touched by trauma.  To them, to be able to go out and about and smile and be happy is just another day in their life.

But those who know me and have walked with me know what a victory this was to be able to go outside in public to a group of people largely unknown to me and interact with them - like normal people do.  The smile. The sparkle.  The mischievousness. They're all coming back.  In spades.

It was a victory to be savoured.

And hopefully repeated.

A huge step on the road to recovery.

The picture is a graphic representation of me.  The me I was before the work place abuse escalated so badly that all remnants of me disappeared - at least for the duration.  The me that is finally coming back to the surface after three years hiding somewhere under the surface of my psyche.  Lying dormant, but not dead.

The happy, smiling, exuberant "me" that you see in the picture above is the me that had come to be during and because of what I now call Phase 1 of the recovery period:  Sept 2006 to roughly June 2010.

During that period of time, I worked regularly with a counsellor basically "reinventing" myself.  Not by design, but that is where the recovery process led - to a whole new, emotionally healthier and happier me.  A me whose life had been bound by fear of many things throughout my entire life was slowly becoming transformed into someone who was confronting her fears and besting them.  Altraphobia.  Claustrophobia.  Two of my biggees now lay in little whimpering piles at my feet..  Their power over me over.  Destroyed.  I stared them in the face - and came out the winner.

Life was becoming fun.  Life was good.

There were times when I could hardly wait to see what was coming next around the corner.

Relationships had been reinvented.  Restored.

I saw life completely differently than I ever had before.

And then came the retaliation from the bullies, the adversaries, and the bystanders.

It became one against ....  I'm still not sure who all was involved, how they got involved and how far they got involved.  However, when I came into the office all conversations stopped.  No one said hello.  I was ostracized and excluded.  I sat in my corner and when not busy starred at the wall with my iPod in my ear (given special permission by my supervisor for that one small concession).  That alone would have been unbearable and stressful enough.

But ....

These people didn't stop there.  They weren't content with completely isolating me and cutting me off from all normal interaction in the office environment.

They were out for blood.  My blood.

I began to be called into the supervisor's office for all sorts of things.  Every single mistake, most of them minor and caused by the severe stress I was undergoing, were pointed out to management.  Every word I said was magnified, distorted and held up for public discussion (I think.  How else would so many people who had so little interaction with me have become involved?)

And then they began going to management for anything real and/or imagined.  During that time frame, while I was still hanging on, barely I must admit, I went to a Highland Games in a nearby community and saw a t-shirt whose slogan has stayed with me all this time.  It was a distortion on the miranda rights you hear on the tv all the time:  "You have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say can and will be twisted and used again you."  I realized that that was what was happening in my workplace.

Then there were the lies which I mentioned in the last post.  The ones aimed at the very core of my being and who I am.

By the time I had the two back to back stress breakdowns, the effervescent me, the one who was normally happy, who found life not only good but great, was totally down for the count.  I was just struggling to survive one day at a time.  One shift at a time.

It's been three years now and counting since I left the workplace.  Three years of continual, steady work.

Three years of therapy and step by step progress on the journey back.

Welcome back me.  I've missed you.