Thursday, January 29, 2015

Post Workplace Abuse: A sign of recovery

Parasailing with my best friend - and hubby - South Padre Island, Texas 2010

This week, so far, has been an interesting week as I've more human contact in just a few days than I normally have in weeks.

It's amazing what human contact, good human contact that is, does for the soul.  And the attitude.  How it encourages and affirms.

There's all kinds of human contact:  good, bad and indifferent.  With all sorts of shades in between.

Bad human contact is what I experienced on a continuing, long-term basis in the workplace where every word I said, every action was placed under the microscope of someone else's ideas and thoughts of what I should be and then minutely dissected - and twisted.  Not in my favour.

Indifferent human contact is when I'm out and about and I pass people on the street.  Or maybe instead of the word "indifferent", I should use the word casual.  I might smile or nod or even say "Good morning" and get a smile, nod or greeting in return.  But I'm not going to engage in a long-term relationship with these people.

And then there's what I call good human contact.  A meeting of the minds.  Two people who know a lot about the other - and choose to associate with them anyway.

And so, I've had some good human contact this week.

While talking with one person whom I've never seen before outside of the church context, I realized how far I've progressed on the road to recovery when I made one simple comment:  "I've been able to cook lately" and saw the happy expression on her face.  She was genuinely impressed and happy for me.  I saw, for the first time, what a huge accomplishment the simple act of being able to cook consistently is in my journey of recovery.

Early on in the journey, in the Fall of 2011, when the acute entered the chronic phase and the emotional entered the physical phase, all I could do was lie down.  Sometimes I couldn't even sleep.  I couldn't read.  I couldn't crochet (I hadn't learned to knit then).  I was physically unable to do any of the things which I usually enjoyed.

I was well and truly down for the count.

I had to give up so many things during that time.  I could no longer go to the women's weekly events at the church as I didn't have the energy to sit for an hour or so.  I badly stuttered.  People scared the living heck out of me.  I even had to give up driving for a time as my cognitive skills were so bad that I was an accident waiting to happen.  I decided it was easier to voluntarily give up driving than to have to tell an officer why I turned directly into the path of an oncoming vehicle.  (It's much easier to give up driving voluntarily for a time than it is to get your license back if it's been taken away.)

I tried, oh how I tried!  But it didn't work.

Finally I asked my therapist about healing as she's been through some traumatic junk herself.  I asked her what to do when there was both physical and emotional at the same time as with emotional the general train of thought is to bull through, to keep as much as possible to a regular schedule, etc.  With physical, though, the theory is just the opposite.  To rest.  To pay attention to your body.  To do what it says.  Not to push it.  If you can't adhere to what was once your regular routine, don't.  If all you can do is lie down, then lie down.

Her answer:  the physical always takes precedence over the emotional.

She encouraged me to pay attention to what my body was telling me.

To rest.

So I did.

Sometimes, recovery is so gradual that you, the person going through the journey of recovery, don't notice it.

When I was talking with this friend the other day, I realized that I've come from someone who couldn't do hardly anything to someone who is able to cook dinner more or less consistently at this time.   I've even been able to go through my recipe books and read and follow new recipes.  More than once.

It was exciting to see this accomplishment reflected in the eyes of someone else.  Someone who has been privy to part of the journey - the worst part.

Someone who knows me better than most people - and loves me anyway.

Until next time, dear friends ....

(Hmmmm, now what can I put in the crockpot today?)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Recovery Post Workplace Abuse: 2015 Goals - an update

As you've probably noticed, I like to take pictures.  I like to take pictures of roads, sidewalks, paths, stairs, etc., among other things because each pathway is different intriguing my always active imagination.  Unique.  Each picture signifies, to me, a different aspect of my journey through trauma post workplace abuse.  The path changes constantly.  Sometimes it's easier; sometimes harder.  Sometimes uphill; sometimes down.  Sometimes rougher; sometimes smoother.  Always different as the journey continues.

Always uncharted as there are no maps on this journey signifying where I am on the journey and where I'm going to next.

It's an adventure!  Although one I had not bargained for or willingly signed up for.

As you've probably noticed, my blog postings have been irregular at best.  I start fully intending to be consistent - and then stop unannounced.

This seems to correspond to my life, my journey, at this point.  I seem to be progressing (if that's the right word) in fits and starts.  I start.  Then I stop.  Eventually I lurch forward again.  And the cycle continues.

But when I'm stopped, I'm not exactly fully stopped.  I'm just stopped in a way that cannot be seen by others.  Cannot be visualized.

I'm stopped because my mind is working on significant issues.

Or I'm stopped because I'm reading something.

I'm also stopped because I'm making something.

Or out somewhere taking pictures.

On the exercycle in the basement pumping away - slowly by steadily at this point in time - listening to a story from the Vinyl Cafe which evokes much needed laughter and helps the time pass quicker.  And if you've never listened to the Vinyl Cafe, you are definitely missing something.  Iconic Canada at it's best.

All of these are part of my goals for 2015:  to work on writing by reading; to exercise and be healthier (in other words to regain what I lost after experiencing pneumonia, a cluster migraine and other assorted things which bogged me down last year); going out and taking pictures; knitting and crocheting, etc.

On the reading/writing front - or more accurately the read to write front - I've almost finished the book I chose to begin with called Pathologies by a woman whose workshop on memoir writing I took at a local event called the Wild Writers Literary Event in 2013.  It's not a how-to book, but I was enthralled by the various ways there are to write a memoir, to draw the reader into the event, to make it not just readable but compelling to the reader.  So I chose to begin with her book.  Not really to read her story, but to look at and analyze how she wrote it.

I tend to be a chameleon in some ways.  If I'm reading a certain style, I tend to pick it up and want to mimic it.  And maybe that's a good place to begin - for me.  And then later on as I continue writing to morph into my own style.

One thing, this woman appears to be far more smarter and more literary than I am.  She uses words that even I am not familiar with - and a common saying is that sometimes a person needs a dictionary to talk with me.

During this event, another workplace facilitator asked us what we were currently reading.  I felt like I didn't belong there as one person after another talked about reading something very literary.  Me?  I was currently reading a fiction book by Neta and Dave Jackson called Derailed (from their Windy City series).  Very much fiction.  Light.  Easily readable. Definitely not something that's going to become part of a university course on great literature of the 21st century.  I felt that I didn't really belong in that place, but decided to hide the feeling and pretend at least outwards that I was worthy of attending something called a Literary Event rather than a writer's conference.

Next up, I think, on my reading list will be the above book - also from my stash.  Because this is what I'm interested in writing about.  I have a story to tell - that of workplace abuse and recovery.  I want to tell my story.  But more than that, I want people to read it.  I want them to identify with it.  I want them to internalize it and feel compelled to speak out against bullying in the workplace.  I want to regain - and use - the voice that was taken from me in the workplace.

This third title should also be close to the top of the reading list.  I have so many different interests - and talents.  I can write.  I can make things.  I can take photographs.

These are all talents I want to develop and use.

I've already spoken in this blog today about writing.

With the photography, I already print selected photos and make cards out of them for special people in my life.  Birthdays, illnesses, just to reach out and say "I know you're going through a hard time and I care".  I use them to bless others.  Same with my knitting and crocheting at present.

I made calendars from some of my photos for family at Christmas time.  I share them on Facebook and through Flickr.  I'd like to see if I can expand this and make it marketable.

I use photos to enhance this blog.  To allow people to see what words cannot always adequately express.  To share my life with others.

Then there's the knitting and crocheting.  I attached the below photo of a scarf I was knitting for hubby on an earlier post, noting that the project had been stalled because I'd lost one of the two needles.

The needle was subsequently found (by hubby) and the scarf finished.  Hubby's neck can now be warm when he goes outside.

So, it was on to the next project:  chemo hats for a friend's mother.  The two below were made from the same pattern:  different yarns from my stash though.  And then I got creative on the second one as my imagination kicked in.  I had fun.

Yes, there were will more hats in my future.  Along with other assorted "goodies" like doll clothes for another friend.

There will undoubtedly be more photos in my future.

And writing, yes always the writing.

This is where I will stop for today.  On a more or less positive note.

As I look back on what I've written today, I feel encouraged by what I've accomplished over the past few weeks rather than discouraged at what I've not.

Goals are just that:  goals.  Things to work towards.  Things that will take time to accomplish but will be well worth the effort in the end.

Until next time ....

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Surviving Post Workplace Abuse: How I Contributed to Target's Demise in Canada

You know you've been bullied when ...

... you apologize for anything and everything.  Even to inanimate objects.  When you take responsibility for things that you really not responsible for.  It seems to be part and parcel of the process.

I clearly remember one incident in which I knocked up against my CD player ... and immediately profusely apologized to it.  I realized something was wrong with me when I was apologizing to an inanimate object which cannot feel, which does not (I hope) have emotions, etc.  It was shortly after that that I verbalized to my therapist what had happened and she pointed out that apologizing to anyone and anything about anything and everything is part of the effects of being bullied.

So, today, I am going to take partial "responsibility" for the demise of Target Canada which has been much touted in the news media this past week.  Even though in reality I'm sure I had nothing to do with its failure to succeed.  More or less, that is.

The long-awaited and much anticipated entry of Target onto Canadian soil was, apparently, a total bust.

What happened?  Why didn't it take off?  And why didn't I as a shopper who loved to go to Target in the U.S. because it was different and offered different products shop in Target Canada once it came to a location near me?

There is already a lot of conjecture on those very aspects of the failure of Target Canada by much more learned people than me.

However, they all ignore one crucial - at least to me - factor.

The Target chain does not carry yarn.  Gasp!

You heard me right.

The. Target. Chain.  Does. Not. Carry. YARN!  How dare they!?!

Basically, I cannot live without yarn.  As dramatic as that may seem.  Simply because me life post workplace abuse revolves heavily around two of my right-brain therapies:  knitting and crocheting ... both of which rely on yarn.

Our Target Canada took the spot where a Zellers store used to be.  They enlarged it.  Totally renovated it.  It even has a Starbucks in it.  It is nice, huge, spacious, clean and well-kept.  It contains lots of budget-priced merchandise.

But to me without yarn, the draw to enter those doors is simply not there.  The old Zellers had yarn.  WalMart has yarn.  Why doesn't Target carry yarn?

Part of the journey of recovery post workplace abuse is ... money.  Lack of it to be precise.

I no longer have money for luxuries.  For those things which I like but don't absolutely need ... except yarn, of course.  I always need yarn.  Yarn is not a luxury.  It's part of what keeps me going.  What I do with it is part of my recovery.

Without the presence of yarn in a store to draw me in, it's likely I won't enter unless I am specifically on a search for one particular item - which has happened.  Even with all the other items clamouring for my attention.  I simply no longer have the money to spend on things I don't need or can't use immediately.

So, yes folks.  I do take (partial) responsibility for the failure of Target to thrive in Canada.


... Or do I?

Until next time.  May be you enjoy life and navigate successfully the road ahead of you.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Post Workplace Abuse: Working on goals

I confess that I didn't touch this blog last week.  My mind has been so busy thinking about my goals for this coming year, refining them, and beginning to act on them that I couldn't clear my mind to one train of thought to write about.  My mind was all over the place ... from knitting, to taking pictures, to reading, to making room for eating breakfast and exercise.  It sort of jumped ... and jumped ... and jumped some more

So here in pictures is a small synopsis of my life in 2015 so far....

2014 ended ... and 2015 started ... with this project:  a Christmas tree hat for my middle grand.  The story is that I made one to sell at the craft show I attended.  It didn't sell but it looked really good on the youngest grand so I gave it to him.  Then the oldest grand kept snatching it from his head, so his mother requested I make a second one for the oldest grand.  Which I did.  Then the middle grand who doesn't "do" hats came up to me and earnestly requested one for himself.  Who can deny such a request?  Certainly not me.

Even though it was my third Christmas tree hat with the same pattern, this one became quite a challenge as my mind went on vacation without advance notice.  In other words, my cognitive skills - ability to comprehend and follow the pattern - failed.

After the hat was finally finished, I decided to work on dishcloths ... knitted dishcloths rather than the crocheted ones.  Doing these is a great way to learn new stitches and improve my skills.  Each project usually takes less than a day.  I have a pile of patterns printed off from sites such as Ravelry and  I put them in a pile and simply pulled off the top pattern, did it, put it on the bottom and reached for the next pattern.

This worked well.  I did eight or so of these and was going to continue on ... until my focus suddenly shifted.

I took a walk to the nearby river (the Grand River in Canada not to be confused with the more well known Rio Grande in Mexico/Texas).  It was a bitter cold day.  I took the walk to work on another of my goals for 2015.  To work on my photography, plus to get outside the house more.  What better way for me to get out of the house then to take my camera with me on a walk for the express purpose of capturing whatever I see?

It was a bitter cold day in Ontario and I was all bundled up:  thermal underwear, thermal socks, jeans (which I almost forgot to put on and had to go back for), quilted vest, parka, cowl, hat, scarf and two pairs of gloves.  After all the objective of the exercise was to take pictures ... not to get frostbite.

So here is where my knitting focus changed - at least for the time being.  I finished the dishcloth I was working on, set it aside in the basket, picked up bigger needles and black yarn and began to knit a scarf for hubby.  He already has one.  In the same pattern.  Cream coloured.  Long.  He wants a shorter one to wrap around his neck and his uniform is black.  So here goes.

I put it down for a bit and ... and promptly lost one of the needles.  Knitting with only one needle does not work.  You need two.  So I am temporarily stalled on this project for the moment.  But don't worry or feel sorry for hubby as I've knitted a small size cowl for a friend's child and am working on a larger size one for an adult.  Just for fun.  Just to see how they work.  Maybe for future craft sales?  Or Christmas presents for next year?
Just for the fun of it, I've attached a picture of a helmut or something from WWII vintage which has captured my imagination and I'd like to try some time.  I'm thinking of red.  What would you think if you saw that walking down the road towards you?  On a head, of course.

In the meantime, a friend's Mom has cancer and will be undergoing chemotherapy in the near future so I'm looking at my hat patterns and available yarns.  So another shift is coming soon to my "safe" room.

From dishcloths to warm things for cold weather to chemo hats  to ... doll clothes.

Yes, you read right.  Doll clothes.  A friend had commissioned me to make some for her grandchild.

This is getting fun.

Now back to my goals as there's one I haven't mentioned yet in this blog post:  writing.

I have determined to start learning more about the craft and working towards making writing more than just a blog ... or a hobby.

I already have quite a reference library.  An unread reference library.  Therefore, I've decided to pick one book and read it.

I've chosen the book which is on top in the picture above for the first one.  A memoir in a series of essays by a woman whose workshop on essay writing I took in a local event in 2013 called the Wild Writer's Literary Event.

It doesn't tell me HOW to write a memoir.  It shows me.  She is writing in such a style that the stories come to life.  She inserts all the senses.  You can feel the tension between her parents.  It is real.  It is palpable.  And it keeps me reading.

Next will be to start writing short segments to see how I can insert life into my own writing.

So this is 2015 in utero.  In it's beginning phases.

This is why you didn't hear from me last week.

I've been busy working on starting my goals.  Working on recovery.  And ... sigh ... dealing with the junk life throws at me (which I'm choosing not to write about at this moment - maybe later when I get it sorted out in my mind).

With all of that, I guess you could say that I've been one busy girl.

What about you?  Where are you on your journey towards recovery?  What are your goals for this coming year?  What is your focus going to be?

Will we achieve our goals?  At this point, I have no idea but I sure am having fun working on them, watching them and seeing them take shape ....

Until next time.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Recovery Post Workplace Abuse: Getting back on track with recovery

As you can see from my recent posts, that the ending of the old year and the coming of the new year has put me in an introspective sort of mood.

I don't believe in resolutions as they tend to be short-lived and in the end do more damage than good as they fall rather quickly by the wayside and guilt ensues.  I don't need any more guilt on top of that which I already carry around from various incidents ... and am working hard to get rid of.

However, I do believe in goals.  Long-term.  Short-term.

Looking back at the first few months of 2014, I realize that I was doing fairly well in making some rather necessary long-term lifestyle changes.  For the first time in years, I had engaged in several changes.  (1) Eating breakfast which was preparatory for (2) regular exercise.  As it was winter - and a bitter cold one at that, I was utilizing a stationary bicycle in our basement.  I was also engaged in reading a devotional, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, each morning and the corresponding Bible verses.  Each of these three changes, had a significant positive impact in my life.

As I continued with these simple lifestyle changes which I was hoping would become part of my permanent lifestyle, I began to take more control of my life with the exercise and then enlarged that with taking control of my diet.  Working on eating healthier.  I lost a few pounds.  The doctor was able to take me off of two blood pressure medications that I had been on for years.  A major victory.  I felt I was becoming whole again.

Life was starting to be good once again.

And then things started to slide slowly downhill.

First, I had a bout with pneumonia which laid me on my back for the better part of a week.  Hubby took off work to be with me, I was that sick.  The exercise and healthy eating went down the tubes for that time period.  Let's face it, it's hard to exercise when you're having trouble breathing.  It's hard to eat anything when your fever is raging and you're lying in bed.

Then, just a few weeks later, when I was starting to recover from the bout with pneumonia, I got knocked down a second time.  Hard.  This time I had what we now know was a cluster headache - or rather a cluster migraine:  an extremely painful headache that comes out of nowhere and brings on extreme pain within seconds of onset.

Debilitating is one word for it.  Painful is another.  Also, especially since I'd never experienced anything like this before, there is always the not knowing whether it is something to be very concerned about ... like a bleed in the brain ... or "just" a headache.

At the age of 64, I experienced my first ever ambulance ride.  My daughter met me at the hospital.  After spending the better part of the day there, the doctor informed me that (a) I do have a brain (I do love a doctor with a sense of humour!) and (b) as far as they could tell there was no bleeding in my brain.

Good news to be sure.  BUT ... this headache lasted for nine straight days.


Also, in the same timeframe, I had initiated a relationship with a woman who was going through similar things to myself.  I reached out to her, thinking she could use a friend.  Someone who had already gone through some of the things she had.  Someone who could walk with her.  Instead, the relationship became more and more one-sided.  She began to make demands that I couldn't fulfil.  She would vent at me.  I was damaged myself.  I was working towards recovery myself.  I was in no position to carry her.  I simply wasn't strong enough.  My time and thoughts became more and more consumed with this woman and her needs to the point where I was neglecting my own needs and my family's needs.

These three things combined started the downward slide.  I never did resume the healthy eating and exercise after the bout with pneumonia.  The lies I've mentioned in an earlier post - "I'm not good enough" and "My best is not good enough" rose up to torment me by the spring of the year ... and never left.

At the very end of 2014, while working on a special hat - a Christmas tree hat - for one of my grandchildren, I had a thought which was originally concerning the hat, but which I eventually realized seemed to sum up my life at that point.

I was off track.  With both the knitting of the hat and, more importantly, with my life.  I needed to find a way to get back on track.  To take control once again.  To work towards recovery and enjoying life.  To work towards the point where life was good once again.  Altered maybe.  Different from the past.  But still good.  Very good in it's own way.

At that point, I didn't have a clue.

And that, my friends and readers, is what these first few days of 2015 has been all about ... to find a way to get back on track.

There is too much happening in my life, positive things, right now to cover them in one post.  Just know that just like the finished hat on my grandson's head above, I'm finding ways to start getting my life and my recovery back on track.

Until next week....

In the bleak midwinter ....

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Life Post Workplace Abuse: Today


There's a common saying which says:  today is the first day of the rest of your life.

Which is true.

Yet, we are influenced - and sometimes tormented - by our yesterdays.  What was.  What might have been.  The whys that continually torment the mind.  Especially for a target/victim of bullying.  Why?  Why me?  What was in it for them?  What did they get out of it?  And other questions like these.

These are the things that I, as a survivor of workplace bullying, bring into my present, into my todays.  It's not that I want to.  It's not even that I willingly bring them in.  They're just there.  Alive.  Well.  Present.  Even when I don't want them to be.  Especially now, three plus years - almost four - past the event.  Especially now after so much in the way of recovery, I'm grappling with the why.  Why are they still there?  What can I do about them?  How can I put these thoughts to rest and move on?

I believe that our thought lives are the hardest part of our recovery.  Changing the phrases that go through our minds.  Almost continually.

Phrases such as "I was fired."  Which in reality I was not ... exactly.  I was forced ... or coerced (take your pick) ... to resign.  I had chosen not to go back.  I knew that this was the end of the road for me as for as that workplace was concerned.  My health was now in serious jeopardy.  I could not go on.  I owed it to my myself and those closest to me i.e. my family, my therapist, my friends, to separate myself permanently from these people.

So what's the issue you might say?  The issue is that these people took away that piece of control over my own life, my own destiny, from me.  By force if you will.  Decisions that were mine, not theirs, to make.  I was accused of a lot of things.  None of them substantiated.  Allegations.  And then I was presented with a formal, legal agreement guaranteeing me some monetary compensation in return for a resignation ... an exit package not to be confused with a settlement.  I thought I was quitting.  In reality, I was agreeing to being terminated.  I didn't realize this for a very long time.

So what does all this past garbage have to do with today?  With the fresh start that is continually afforded us each day we wake up in the morning?

It has to do with confronting the lies.  With rephrasing the phrases that continually go through my mind.  It has to do with finding a way to make peace with the past.  It has to do with finding a way to let go and move past all the hurt.

When a person dies, we often have a memorial service or burial.  This gives us a degree of closure.  A place to go back to to revisit the person.  A grave to place flowers on, if you will.

In the case of workplace abuse, especially workplace abuse that ends as mine did with further injury added to insult, it is a bit like a death.  There are losses.  There is no burial.  No moment of closure.  And more importantly, society in general doesn't recognize this as a significant loss.

That's where I think creativity comes in.  Somehow, I need to find a place of closure for myself.  How?  I'm not sure yet.  But I truly believe that given the circumstances, given the significance of the losses that (a) finding a place of closure is not only necessary but probably my next step on the journey of recovery and (b) that it's going to take a heck of a lot of creativity and imagination to find one.

That's part of the challenge of today.

Part of the challenge for this coming year ... to find a way to make closure.  To put the past at rest.

That is where I am today.

See you next time.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Surviving Workplace Abuse: Today's challenge


There is really no other day than today.

The one we are currently in the process of living.

I've heard it said that today is what you make of it.

I only agree partially with that statement.  Today is partially a mixture of all the things that have gone before that have influenced you to be who you are today.  It is also partially a mixture of what your routines, your patterns are.  For example, if you're working; if you get up at a certain time; if you listen to the news first off, etc.  Today is also partially what gets thrown at you during the day.  Good things as well as bad things:  things that throw you off balance.

Today, though, is 100% of how you handle all the things that pass by you during the day.

I know already as I woke up this morning that today will include my once-every-six-weeks trip to see my counsellor in Stratford.  It will include a summary of all the things that have happened to me in the last six weeks, focussing on the problem spots, the spots I need some help, some direction with.  It will definitely include a retelling of "The Great Poultry Pageant", having a meltdown on Christmas and sleeping through most of it, the lingering lethargy.  And the lies.

The lies that I internalized in both workplace abuse situations, especially the first one, which linger on.

I've already told how I've been dealing with the biggest lie:  assumptions and perceptions.

I guess that dealing with the biggest lie, essentially the cork that bottled all the rest in, has allowed these other lies to come out of the bottle they were stored in and clamour around in my thoughts, demanding attention.

The two which are currently causing me grief are closely related:  I'm not good enough;  My best isn't good enough.

As I've read and researched about workplace bullying, I read in one article how the target (victim) feels that if they were prettier, if they were smarter, if they were younger; if they worked harder; if they were better, if they did this or did that it wouldn't be happening.


That's exactly how I felt in the first situation.  The one that was brief, "only" six months or so, but intense, very intense.

That litany went through my head constantly.  Ironically, the only one of those statements in the litany that may have applied was "if I were younger", as the company was removing older employees and hiring young employees.  I, myself, was replaced by someone they had hand chosen who was very young, in her early twenties.  The rest didn't really apply.  I am intelligent.  Even in my 50's (at the time), I wasn't bad to look at, I worked hard.  In fact, I had been described by my supervisor as being "amazing".

Which leads to the second lie:  my best is not good enough.

If amazing is not good enough, then what is?  Being amazing, being extremely good at my good, was simply not good enough.

These two lies have raised their heads at random times during the journey, but never so much as during this just past pre-Christmas period.

The extreme sense of loss I was feeling at "The Great Poultry Pageant" (see the post about Loss and Laughter if you don't know what I'm talking about), was initiated by being asked to leave my church because they felt I was too "needy" due to the trauma I'd experienced.  I'd worked hard for recovery.  Going every two weeks to a destination 45 km from my home to see my counsellor.  Extraordinary things were happening.  Sometimes slowly, but happening nonetheless.  I had just gotten my pre-workplace abuse personality back which was a major victory.  For the first time in more than a year, I felt able to try to go to a church function.  Another victory.  I had something positive to share.  A third victory.

But there was no place for me in the inn ... er ... I mean table.   The cliques were set.  Just as they had been in the workplace.  No newbies were admitted to the sacred confines of "their" (whoever they might be) table.

I got upset and more and more depressed, more tired as table after table rebuffed me.  Even a table I was usually welcome at.  Even one with only two people sitting at it - and six empty seats.

And then the pastor asked me to leave the church ... because no one would give me a seat at the table and I was upset about it.

I left the church that day feeling that my best was not good enough.  No matter what I did, how dedicated I was to recovery and counselling, how much of my own money I spent on getting better (the church never gave me a dime towards counselling even though they knew our financial situation was bad nor did they offer.)  Nothing I did was good enough for them.

My best in that situation was not good enough.

My best at the work situation was not good enough.

I was already in counselling and recovery during that time recovering from the first workplace bullying experience.  I had made great strides in recovery.  I no longer thought that if I were this, that or the other, things would have been different.  I realized that it had to do with the people I had been involved with.  There was nothing I could have done to have prevented things from happening.

What I didn't realize was the attitude my current employer would take.  Once in a meeting with HR, the Union president, two supervisors and one bully, I pointed out that I alone was working towards wholeness through dedicated counselling.  The Union president's reaction shocked me:  "You fool!" she exclaimed loudly.  "You fool!", she repeated.  "You're paying for something you could be getting free" (i.e. EAP, the Employee Assistance Program).

The others felt that they couldn't force the bullies, the aggressors, to go into counselling.

The message to me:  my best was not good enough.

Spending thousands of dollars on long-term counselling, travelling to another community regularly to access this help, reinventing myself from the ground up ... none of this was good enough in their eyes.

I read in a recent Twitter posting that "You need to stop listening to your inner-critic, that hateful voice that tells you you're not good enough. It's wrong!!"  Bruce Van Horn

This is my challenge for this period in my life.  Starting today when I visit my therapist.

To stop listening to that inner voice.

It's wrong.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Recovery Post Workplace Abuse: What the new year may have in store

The old year, 2014, is past.  The new year, 2015, has come.

At the coming of the New Year, besides the celebrations, both public and quiet, enjoyed by many people all over the globe, we have a tendency to form New Year resolutions.  Things we want to achieve during the new year.  Often those resolutions are broken just as quickly as they're made.

I've long since given up on resolutions.  I have one goal - and one goal only - in this year and in each recent year that has past:  to survive.  Along with that goal is its twin "sister":  recovery.  They both go hand in hand.  You can have survival without recovery; but you cannot have recovery without survival.

As I walk into this frigidly, cold (remember I live in Canada) New Year, I look back on what I've accomplished on this journey so far.

I'm alive.  Which is good.  Very good.

I've had ups and downs on the road to recovery during the past year - which is problematic.  Yet, I feel that I'm at a better space than I was at this time last year.  I understand my value, my worth, my strengths and my talents more than I did a year ago.  I've had some neat victories ... and I've weathered some storms.  I've continued to process each challenge that comes my way and learn from it.  Grow from it.  Another step forward on the journey of recovery.

Here are some of the things I'd like to work towards this coming year.

The first and foremost is to start getting out of my nice little "cocoon" i.e. my safe place more.  I'd like to earn money and contribute financially.  Here are some of my thoughts on what might be possible.  What I'd like to work towards in this coming year.

Photography:  I'd like to find a way to earn money from this talent, this strength.  At the end of the year as Christmas was approaching I made several calendars for family:  one for my best friend and cousin in North Carolina with pictures of a trip I made to her in 2011 which formed a crucial part of my recovery.  The second was a family album for my daughter and her family including pictures of each member of the family and different celebrations.  The third was still family oriented but also more general in scope as it contained pictures of each of the trips we took we in 2014 and highlights of 2014.  These three albums were R&D for me.  I wanted to see how they'd look.  If they'd look professional enough.  My vision has been to make a calendar with pictures from this area to sell at local craft sales - and many even independent stores.  I've seen tables with people selling their pictures but by and large they're not selling.  Why?  My guess is that while some of them are really, really good, unless a person is looking for a nice note card to send a friend, they're not really relevant or useful to the consumer.  The challenge is to make my photography relevant to the consumer.

The other idea re:  photography is something I've had on my mind for quite a while.  I call it non-professional event photography.  I've never had any classes, yet I get some really good shots.  I don't know techniques.  Heck!  I don't even know how to use my camera to its fullest potential.  But I love to take pictures.  And I'm nothing if not thorough.  My dream, my goal is to be available to people for a reasonable hourly rate to take pictures of their event.  I accidentally fell into that in 2013 when I volunteered to take pictures for a special birthday party for friends of a friend.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  When travelling to Belize last winter with my sister in love, I somehow became known as "the woman with the camera".  I was fascinated by what I saw.  As the days of our vacation passed, I realized that I wasn't taking pictures just for me; I was taking them for all of us.  The sister in love I was travelling with, the one we had come to visit, my mother in love.  I made the whole kit and caboodle available to them on a flash drive - and I'm still getting positive comments and thanks for those pictures.  In the
fall, we went to a special birthday party for an uncle who was turning 95.  As usual, I had my camera with me.  As usual, I was fascinated by everything I was seeing.  At first I started taking pictures of my family, but than I broadened my scope to photograph the entire event for the "birthday boy's" family.  As my gift to them.  A photographic memory they might not have had otherwise.

This is something I can do.  I can record the memories photographically.  And I love doing it.  It's right up on alley.

And I can write.

Which comes to another dream I'd like to pursue.  I'd like to use both my talents:  photography and writing to pursue what I call becoming a "communications liaison" -  someone to go along on trips especially missions trips with the sole purpose of recording the trip with photographs and communicating with the people back home via blogging.  I've noticed in many trips that while others can take as good photographs as I do - sometimes even better, the tendency is that the people involved are too busy with their work or too tired to communicate with those back home.  My daughter's church made a missions trip to Mexico this past March, and I eagerly waited for updates.  The few that came were very short, very vague and didn't really convey much.  The mission they were working at did regularly post, but there were several different churches down there at the same time and there were no labels as to who or which church was in the photographs.  I wasn't interested in the other church groups down there.  I was interested in my daughter's.  I felt let down.

This is something I would really like to pursue as it combines both of my interests and talents:  photography and writing.

Writing.  I hope to become more faithful in blogging.  I'd like to build up a larger readership.  My scope is narrow, though, and some people don't read it because they say it's negative.  I agree in a sense.  Workplace abuse is negative.  There's nothing positive about it.

Yet, there's a whole world out there to write about.  Not just about workplace abuse.  There are so many stories out there that I'd like to explore and write about.  I'd like to travel places.

Instead of sitting in my little room, knitting and watching DVD I need to discipline myself to spend some time each day just writing - or even reading about the craft.  Making first, positive steps toward getting myself out there as a writer.

So what is holding me back?  Besides money?  It does take money to travel.  Which is one deterent towards achieving my dreams.

The other day is the continuing lethargy, fatigue, cognitive problems, anxiety, etc. stemming from the initial injury three and a  half years ago.  I'm still not whole.  I still don't know when I wake up in the morning how I'm going to be that particular day.  Will I have energy?  Or will I become so tired that I can't do anything?  Even think coherently? String words together coherently in a sentence?

Even though I've come a long way in the last three and a half years post injury, there is still more road to cover.  More recovery to come.

I'm interested in seeing how much farther I can make it down the road of recovery this year.

Until (hopefully) tomorrow ....

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Life Post Workplace Abuse: 2014 in Review

As always, we tend to get nostalgic as one year ends and another begins.

Me, maybe more so than most, as I continually traverse this never ending, ever changing journey towards recovery.

In late 2013, I had a major break through on the road to recovery, my pre-workplace abuse personality, that irrepressible, sometimes irreverent, frequently extroverted and usually outgoing part of me came back - in full force.

It was a major breakthrough but not a total cure as the events of 2014 showed as they unfolded.

There were some really neat times when I felt on top of the world ... and there were some really down times with the negative emotions overcame me and threatened to knock me down for the count.

Below are the highlights, the significant parts of 2014 in photographs.


2014 began for us with a fireworks display at the local ski hill - something we've never done before.  But somehow it felt right - even though hubby and I don't ski.

Gazing at the ski slope from the balcony, I felt like I was watching a Currier and Ives print in the making as people began walking up the snowy slope towards where the fireworks would begin.

January brought snow, snow and more snow.  Also bitter cold.  What is now begin called the never ending winter began.

In February I had quite an adventure when I went to Belize with my sister in law aka sister in love.  I was thoroughly fascinated with everything I saw and experienced.

 In March while winter still kept its grip hard and fast on the region, we finally had some break in the long, long winer and the snow began to stop falling and the ice on the river began to break up

April came and while there was increasing evidence of spring in the area, winter was still showing its handiwork in certain areas as in this  Good Friday photo of an ice column in the Elora Gorge shows.  We called this time of year last year "sprinter" - spring meets winter.

In May another sister in love along with one of her friends gifted me with a special prayer quilt that they'd made just for me.  A special gift.  One that gladdened my heart and made me realize just how precious the people in my life are.

In June, there was than one event to commemorate.  One weekend we went back to the little town on the lee of Lake Huron where we spent our first winter of married life.  I hadn't been back in years, so this was a special treat.  Also being well enough to drive myself was a sure sign of continued healing.

The second event was  The World Wide Knit in Public Day at Shall We Knit?  I have avoided contact with people, especially "strange" people, people I don't know, but for the first time ever I was well enough to attend on my own ... and thoroughly enjoy the event.  No anxiety.  No fear.

The third significant event was going to Write Canada! The largest Christian writers' conference in Canada on my own.  No companion needed.  No anxiety.  I felt free and on the verge of something significant in my life.

In July our "Western" daughter came home for a visit and took us to a favourite place:  Tobermorey, Ontario on the tip of the Bruce Peninsula.

In early July, we took her to Niagara Falls.

In August, I celebrated my 65th birthday at the CN Tower, Toronto, Ontario with family combatting my twin fears of height and elevators.

In September, we went to Parry Sound for a few brief days.  Another favourite spot of ours, I felt fully alive for the first time in years holding a canoe paddle in my hands and wandering around with camera in hand.

In October, there is always the annual Oktoberfest/Thanksgiving parade in our town in Thanksgiving Day.  For many years I was unable to attend, but a few years ago I decided to make the effort.  Family and friends willingly "enabled" me.  This was the third year I went and the first time I was feeling fully alive.

November brought a craft sale at a senior's centre.  I had done two craft sales before, one in 2012 and one in 2013, and both were dismal failures.  No one looked at my handiwork let alone bought anything.  This time, I plotted a new strategy, focussing on one items - hats and headbands - and a better display and did reasonably well.  The best part of all was that my exuberant, pre-workplace abuse personality was showing itself in full force.  I was alive!  And having fun.

December brought the experience of a lifetime which is now being dubbed the "Great Poultry Pageant" (written about in a previous blog entitled "Loss and Laughter") where a little guy dressed in a turkey costume stole both the star and the show.


And now, as the sun rises on the first day of the new year of 2015, I look forward in anticipation.  What will the new year bring?  What further challenges will I face on the road to healing?  What significant breakthroughs will I have?

Until next time ... Happy New Year's!