Thursday, February 26, 2015

Recovery post Workplace Abuse: Coldest Night of the Year walk 2015 - after the walk

After the walk.  Or at least my part of the walk, those of us at the rest stop, packed up our belongings, climbed into our nice warm cars and headed to Ray of Hope's community centre, not the starting point of the walk but the organization sponsoring the walk where a warm meal was waiting for us.

On the way back, we passed lines of white Nordic touques on the sidewalks.  They were still walking on a very cold night in southwestern Ontario as our rest stop was merely the halfway point for those rugged souls doing the 10 km walk.

For these people, the walk was not over once they left the rest stop.  They still had the same distance to go back that they'd had to get there.   Five more kilometeres.  Translated to three miles in the U.S. and other countries.  Altogether 10 km - or six miles.

A long walk on a cold night in winter.  Especially as it gets colder and more frightening out there once the sun sets.  Snow that had thawed a bit under the sun, had refrozen and made the sidewalks icier and more challenging to navigate.

I wondered how these walkers felt on their way back in the dark.   But I never stopped to ask.  Unlike the homeless, these people were in groups so there was comraderie among them.  I spoke with a friend who had been involved in the 5km walk last year about the walk.  She said that there was a good vibe among the walkers.  A sense of doing something.  Together.  A sense of purpose.

Another difference between the walkers and the homeless is that these walkers had a destination in mind.  The end.  The homeless?  Probably not.

The walkers had a warm meal waiting for them at the end.  Also a warm room filled with other like-minded people either those volunteering to make and serve the meal or those in-coming from the walk.

After I arrived at the Ray of Hope community centre, I stayed for about an hour observing, taking a few more pictures, socializing and enjoying a bowl of soup and a cup of hot chocolate.  Even as I left, people were still streaming in after completing the walk.

My daughter and her youth group had done the 5 km walk and had been there earlier.  I missed them but I did run into another friend from a different church group also there with her youth group.

There were also a couple of other "shutter bugs" there to record the event as well as a videographer.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  So below are my "thousand words" without any more commentary.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Recovery Post Workplace Abuse: Coldest Night of the Year Walk #cnoy2015

The sign on the right says it all:  "It's cold out here."  Caught in a fluctuating polar vortex, Ray of Hope's "Coldest Night of the Year" walk to raise awareness of the plight of the homeless and to raise funds to help them, was held on a bitterly cold night in February in southwestern Ontario.  Perhaps not the coldest night of the year in our region, but close.

Yet, out of the dark they came.  First in a trickle.  The fastest walkers.  Then more and more came.  Identified by their Nordic touques.  After the first arrivvees had warmed up, turned around and were heading back, they became a flood going in both directions.  People arriving.  People leaving.  One group eager to get to the halfway point.  The other group - well - I didn't talk to any of them so I don't really know how they were feeling as they faced the same walking distance in the same cold on the same frozen sidewalk back to where they started out from.  Yet, as they walked out of the halfway point on their way back, they were still smiling.  Still pumped up.  Eager.

The ones I saw were the hardiest ones.  The ones who had signed up for the 10 km walk.  I figured these intrepid souls would all be college/university students.  But they weren't.

They came in all ages, sizes, shapes, etc. including children with their parents,  couples, even a few people with grey hair peaking out of their touques.  It was definitely, not a one-size-fits-all thing.

It was a compassion thing though.  An empathy thing.  A way of saying "I care" to those who are caught in the vice of homelessness.

They were all out for one common purpose.  To raise awareness (and funds) for the plight of the homeless in our area.

I'm sure that most of them could have found a warmer - and more fun - way to spend a Saturday night.  With friends, family, watching TV, etc.  Yet, they chose to put on their cold weather gear and come out and walk the length of King Street through downtown Kitchener and uptown Waterloo - and back again.

By the time, they got to where I was standing, tripod firmly entrenched in the middle of the sidewalk, they were still smiling.  They were also ready for that promised rest break which signified the end of the first part of the walk.  Coffee.  A warm place to shelter and mingle with others.  Treats.

As they passed me, the most often asked question was:  "Where's the rest stop?"  i.e. where's the coffee? where's the washroom, where's the warmth?

The other comment I heard often was "Thank you".

Why were they thanking me?  They were doing all the work.  Oops ... all the walking.  They were the ones who had worked hard to find people to sponsor them for this walk.

Yet they were thanking me.  Because I too was giving up something.  I was giving up my Saturday night to make them visible.  To record for posterity this walk  To give a voice to the voiceless, a face to the faceless.  Just like they were.

Homeless people are marginalized - just like me.  We all have assumptions about them.  About how they became homeless.  We judge them.

Yet ... as I stood out in the middle of the sidewalk photographing the stream of people walking past, I was constantly reminded of one phrase:  "there but for the grace of God go I."

Friday, February 20, 2015

On the Road to Recovery: Peace and Contentment

Just a few days ago, I had an interesting conversation with a friend.  This friend's journey involves a chronic, incurable auto immune which has already robbed her of her mobility - and threatens to rob her or her life.  But it has not robbed her of her determination to live life to the fullest and to encourage others who are walking through a similar road.

Through her limited energy but limitless enthusiasm, she encourages people through social media to find the best they can in their circumstances.  To find happiness even in chronic, never-ending pain.

Even though I don't have a chronic illness, per se, as I have trauma, there are enough similarities that she has accepted me unconditionally.

This friend doesn't have the same belief system that I do and I was not sure how she would react if I asked if I could pray for her.  So the other day, I broached the topic very carefully and respectfully.  I asked her if I could pray for her and if so, what would she want me to pray for.

Her answer shocked the socks off of me!

Of all the things she could have requested such as diminution of pain, prolonged life, even complete healing, she didn't ask for any of those things.

Instead, she asked for peace and contentment to be able to live whatever time is left to her to the fullest.  To make memories for those closest to her.

Of all the people I've prayed for past and present, not one has asked for peace and contentment.

Yet, isn't that what a happy life, a good life, a life well lived is all about?  Getting through the hard times, the tough times, the painful times with grace and dignity?  Even with joy splashed through.  Peace and contentment permeating all like a well-seasoned sauce?

Not only has she given me a lot to think about with those three words - peace and contentment - but she's changed my focus.  For me.  And for those I pray for.

Yes, I want healing, complete recovery from trauma.  Yes, I want to be able to go about life as I used to know it without worrying about the "spoons" (levels of energy) suddenly giving out and leaving me high and dry.  But more importantly, I want to live life to the fullest - not in some distant future which might not ever come - but now.  In the present.  I want that peace.  I want that contentment.  And I want to pass it on to those around me.

Until next week....

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Until next time ...

Monday, February 16, 2015

On the journey of recovery post workplace abuse: Warning: (Re)construction ahead

Last summer, the region embarked on an ambitious two-year reconstruction project in our neighbourhood.  This picture shows only one part of phase one which was on the street below us.

Eight years ago, I embarked on a major reconstruction program of my own.

There are major differences between the two projects.

The regional one cost millions of dollars, was pre-planned, involved committees and drawn up plans.  Machinery had to be ordered.  The plans had to be carried out in a methodical, organized manner.  Inconvenience to the residents ensued as the road was torn up, there were traffic delays some over an hour long at points in the project ... and the dreaded detour.  Lasting inconvenience with the permanent loss of our home mail delivery occurred.  Approximately seven long months later, the project was finally completed.

Many people were involved in both the planning and implementation of this project.

Once completed - at least the first part has been while the second, my street, begins this coming spring - the results of the construction are obvious.

But ...

But once it's done, it is beautiful.  The project is also very visible in all its phases of implementation except the planning one.

The inconvenience caused by the detour and increased traffic on other roads also due to the detour caused by the construction, are (mostly) forgotten.

Road construction, or any other physical construction, is highly visible by it's very nature.

However the type of (re) construction projection I embarked on in the fall of 2006 was neither planned nor visible.  It's not something that can displayed in photographs like the construction scenes above or the pictures of a WWI helmut in the process of creation below.

Because it involves a reinvention of myself.  Who I am.  How I perceive life.  How I react to things.  It involves change at the very core of my being - who I am.  Who I perceive myself to be.  It involves recognizing and getting rid of lifelong habits.  It involves total change from the inside out including a reinvention of relationships.

My (re)construction didn't stop at night and on weekends.  It was constantly on-going.  24/7.

It was not planned, nor did it follow any designated format or path,

It just was.

And it's still on-going.  Still in progress.

Never visible.  Always there.  Although I was able to feel changes fairly quickly, because this kind of (re)construction is inner, it was not visible to those around me for weeks, even months depending on who these people were and what place they had in my life.  It was on-going and fluid.  Ever changing.

This kind of inward (re)construction is totally invisible.  For me, it was unplanned.  It began back in August of 2006 when I changed counsellors as the first one had become abusive and I felt like I needed a counselling session after the counselling session to deal with it.

This counsellor is unique.  She is also a Christian, like me and like the first one.  The difference is that she invites God into the process.  She has come to realize that God does the work through her.  I didn't know this when I walked into her office that first day.

I was sure she was going to kick me out and say that I could not be helped.

She did neither.

She simply listened and offered encouragement.  She knew more of the dynamics of trauma and PTSD than my former counsellor had, so she had the right "equipment" to deal with me.

As with most (re)construction projects, things got worse before they got better.  I threw my Bible on the floor of the library in my former church and had a very angry pastor at my door.  One who came to condemn not to forgive or minister to a hurting person.  One who didn't understand trauma.

Yet, through it all I stuck it out.  Unlike the road which had no choice in the matter, I did have choices.  I could have just quit.  Or done other things like suicide - which I did think of.

Yet, ultimately my counsellor offered me something no one else had in that part of the experience.  She offered me hope.  She gave me unconditional acceptance.  She never flinched or got mad at me.  She simply accepted me as I was at that time.  She looked beyond appearances and saw hurt.  Damage that went way back to childhood.

This kind of (re)invention is hard to describe and impossible to show in pictures as outwardly I'm the same.  It's inwardly that is vastly different; totally different from before.

My (re)construction followed no set plan.  It wandered all over the place and back again - like my blog posts sometimes.

First, I had to learn to accept myself.  I had to learn that I had value.  I had to learn my talents.  I had to learn both my strengths and my weaknesses, to accept them and to work not on my weaknesses, but on further strengthening those things I was good at.  To even start the (re)construction, I had first to realize that I was not a stupid person.  That was lesson #1.  I had to realize early on who those people were who counted the most in my life - my husband, children, grandchildren, etc. - and to forge good relationships with those closest to me.  Concurrently, I learned that those relationships I had put the most trust in, my co-workers, were transient.  I learned to trust God and to pray.  One of the hardest lessons I learned was to forgive - which is still ongoing as life intervenes with recovery and (re)construction.  I learned to laugh instead of getting angry.  I learned to look at life and circumstances differently.

Even though ironically the period where (re)construction began was also at almost the same time as the second incident of workplace abuse began, it was for the most part a good time in my life as I was happy and whole for the first time ever - even though those I worked with refused to realize that.

My family realized it though.  During those awful years of escalating abuse in the workplace, my life outside the workplace prospered.  My relationships with my family grew and prospered.  We have had experiences and made memories that we would never have made had I not undergone this unplanned (by me) (re)construction project.

Today as I end this blog post, I can say that despite the workplace situation, despite the incredible stress, despite the resultant injuries, for the most part these have been good years due to the ongoing (re)construction.

 Until next time ....

Friday, February 6, 2015

Recovery Post Workplace Abuse: My "so what?" moment

What is a "so what?" moment?  And why is it important?

As I've been working on my goal for 2015 to work towards becoming a writer, I've been researching about memoir writing.  The first part of working on that goal was to read a memoir I already own to analyze that particular writer's style.  Done.

Next up.  Reading a book on how to write a memoir.  Still in progress.  Very early progress.

I'm realizing that it's much easier to read a memoir - or several - than it's going to be to write one.

The author of the book I'm reading writing & selling your memoir, Paula Balzer, talks about the difference between memoirs and biographies.  Meaning the difference between a regular joe type of person like me who has gone through something I want to share with others and a famous celebrity.

I am not rich.  Or famous.  Or probably even noteworthy.  Outside of a small circle of friends, that is.

I'm just a regular person who has gone through a horrible experience (actually two back to back) in the workplace and has survived to tell the tale.  What is going to compel someone to read about my experiences in the workplace?

This is the basic gist (although she writes it quite differently) of the so what? moment.

In my case, the so what moments are occurring not because I want to write about my experience.  Heck!  I haven't even put anything on paper ... er ... I mean computer screen.  Yet.

What I do have in the planning stage is an on-line workshop combined with a meet-up group which will be based in the great state of Washington.

Washington?  What?????  Wait a moment, Suzanne.  I thought you were in Ontario.  Canada.  Which is a totally different country, let alone state.

You are right.  I am not anywhere near the state of Washington.  In fact, I'm three time zones away.

However, during this journey I've met another individual - also a woman - who herself has gone through workplace bullying.  In fact, you might have met her on this blog as she's written a couple of guest blogs for me.  Stasia Sowers.

She has come up with some incredible ideas on how to bring workplace abuse out of the closet and into the open.  One of them is on-line workshops about the phenomena.  The other is a Meet Up group close to her with on-line access to whoever is interested in attending.

As we've gotten together via the internet to discuss our ideas and try to put some form into them, I've done a lot of thinking about my experience.  About what I have to offer a group of women who are going through the experience and desperately want some encouragement.  That's where my so what? moment comes in.  I don't have anything positive to offer.  At least not in the sense that they can resolve the issue.  Not in the sense that a dysfunctional work environment will - or even can - become functional.

They can't.  I couldn't.  It won't.  It didn't.

There are no magic wands.

Bullying involves an incredible imbalance of power.  Like the proverbial young child paired up with a heavy adult on the seesaw (or teeter totter - depending on which wording you are used to).  The kid is stuck up in the air and he's not going to get off the seesaw until the adult allows him to.

Bullying is not going to stop unless the bully is somehow, someway motivated to stop.

Unfortunately, in most cases they're not.

Bullying is not about change - at least to the bully.  It's about maintaining the status quo.

I could have stood on my head in the corner and sung the hallelujah chorus and it would not have changed a thing.

Bullying is not about the person who is targeted.  It's all about the bully.

And that is what I do have to offer.  Insight based both on my experiences and on the research I'm done both while I was being actively bullied in the workplace and now after it's ended.

And this is my task right now:  to get past what I can't offer i.e. hope that the situation will magically resolve itself, but rather how to put the whole totality of what I do have to offer in context.

Until tomorrow....

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Recovery Post Workplace Abuse: Musings

Sometimes on this journey of recovery post workplace abuse, my path resembles the picture above:  nice and scenic.  

Other times ... well ... it resembles the torn up road below.  Massive reconstruction.  Basically not passable.  Unless you pick your way through very, very carefully.

And then there are the times, it rounds a curve out of sight and I'm wondering what's around the bend?  Good or bad?  Pretty or ugly?  Sometimes my life post workplace abuse resembles the picture below.  Uncertain.  I won't know what's lies beyond that bend in the road under I round that bend and see for myself.

Or my might be straight, but snow covered and icy.  Cold.  Frozen.  But still beautiful in its own way. 

My journey, my life post workplace abuse, never stays the same.  It varies from day to day - which is a good thing.  Even on the most shattered, torn up days, there is hope.  Another day coming.  Another adventure.  Another photo to take.  Another meal to cook - especially when I'm having a series of good days in a row.  Another item to knit or crochet.  Another blog to write and post.  Another bridge to cross.

That is why I like to take pictures.  Of anything and everything especially roads, paths, etc.  They remind me that just like a road trip, my journey is ever changing. Never the same twice.  There is always something up ahead.  Hopefully something better.  More scenic.  Another piece of recovery.

Each of the above pictures has a specific place in my life, my journey.  The one immediately above of the sun rising over a snow swept road is one of my favourites.  A picture I would probably never have gotten had workplace abuse not changed my life so drastically.

I was able to take this picture because my life is freer in some ways now post workplace abuse than it ever was before.  Because I don't work, I have the freedom to do things, go places with hubby.  Take pictures.

It's a trade off:  less money but more freedom.

In the scenario above, we had gone to a small town on Lake Huron.  The place our married life began.  In fact, the exact location our married life began.  At some cabins his parents owned which now belong to one of his siblings.  

His sibling needed some work done.  It's not just my life that has been dramatically changed in the last three plus years, but his as well.  He also lost his job and has had trouble finding permanent full-time employment.  So, we were both free to take a little trip to the place where our married life began.  I wanted to take pictures.  He needed to do plumbing.  We both accomplished our separate goals.

Early the next morning, we headed back to our normal.  As we were driving home, I noticed that we were heading directly into the rising sun.  I couldn't help but whip out my iPhone and take pictures - lots of pictures - as we headed east into the rising sun.

If I was still working, I wouldn't have has this incredible experience.  Nor would I probably have appreciated it as much as I did.

There have been so many changes in both of our lives in the past three plus years.

Yet, I've learned that life goes on.  That even in the midst of sorrow, tears, anger ... or whatever, there is beauty.  There is joy.  There is even ... dare I say it? ... laughter.

There are those sunrise moments among the torn up roads in my life.

But even that torn up road in the second picture in this blog, didn't stay torn up.  It's been completely rebuilt. New sidewalks.  New asphalt.  New drainage.  Etc.  It looks really good.  If a road can look beautiful, this one does.

In the end, the result i.e. the reconstruction of this road, has been worth the effort, the inconvenience.

In the end, I truly believe that I will be able to say that about my life, my experience(s) in the workplace, my journey towards health, wholeness and recovery.

In the end, it will be worth all the time, all the effort, even all the pain, altered abilities and tears.

I truly believe this.

Until next time....

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Recovery Post Workplace Abuse: Before


What was life, my life, like before workplace bullying changed my life?  Before it set its hooks into me?  Tried to destroy me?

I remember reading an article many years ago by a journalist who was visiting China in the aftermath of the Chinese Revolution during the rule of Mao Zedong.

Some villagers were proudly showing this journalist how the great Chinese leader had improved their lot in life by showing them a hospital he had built for their village.  The villagers were so excited, so proud of it.  Yet, to the Western journalist, it was very rudimentary.  Basic.  Very lacking.

He wrote this sentence which became emblazoned on my memory:  "If this is after, what was before like?"

This blog covers a lot of what my life after workplace abuse is like, but what was before?  Before will put some of my abilities and (what I like to call) "altered abilities" in this phase post workplace abuse in some form of context.

I've mentioned cooking several times in past instalments of this blog.  How it is a huge victory for me to be able to cook a meal for my husband.  And how, so far, cooking company dinners is still more or less beyond my capability.

To understand why these things are either a victory (as in the former) or a concern (as in the latter), you need to understand what before was like in regards to the simple task of putting food on the table.

As I write this, in my "after", before seems like a very long time ago.

Before was not an idyllic time in which the skies were always blue, the grass green and we danced joyously all day long.

That, my friends, is a pipedream.  It ain't gonna happen in this life.


Before definitely had its ups and down, its times of depression and anger.

But one thing was almost always constant - I enjoyed cooking for my family.  From scratch.

When I first left home at the tender age of something like 27 or so to move to the mission field, I basically did not know how to cook.  I bought a few pans.  My mom bought me some cookbooks for cooking for one.  And I was off.  Like the proverbial herd of turtles.

I learned how to cook for myself.  How to freeze stews, etc. and freeze them in one portion servings.  I even learned how to make bread.  The old-fashioned way by hand.  I was a very popular person at the mission on those days in which I made bread.

Then I got married and I had to learn how to cook for two.  Then I had children and I had to cook larger quantities.  I will not tell you of the struggles - and failures - in this post today, but suffice it to say that the learning curve went straight up.

By the time the kids were grown and leaving the nest, my ability to cook was so well known that the kids asked for a collection of my recipes.

At one point in the journey, I worked part-time at a local call centre.  I enjoyed bringing in my home cooked meals and heating them up in the microwave for my lunch so much that one of my younger co-workers once commented:  "You like to cook."  It was not a question.  It was a statement of fact.

I became known for hospitality among my children's friends.  At one point, two young men would stop by every Wednesday evening like clockwork on their way to their church for midweek service for some good, old-fashioned home cooking.  I'm not sure who enjoyed it more, them or me.

Cooking was my recreation.  It was something I enjoyed.  I loved to pore through my recipes and try out ones that interested me.

One of the best periods in my life was when I was taking some re-training after the aforementioned call centre closed.  By this time, we had taken in a friend of one of my daughter's who we call our .5.  Our daughter of the heart.  At that time, she was also at the same school.  Often we would come home together and I would start to cook something.  She would often sit at the kitchen table while I chopped, diced, etc. and we would talk.  Often, we would taste what I had made before the rest of the family arrived.  Those were good times.

After the first breakdown, when I was off work for four weeks, I could still cook.  I could still follow recipes.  I could still do that one thing that made me happy:  cook.

By this time, I had been working an afternoon shift for several years, which meant that most of my cooking had been crockpot stuff for hubby to serve himself when he came home from his day job.

Even though I had some serious affects such as speech (stuttering which was never there before), cognitive skills, etc., I could still cook.  I could still follow a recipe.

Hubby would work in the side door and sniff the air and say:  "It smells like someone loves me."  Those words were balm to my wounded soul.

I went back to work after those four weeks, still very fragile.  Vulnerable.  Not completely healed.  Things were rough at the workplace.  Very rough.  No one would talk to me.  Even those who did not work with me on the same shift refused to even acknowledge my existence.  I was well and truly isolated.

I lasted five shifts before having a second breakdown.  This time much more severe.

My cognitive skills were so disabled that I could no longer read - or follow - recipes which meant that cooking for recreation was a thing of the past.

I did though become more creative.  Before I could read recipes.  I could follow recipes.  But I could not cook if even one ingredient from the recipe was missing.

Here in the beginnings of the after, my creativity began to kick in.  But perhaps that is another story for another blog.

During this time, I remember getting a cookbook which I'd put on hold at the library long before.  I opened it up.  Each recipe had many ingredients and multiple steps.  I looked at those pages.  I couldn't even assimilate the recipe list let along follow those steps.  It was impossible.  Sadly, I returned the book to the library.

As I've walked through these 3+ years of recovery post trauma, post stress breakdowns, the abilities are returning, very slowly.  There are still significant challenges.  Breaks.  Periods were recovery appears to be coming along nice and then stops suddenly.  Downtimes.

How far will I be able to go on this journey of recovery?  How much of the former skills will I get back?  I don't know.

But I'm certainly going to have fun finding out.

More next time ....