Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Recovery Post Workplace Abuse: Well and truly stuck and down for the count

Sometimes my road towards recovery looks more like this massive core of a mountain (Pilot Mountain in North Carolina) than it does something that I can navigate.  It feels at times like a big, vertical obstacle stuck right in the middle of my path with no way around it.


My last two blogs have been detailing how I felt stuck for a prolonged period of time - all or most of 2015 - despite my intense desire to move on, move out of my safe place and regain my life.  Or at least a semblance of it.

Yet ....

Yet looking back at the very beginning when the "altered abilities" i.e. physical affects struck with force and completely knocked me down for the count, I can see progress.  Marked progress.

Let's go back to the beginning, the very beginning of the debilitating chronic/physical affects which began in the Fall of 2011.

As with most things, although I knew that I was seriously tired which led to serious depression the summer after what I call "the end" of my working life or "when all hell broke loose," I was unaware that these things (a) had come to stay and (b) would be followed by more and more debilitating affects.

I just thought I needed to rest and after a good rest, I'd feel better.  I was blissfully ignorant of what was to come in the following weeks and months.

I figured I just needed a time away.  Along with hubby.  Camping which usually relaxes me and fills me with feelings of well being.

How wrong I was.

So we went on our vacation.  A car camping vacation to places (mostly) that we had been before.  I was so tired though that I felt unable to even help with the packing.  Which, in itself, should have been a red flag as it is very unusual.  I'm usually the one to plan, to get together or at least to supervise the process.  This time, I was unable.  I let hubby handle almost everything from choice of tent to all the camping gear we took.

 By the time we got to our first destination - a campground in Tobermory, Ontario, I was well and truly wrecked.  Unable to do much of anything except rest - and take pictures.  Even that was an effort.  On top of the fatigue which was getting worse daily instead of better, I felt like every nerve ending in my body was sticking straight out. At one point, a child rushed by us in the little town of Tobermory yelling something (as children do) and I jumped.  Literally.  Not a good sign.

After that, we realized that eating at a restaurant was beyond me at that point..  Again, another red flag waving briskly.

We bought sandwiches, etc. at a local food market and took them to the lighthouse where hubby found a place to sit and eat sheltered by rocks, where people could pass by us but not really have interaction with us.

Tucked away in a  hidy hole in the rocks, t felt safe.

People passed around us, but didn't notice us.  It was as if we were invisible.

At this point, a great need for perceived safety came into play.  I felt safe(er) in small places like our small canoe camping tent and the hidey hole my husband found in the rocks at the lighthouse.

I didn't know why I was so edgy.  I didn't know it had a name.  Later I found out that what I had just started experiencing and would continue to experience for many months after that was called hypervigilance.

I didn't know it at that time, but I was only at the very beginning into the world of physical affects.  In addition to the extreme fatigue and the hypervigilance came lack of balance where often I would have to reach out and grab something - or someone usually hubby - to keep from falling over. Weakness and shortness of breath also become constant companions.  Shakiness as well.  Meaning my hands, my body would be shaky.

By the end of that trip, I had to lie in bed for hours not able to move or do anything - even read - just to be able to get up and eat a meal.

To say I didn't understand what was going on is an understatement.

Nothing in my experience had prepared me for this.

I was totally in unchartered territory.  Figuring things out as I went along - from one crisis to another.

And at that point, no one in my "circle" of friends and acquaintances could shed any light on the process.  Partially because each person's journey is different.  But mostly because the people who "walked" alongside me had never been this way before either.  They were as clueless as I was.

We were all concerned that things were getting progressively worse instead of better as time went on.


Until I saw my counsellor shortly after coming back home from this trip.  By that time, in order to get to her office which was at the end of a long corridor I had to reach out and touch the wall in order to stay vertical.  My balance was noticeably affected.  My counsellor was accompanying me to her office, noticed my difficulties and commented: '"This is not like you."  Which was the opening I needed to open up about all this physical stuff that had come upon me and was consuming my life.

My counsellor not only is well versed in trauma but has had some of her own.  She told me a little of her own story where she had been in an ongoing traumatic situation and months later had a health scare.  She herself was seeing someone at that time who told her that 6-12 months after a trauma, the physical kicks in.

I was right on the marker when the physical stuff showed up to claim my life.

At the first, I continued trying to live my life as I knew it: attending church; going to the weekly women's meetings; etc. as this is what I'd learned from the past.  Continue your life as normally as possible.  If it's the time you normally eat.  Eat.  Even though you might not feel hungry.

However, the more I did this, the worse I got until I had an unforgettable experience at a women's meeting.  I knew I wasn't feeling up to going, but I felt I should.  So I did.  My face started to feel hot and I wanted to leave but I stayed.  I saw a friend leave early.  I wanted so badly to follow her because I just didn't feel right.  But I didn't.  I thought I had to stay to the end.  Because that's what I normally do even though I was praying for the meeting to end as I was physically very uncomfortable and just wanted to escape.

Escape did not turn out to be that easy.  Someone I had developed a friendship with spoke to me and said something that hurt me badly.  I know she didn't mean to.  I know that what she said was said out out of ignorance because she doesn't understand PTSD and trauma. Heck! I wouldn't either if I hadn't gone through it. But I was so low at that point that I couldn't handle it. I burst out into tears.  Actually sobs.

Sobbing I ran to the door.  To perceived safety.

Someone waylaid me.  I know they were concerned, but they were not capable of helping me and made me feel worse.

I continued sobbing as I finally escaped to the safety of the parking lot and got into my car.

Driving off, I realized that I was in no shape to go anywhere.  Especially driving a car.  So I drove to the back of the church where there were no cars.  Pulled out my cell phone and called my husband who dropped everything he was doing, rushed out the door without even closing it and drove to my aid.

I wanted to die.  I wanted to kill myself.  I didn't want to go on any longer.  I was exhausted from the battle.

I felt my life lay in tatters around me.  Emotionally, I was a wreck from the constant onslaught of condemnation, criticism, etc. from the workplace.  Physically, I was at one of the lowest points of my life.

I was ready to give up.

I wanted so badly for someone to come alongside me in that vacant part of the parking lot and just sit with me.  Not try to tell me this or that.  Just sit with me.  Just feel my pain.  Just let me know that it's OK to cry.  It's OK to not be OK with things.

It's OK.

I called my daughter (thank God for cell phones) and she stayed with me on the phone until hubby came to get me.

Via the phone, she sat with me in my pain that morning.  She never left me until hubby arrived and it was safe to do so.

I'll stop for the day now.

I know this is a cliff hanger. A heck of a place to leave my reader.

YET ...

Yet, it is a good place to leave in a way.  Rock bottom.

Where things can only go up from here.



Life is so much easier.  So much more clear cut when looking back.

As they say, hindsight is 20-20. As we learn, as we move on, move forward, move away, move somewhere.  As we process.  As time dims the pain, the hurt.

As we take several steps backward and can look at the entire mountain, not just the up close and personal obstacle.

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