From PTSD to Recovery in Canada
This is my short version, as what happened to me was enough to write a book:
After standing up to one bully, I was outrageously bullied by 6 co-worker "friends" on a locked unit (unionized healthcare) while 2 silent witnesses denied the whole thing to keep good with the bullies. I was openly harassed, belittled, outcast, yelled at, mocked, gossiped/lied about, glared at; and called stupid, fat, lazy, paranoid, incompetent, and, later, a "mental mess".
Once, I was whipped in the face with water from a g-tube I passed to the bully RN. My pens were broken in my work bag, and a pair of large, sharp scissors were put in it. I was reported daily to unit management, and seemingly weekly to upper management in a concerted, coordinated effort to have me fired/destroyed. A 7th bully (the only male) was nice to my face, but was best friends/support to the bullies against me, and spread vicious blame and "paranoia" charges against me to my superiors and co-workers. My union president was good friends with this bully group, and an aggressive bully herself, who also spoke against me.
I survived the initial 1.5 years of outward attacks (but later suffered severe PTSD) as their overt attacks were no longer condoned by the company after stating my case (last) to HR, and speaking with the National Union Rep with my documentation. I was able to change working shifts, where I flourished among new staff who saw my good work, which only served to "embarrass" this 7th, most dangerous bully, who slowly succeeded in gaslighting me out through his higher position and manipulation of the new unit manager (who considered him her "son"), and who is a bully herself....they made severe, angry faces at me in secret, refused to acknowledge my presence, speak to me or look me in the eye, and spread drama/gossip among co-workers while playing the victim.
I could not go to HR again, as I knew I would be called the problem after HR had stepped in with this manager after firing the old one (for being a drunk and for sexual misconduct with several employees who complained...including me). The CEO had threatened to fire us all after the initial campaign, and the company had us sign a "no-bullying" contract after many in the company quit because of it. Yet, my case was always denied and passed off by upper management, even WCB. In all, 4.5 years of hell (and 10 years in the company) before I was cast off as a "paranoid", even a danger to the unit after a company meeting with my unit manager and her "son" assistant manager. Since I was not present (and no longer an employee) their testimony was accepted and I had not said a word. Even though I quit, management acted as if I was fired: I was not allowed on the unit or to call anyone, and the one resident I was so emotionally close to, and the only one he trusted (after years of compassionate care the others would not give) I was told never to see again.
The goodbye card I gave to the unit was taken down immediately and hidden in the office (I have inside knowledge). I tried leaving years earlier, but there were few job opportunities, and then I thought I survived with HR help (but the bullying only went more covert/dangerous the more I excelled and proved them wrong), and now I have no job with a wrecked reputation and no management references. I found no way to deal with this effectively, no matter what, and the bullying remains rampant on the unit I left, with the 7th bully (assistant manager) hiring his sycophants.
How did I deal with it all? At first, I couldn't. After breaking down physically and emotionally at the 1.5 year mark, I took 2 weeks sick leave (the bullies crowed and laughed when I returned). Then when I became educated about workplace mobbing, nobody in management listened or cared, but I learned all about bully tactics. Seeing through them, and thwarting their later efforts only enraged them... winning the battle, but ultimately losing the war, so to speak. After I quit, I lay on the couch for a solid week, nearly paralysed in grief as the stress came out, as I wrote to the owners and the facility leader. I gave damning testimony and witnessed evidence that the unit manager had hidden (I knew she would) in order to pass me off as "imagining" the whole thing. Yet nothing was investigated or changed.
I was driven to find new work, but I stopped and went on the long vacation I had booked 1.5 years before (I was forced to quit 4 months shy of it)...my last stop on this vacation was northern Thailand. I was still so hurt and angry, yet emotionally dead, and suffered insomnia and flashbacks...I thought I would be this way for life.
Even my daughter had been severely affected by what I brought home from work. Since the height of my mobbing, she became depressed, and a once good student dropped classes and didn't graduate. She and I had both changed so much. In Thailand, I was first struck by how society treated each other (to survive their own bullying/corruption): They were overtly kind, seemingly genuine, and would wai (acknowledge you in a prayer/bow). Their attitude was "no problem", and they were quick to apologize for even trivial, non-concerns. They would go over and above to help one another. This was a shock to the system, after coming from a society that does the opposite. My daughter and I would go to "monk chats" and we met one monk who was so traumatized by war in his country that he couldn't speak of it, even after 10 years as a Buddhist monk. We connected immediately with his pain, and have since become good friends. The trauma he endured, and his current human rights struggles help take the focus off ours, as well as maintain a sense of partnership in pain, even though I haven't shared my experience with him.
But it was a chance encounter that saw all my pain and anger evaporate. After paying for an amazing tour, the owner offered to taxi us for free the next day to where we wanted to go in the city. Both my daughter and I gave him a hug in thanks. It was the return hug he gave me: without knowing a thing about me, he filled me with absolute love, and no inappropriate message. I was dumbstruck with it. He had been a monk years before, and maybe this was why. But in that moment, he healed me.
I returned home happy, but not ready to return to the work force. I gave pictures of my happy vacation shots to my friends and non-bully co-workers, and all the residents I had once cared for so well through a supportive co-worker (we secretly meet once in a while). I went to the front office and gifted a picture of child monks to my openly hostile CEO (who, ironically, brags about being Buddhist) after friendly front office workers called him out. He acted even more furious when he was informed I was returning to Thailand to volunteer teaching English to novice monks, and he was shown my great vacation shots. I was unaffected by it all, and that was my greatest victory.
I returned to northern Thailand for 3 months, and was embraced by happy, supportive students, teachers, fellow volunteers, contacts and monks who have become, most probably, lifelong friends. I was even invited and shown Cambodia and a home village in Vietnam with the very monk I had bonded with on my first visit to Thailand. The stress weight I had carried before evaporated, and I became fit, happy, and healthy once again. Coming home has been a constant reminder (I live within a block of my old work), but I choose not to let their memories control and hurt me any more...instead, I fill myself with my new experiences and friends abroad. A month after my return, I have no job yet, even with my experience, and believe I may have been blacklisted in the industry (a warning system in healthcare), so I look to alternate training... one that will see me help other people in some way, and see my return to Thailand.
I also wish to help others who have been/or are being, mobbed. I have started a meet-up group in Calgary, Alberta. Together, we have the potential to heal.
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