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What Every Target of Workplace Bullying Needs to Know

Sweat and Tears - Is this Deja Vu?

Sweat and Tears

Maria enters the parking lot and parks her car. She has 15 minutes before she has to go to the unit so she reclines her seat and closes her eyes. Maria starts thinking, and tries to deep breathe her worries away. Due to her present situation at work, she finds that she remembers some situations she experienced as a child more often. She starts to drift off to a particular traumatic event in her youth...

It's almost 3 pm and her heart already starts to race with fear. Sweat beads begin to appear on her forehead. The grade 2 teacher asks her if she is feeling okay. She could only muster up a measely little "Yeah". The bell rings. Maria thinks to herself "Oh god... please... pretty please... I can't take anymore... I wonder if I can find someone to walk with." She grabs her burgundy jacket, shaking as she puts it on.

Her knapsack is heavy with gym shoes and books. As she walks out of the school, she looks all around the grounds to see who is walking in the same direction. "Is that who I think it is... no... oh thank you!". Maria walks slowly across the gravel field, and looks behind her. Teary, she continues her walk home. "Why do other kids hate me so much? I guess I am too ugly." She gets to the top of the street and squints towards the end of the road. "Is he there? I can't see. What am I gonna to do?" Thump thump thump goes her heart.

Maria keeps walking. As she gets to the end of this road, she looks around. "Am I lucky this time? I can't see him anywhere." Maria turns the corner. "MMMaaarriia, there you are you piece of crap! Come here!". Tears start rolling down her cheeks. She starts to run but her legs are weak with fear. She can hear the pound of his feet catching up to her. "Oh god, oh god!" All of sudden, she stops to an abrupt halt. Her neck hurts from a sudden jolt. Maria realizes that he grabbed the hood of her jacket. She turns around. Yes, it is the same torturous face she sees everyday on her way home.

"Maria, I keep telling you that you are not allowed to walk down my street. You are too ugly. You are a piece of crap! Did you hear me?" She couldn't say anything. Maria knew that if she said anything he would only get scarier. She looks down and sees a large tree branch in his hand. "You know what I am going to do with this? You guessed it. I am going to hit you with it!" Maria starts to cry so hard that she gasps for air. She tries to run.

Whhippp! "Ow! Don't that hurts" Maria says. "I know it hurts, that's the whole point!" the boy laughs. Whhhhaack! A sharp sting on her bum appears. Whhhhaackk! Maria starts screaming. She tries to get away but he is holding her arm. Out in the distance she hears "Stop it! Stop it right now!" Maria turns. Through the blurriness of her tears, she sees what appears to be an old woman with white hair. "You leave that girl alone!" the woman yells. The mean boy turns, runs down the road and yells out "See you tomorrow, loser!".

"Oh sweetheart! Are you okay" the woman asks. Maria blubbers "Now I am, thank you." She congers up any energy she had left to walk the rest of the way home. She walks up her driveway and thinks "How am I going to hide this , this time". She walks in the door of her safe home and hears her mom welcome her home. Maria is staring at the ground, hoping her mom does not recognize her red teary face. Her mother takes her hand and rests it softly on her cheek "What's wrong honey" Maria starts crying again, scolding herself "Darn it. Now I am going to have to explain."

Maria finishes her story and her mom's eyes have turned as black as a crow. Her mom gets this look whenever she is angry or upset. She described to her mom the sting she felt when he hit her a couple of times on her bum. Maria's mom asks her to turn around. "Oh dear! This is awful. Honey, he really hurt you. You are bleeding through your jeans. How about you take them off and we will clean you up."

Maria, now 35, is still sitting in her car in the parking lot of her work. She shakes her head and feels nauseous. Nauseous because of the feelings she recalls her memories from when she experienced bullying as a child, and nauseous because she wonders what kind of attitudes she will endure during her shift today. She is new to her unit and can count at least 6 times she, at her current age, has had to drive home looking through the familiar blurred vision when she cries.

Maria wonders why she continues to experience such negative and abusive behaviour. After all, she is an outgoing intelligent person and a beautiful woman. She has worked very hard to forget about the past and develop a sense of confidence one needs to function well as a professional. Regardless, even with her polite comments and happy demeanor she continues to deal with snide remarks, yelling, and verbal assaults. Maria thinks to herself "if I can just get through the next 9 months, the rest of my contract."

Over the past few years, Maria learned that such bullying behaviour is not acceptable. She works hard at improving her communication, and she asks for feedback from peers and colleagues when appropriate. Maria has often been recognized for her ability to work well with others, including co-workers and patients. During nursing school, she facilitated sessions on bullying at elementary and highschools. She felt particularly passionate with that clinical rotation, and helped children share and explore their experiences.

Now, she finds herself feeling similar to when she was the little girl harassed by the boy. Her heart is thumping, sweat beads appearing on her forehead, and she is nauseated at the thought of entering those doors across the parking lot. "Just one day at a time" she convinces herself.

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