Category Archives: injustice

Progress? Who knows….

Tonight I learned how to make Christmas cards with two friends of mine and about ten other women at our local library.

While checking out one of the card-making stations set up by the instructor, I recognized a woman carrying a cane who came in along with two other younger women.  She was the mother of one of the girls who, in junior high school, made my life a living hell for several months.

At the end of eighth grade and beginning of ninth grade, I was the main character in one of those two-against-one-best-friends-betray-a-weaker-friend-mean-girls-scenarios that you see portrayed in so many movies, TV shows, commercials and… cold-blooded crime shows.

Of course, since it is my story, there is so much more to it than that.  But for now I’d rather just write about tonight.

When I saw the mother walk in, I quickly assessed if her daughter was with her and I didn’t see her at first.  So I thought, good.

It turned out, however, that I was wrong.  As everyone seated themselves for the class and got comfortable, it turned out that indeed, the “evil one” was going to make Christmas cards, too.

It did not occur to me to leave, so we’ll call that progress.  And I did not have an anxiety attack, also progress.  I did decide to avoid being near her, which meant a certain amount of hyper-vigilance.  I’m not too sure how to grade that one.  Maybe it was just some good, old-fashioned self-care.

If I had never met this person before, and knew nothing about her, I’d be under the impression that she was a nice woman who was close to her mother and enjoyed some of the same things I do.  All that might even be true to a certain extent.  I mean, we were actually friends for a time way back when, so there must be something in common.

At any rate, I do know about her.  I know what she is capable of.  I know what I carry around with me to this day because of her and the other girl involved.

People like her are the reason that people like me leave their hometown and never come back.  I did leave for ten years but circumstances brought me back here and now it looks as if I am here to stay.

I actually had her as a customer once at the Terrible Job.  At the time I had no way to avoid waiting on her.  She seemed nervous and hyper and like she was trying to please me.  And the whole time I’m thinking, “Ha!  Your son is in prison.  You raised a violent criminal!  Why am I not surprised?  Your violence led to a second generation of violence.  Ha!”

I expected to see some sign of this tragedy in her face, but there was nothing there for me to see.  I also wanted to see some sign of sorrow or shame for what she did to me way back when.  But again, there was nothing to see.

No, people like her do not carry their own shame.  They carry no sense of responsibility for the effects of their actions on others.  Instead, they give their shame over to their victims.

Over forty years later and I’m still having to deal with such things.

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Filed under anxiety, art therapy, bullies, decisions, emotional health, enemies, first impressions, friends, growth, healing, history, injustice, peer pressure, progress, scapegoating, self-care, social phobia, Uncategorized

True Story!

In fifth grade, ecology was a big topic.  So that year, the downtown merchants association held a poster contest.

I was so excited.  My idea was to draw an example of road-making using recycled glass bottles.  It was something I had seen in one of the ecology films they showed us.

It was tricky artwork.  I had to draw a steam roller which was very difficult.  I planned to use colored cellophane for the broken glass in the blacktop.  And of course, there was a human figure sitting on the steam roller running the thing.

The girl drawing next to me admired my work but I was highly critical of it.  It wasn’t coming out as perfect as I wanted and I said I would probably draw something different for the contest.

She asked if she could copy my idea for her poster and I kind of scoffed.  Then she offered to split the prize with me if it won.  I didn’t really think it would win, but I agreed.  We made a deal.

She copied my work down to the very last detail.  It couldn’t have been more identical if she’d used tracing paper.

I went on to draw a very perfect and very ordinary picture of bottles being washed out in a sink.

Amazingly enough, when the prizes were announced, my “partner” had won second prize!  It was $5.00!  So, $2.50 for me!!  Not a huge prize, but woo hoo, it was money!!

When I noticed how proud and happy she was acting, as if the whole thing had been her idea alone, I reminded her that she had said we would split the prize if she won.  My expectation was that she would acknowledge our deal and let me know how I would get my money.

What she actually said was, “I did NOT!  You’re just JEALOUS!”

I wish I could go back in time just to see the expression on my face.  It must have been comical.

I did feel a little stupid as I realized what I had done to myself.  I guess I should have gotten it in writing!!  But I was not jealous and I was the opposite of a liar.  She was the liar.

So here we are in the year 2016.  How has each of us fared since grade five?

I am an unemployed civil servant who had a nervous breakdown and will likely never work again.

She is a nurse with a masters degree who was hired a few years ago to set up a brand new cancer center with all the decision-making powers to go with that job.  She hired a head-hunting agency who found this job for her.

On Facebook she likes to post heart-warming memes to boost morale.  She posts every time she gets a manicure or massage or goes on a cruise or meets someone famous.  She looks very happy and I imagine she is.

Maybe I’d be happy too if I didn’t have to worry about the impact I might be having on others.

We are both married, she for a second time, and have children and grandchildren.

I don’t want the same things she wants or has.  Except maybe for her supreme sense of self.

I can’t be the only person she has treated that way.  I think most people will take advantage of someone who doesn’t know how to take care of themselves.  They might even tell a little white lie to soothe away any tiny bit of guilt they might feel for taking advantage.  It appears she does far more good in this world than harm.

For me the most shocking thing about that story is that a ten-year-old girl was able to come up with such an ugly lie so quickly and naturally:  I did not, you’re just jealous.

At least she got $5.00 and her picture in the paper.  And I got the first of many, many life’s lessons.  And I still don’t know what to make of most of them.

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Filed under boundaries, decisions, dysfunction, friends, history, honesty, human nature, injustice, peer pressure, self-respect, Uncategorized

My Sub-conscious, She So Smart

The Terrible Job came up in conversation yesterday.  I handled it.  Pulse good, breathing steady, visualizations under control, rest of day like an average day in the life of someone recovering from clinical depression.

Then  this morning I woke up from a dream in which I tried like crazy to get a job back there at the Terrible Place.

It was going to be different this time.  A retiree who had been a friend and a former co-worker who had become an enemy both came up to me and said the new boss would re-hire me and give me anything I wanted.  I guess they were desperate for my magical skills or something.

The retiree said he would be there because he would also come back to work, and he was already wearing his uniform.

I was right in the middle of crashing a graduate-level photography class.  I was in over my head anyway knowledge- and skills-wise.  I thought, might as well get my old job back, making a living in the arts isn’t working out.

So I started racing around looking for “Bob”, the guy who wanted to re-hire me.

I kept trying to tell people, I don’t know if this will work.  I might have to pay back all the retirement money they refunded me.  I was mentally calculating what my paychecks would look like with all the deductions.  For example, I’d need new uniforms since I threw out all my old ones.

Bob kept being unavailable.  I could see him but he kept having to leave for meetings and such.  But I knew it would be okay because he wanted to hire me back.  He was a different boss from the old one.  He understood what I offered.  He must have since he was willing to give me anything I wanted.

What I wanted was to work in an easier office that wouldn’t leave me bone-tired by the end of each day.  That wouldn’t overwhelm me with responsibility.  That wouldn’t constantly change the Standard Operating Procedures simply for the sake of change or for the sake of someone else’s big, fat, stupid ego.  I knew exactly which office I wanted and since nobody else really wanted it, it would be perfect.

I never did connect with Bob.  The whole plan slipped through my fingers even though I had a couple allies and every reason to think the scheme would work out.

Ha!  How funny is that?  In real life none of this is possible.  No one wants to hire me back.  Certainly not on my own terms!  That one is extra funny.

And no matter how many times I turn it over in my mind, there was no saving the situation when I still worked there.  The wrong people were in charge then.  There were no allies at that time.  And I was completely drained of anything that a person needs in order to be successfully employed, let alone have a career on my own terms.

It is really over with and it hurts quite a lot.

It has been over three years now since I left the Terrible Job.  I’m still on the mend.  I am still not capable of employment.  The financial repercussions are huge and unlikely to go away.  The emotional repercussions are the hardest part of all of it.

It’s really very hard to accept this.  But I have to in order to be healthy and move on.

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Filed under depression, dreams, friends, grief, healing, honesty, human nature, injustice, Uncategorized, work

Triggers

I have come a long way in the past three years, just about, since I walked off the Terrible Job.  At that time I was a shadow of myself.  Clinical depression, anxiety, incredible work-related stress from a toxic job environment, PTSD, unresolved grief issues…. all that and more! left me in a very fragile condition.  The moment I walked out that door was the first moment of real self-care that I had ever attempted in my life.  And that is what I have been doing ever since.

Lately, I have been able to exercise a certain amount of detachment when it comes to what is going on with symptoms of my mental and emotional illnesses.

For example, this past week I learned that other people had been invited to events that I might have expected we would also be invited to.  However, we were not invited.  Both times it bothered me but for different reasons.  And one of the “slights” hurt a whole lot more than the other one, even though that one was not actually personal in nature and was completely understandable.

That’s how triggers work.  Crap from the past that was stuffed way, way down gets unexpectedly dredged up, and the emotions are just as painful now, even out of context, as they might have been back in the day.  If only there had been a safe way to express them at the time of the original hurt.  But there wasn’t a safe way or even a known way to express the emotions.  So someone like me will place them into something like suspended animation forever and just carry them around for years and years without realizing that those emotions are just biding their time.  In an unguarded moment, they come back to life and once again you have to decide what to do with them.

Decisions about emotions sounds strange.  But that is what I did subconsciously in the past and that is what I must now do deliberately in the present.  In the past I had to stuff things down because I was overwhelmed and because I was mainly on my own to figure out these things in the trenches.  It was a way to go.  I don’t have to stuff things down now.  I have space to work in and I even have some skills.  These skills are very new but they are there.

This detachment that I am able to feel these days is a very useful skill for now.  It allowed me to sit with some very, very uncomfortable feelings for a couple of days.  Then I felt able to look at the situation and see other possible scenarios to explain why we were left out.  I acknowledged that maybe we were actually left out because nothing had actually been planned ahead of time.  Other personalities were thrown into the mix and nothing could be done about it at the last minute.

Once I got that far, I was able to talk about what happened.  That was not very satisfying but it was another chance to organize my ideas about being left out.

A day or two after that, I wrote out what happened and how it made me feel.  That was hard because I still want to judge myself.  There is still that voice which wants to tell me, you are not worthy of being included therefore you are foolish to be hurt when you’re not included.  Not a good or accurate message at all but that voice is so persistant!!!

After I wrote it all out, I felt quite a bit better the next day.  A couple days later we got an unexpected invitation from the same source and there it was:  the physical, visible, undeniable proof that my voice is a liar.  We are worthy, we are loved, we mean something, we matter.

What an awful lot of hard work it is to heal and grow in spite of the burden of mental and emotional illness.  This is why it is a priority for me.  It is very hard work and I do not have the stamina to do this while also working and being out there in the world at the level I used to be able to be.

As frustrating as it is to be working on the triggers, I am seeing progress.  I used to just get lost in my stronger emotions.  Now  I am seeing a fairly clear way through them, which gives me reason to hope.

 

 

 

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Filed under anxiety, boundaries, decision making, decisions, depression, dysfunction, emotional health, family, friends, getting along, grief, growth, healing, history, human nature, injustice, planning, pressure, progress, PTSD, self-care, Uncategorized

The Slow Climb

One of my friends posted a job listing on Facebook so I clicked on it out of curiosity.  I had been led to believe that this particular job (with the state) was political and that in this part of the state you need to be a Republican in order to be hired.

I am not a Republican so I always figured that particular job was “out of the question” for me.  I clicked on the link just so I could see if there was a way to tell from the application that you have to be a Republican.  There isn’t anything obviously political about it.  I’m sure they have their ways, though, if they want it to be political.

The application was fairly short.  They mainly want the last five years of job history plus whatever other jobs you have had that would qualify you to work there.  And… have you EVER been fired OR quit a job before you could be fired.

I was fired once when I was 20.  It was quite traumatic at the time.  It was also traumatic having to explain it on subsequent job applications.  I still got the jobs, though.  I even received unemployment benefits after the firing because their investigation showed that my firing was unjust.

That was thirty-four years ago!!  I don’t think about it very much any more.  Maybe if I was “normal”, I wouldn’t have thought about it in years and years and might have even forgotten the whole episode.

Some people would probably chide me for being unhappy about not being normal.  But that has been what I have consistently wanted my whole life!

It’s hard not fitting in.  It’s hard having to invent yourself and your routine… every single hour of every single day.  It’s very hard to attract odd kinds of attention from strangers.  I just don’t think “normal” is all that bad.

I’m not going to fill out the application at this time.  I’m obviously still “triggerable” which means I’m still not out of the depression/anxiety/PTSD woods yet.  I can still picture myself at that job I was fired from.  Still know the names of the people involved.  Still can see the events of the day like it is happening right now.

There is something different, though.  Now I can see how I got into that situation.  I can recognize that a healthy me would not have even worked there to begin with.  A healthy me would not have worked at my last job to begin with either!

The difference now is that I can recognize what a healthy me would be.  That’s a big deal!  It is hard-won knowledge.  It is measurable progress.  I don’t know what it will get me at this stage of the game.  But I’ll take this seemingly small gain.  It actually gives me something to work with.  It might be the difference between “forward” and “stuck”.

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Filed under anxiety, boundaries, bullies, decision making, emotional health, getting along, grief, healing, injustice, progress, PTSD, self-care, self-respect, Uncategorized, work

Not How I Remember It

We had a quiet Easter this year. It was just my husband and me. I heated up some ham steaks, baked cheesy scalloped potatoes and scavenged together a green salad for our dinner. Dessert was Easter chocolate from our local landmark candy store. Then we went to the county park and walked about a mile or so along a cold, snowy road and breathed in the awesome fresh air.

As a result of posting a picture of this walk to Facebook, a former neighborhood playmate “introduced” himself to my husband and mentioned in a post that nobody messed with the “Pearl St. Gang” in those days, etc.

He clearly has fond memories of the “gang” and our growing up days.

I… remember it slightly differently. Or maybe I just put a different emphasis on certain memories. I know for sure that I did not understand the workings of the “gang”.

Most of my summers, from about 1967 to 1973, were spent at the playground across the street from my house participating in the Parks Program with crafts, games, softball, etc.

We did that every year until we moved two streets away in 1974. My sister and I rode our bikes to the park at the beginning of July that year only to be greeted at the park entrance by two boys waiting for us on their bikes. They had apparently been appointed to wait for us to get there and inform us that we were no longer welcome to participate in the Parks Program.

It’s kind of funny now to recall my sister freaking out and screaming at them about how “unjust” it was as we turned around and allowed ourselves to be chased off our old street. She may have even raised a fist to them to emphasize her point.

I remember being torn between my embarrassment at my sister’s behavior (as usual) and the pain of this terrible rejection. Those two boys broke my heart actually. Imagine someone thinking ahead of time to ban us from the park and planning to get there early enough to greet us with a “go home, you are not welcome here anymore” speech!

This was not an isolated incident by any means. For a middle class, WASP-y neighborhood, it was a tough block to grow up on.

Forty years later and I have lots more insights and memories and knowledge to draw from in order to understand why it had to be as tough as it was growing up there. One family had an abusive, alcoholic father, one family lost a baby, one family had sexual abuse going on, two families lost fathers to suicide, one family lost a mother to illness, several families had lots of kids and I imagine the parents might have been overwhelmed. These are just a few examples of the “stuff” I remember and have learned in order to help myself try to understand what was going on back then.

I mean, there was so much fighting and meanness among these kids! And for some reason, I kept going back for more. I kept trying to “make it work” for all the years we lived on that block. I suppose there was enough “good” for me to be ever hopeful about fitting in. Until the day we got banned, that is.

There were fun times growing up there and I do remember them. But the way the story ended took the shine off those memories for me.

There was less meanness once high school rolled around. But by then, it was too late. I had gotten on a different path and did not get to finish the growing up process with the neighborhood “gang”. Perhaps I just left at a very awkward time in the life of the old neighborhood. Who knows.

I have to admit, though, that it was entirely true: Nobody ever did mess around with the “Pearl St. Gang”!

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Filed under bullies, depression, dysfunction, getting along, injustice, peer pressure, scapegoating