Farewell 2018, Hello 2019

anniversary-blast-bright-1573724

It’s the last day of 2018 and I’m awake early, traumatised from my PTSD flashback last night and the subsequent nighmares.  My amazing human being had innocently put on a different show (because it was light and fun) after I had said what show I wanted, and I had spiraled into a panic attack and minor meltdown.  It was one of the first instances where I’ve spoken up and asked for the input to stop, and explained that I’m having a panic attack.

My amazing human being immediately stopped the show, grabbed my hand, and guided my other hand to my cat and stood with me until I was more settled, then provided chocolate.  Unquestioning support.

For me, 2018 has been a year of self discovery, self expression, and healing.  It has been hard, it has been upsetting, in some instances it has been straight up traumatising, but I come out the other end of 2018 a calmer, more balanced, and possibly even more confident person than I began 2018.

I must absolutely credit this back to my phenomenal friends, the closest of which have also (sadly) gone through narcissistic abuse, and who have been open and loving and who have shown me how to be open and compassionate with regards to my own mental health issues.  In one of my oldest friends I have found a role model for how to live with chronic illness, how to go through life unapologetic and dignified with disability, and how to allow yourself to be how and who you are.

In my amazing human being I have unquestioning support and consideration, and unending laughter.  He enables me in all things and throws his enthusiasm behind me, regardless of what direction I take.  He is constantly thinking of ways to make life easier and better, and reminds me that yes, I can do things the easier way, I don’t have to just suck it up and do it the hard way.

Yes, this year has been a hard one, but it has been a good one.  I am still glad to see it go, and look forward to what 2019 brings.

Workplace Bullying

anger-angry-annoyed-987585

Specific words and responses in the past week have led me to understand that I am currently the target of an active bullying campaign from a colleague, and have been since I joined.

From the very beginning she made it clear through her body language, dismissive attitude, word usage and tone of voice that I am Not Welcome and she Does Not Like Me.  Which is fine, I’m quite happy to leave her be and do my own thing and not unnecessarily interact with her so she doesn’t get annoyed and I don’t get snapped at.  This is a simple solution.  I know I’m not everyone’s cuppa tea and I’m happy to leave people be.

Last week she commented in a meeting to the effect of “you’re not doing your job”, a comment she never would have made had she not been confident she would be backed up.  And, unsurprisingly, she was – three of my other colleagues jumped in with very pointed comments on the topic at hand directed solely at me, in a manner that made me feel very attacked (although I didn’t quite understand until after the fact).  She was elated after that display.  Positively beaming.  It made me realise a few things.

First, that I wasn’t going to let this slide.  Passive bullying, being an ass to me directly, not a problem.  I can just avoid that person and we’ll all go on our happy way, but this was active.  She was seeking people out and telling them I wasn’t able to do my job.  She was cultivating this belief in my incompetence among other colleagues.  No, this I will not tolerate.

Secondly, just how much the stress of bullying has affected my mental and physical health!

I’ve always had a peculiar disconnect between my mind and my body.  Prior to a few years ago, I just didn’t think, I didn’t contemplate, I didn’t look within and analyse my own thoughts, feelings, or behaviours.  I just did, and bottled it all up.  Super healthy, right?

Now I take the time to figure out what my body and mind are telling me, and everything is ringing stress bells.  My gastrointestinal tract became deeply upset.  My mind couldn’t settle.  I was restless and antsy.  My heart rate was high.  I had difficulties getting to sleep, maintaining a restful sleep, and staying asleep.  I genuinely did not think I would be this affected by bullying in the workplace, and yet here I am, my anxiety still twisting in my gut.

I’ve lodged a complaint, and I’ll pursue this.  I think I’ll let the higher ups handle it – I don’t think it will be good for my health to interact with her myself in any way, especially as I am very confident she will simply gaslight me and I will end up getting nowhere.  I’m only there for a couple more months, and if I really need to, I will leave.  Although that’d have to be pretty dire for me to leave, I often have a hard time doing what’s best for myself when it comes to work.

But I’ve got to look after my health first.

I Am Allowed To Be Burnt Out

burnt-close-up-macro-321550

I am allowed to be burnt out.

For me, this is a radical idea.  The admitting and acceptance of the state of being burnt out, and actually giving myself permission to be burnt out.  To be honest, I think I’ve been burnt out for years, and it finally caught up with me last year.

I am autistic.  From a very early age I was conditioned against expressing that and pressured into appearing neurotypical.  I have, up until this year, put on a facade of a successful, bubbly, vivacious and sociable business woman.  Mostly this appearance was abused into me by It, but it was also expected of me from all of my previous roles.

I have overworked and over performed in every single role I have undertaken.  I would typically arrive at 8am and leave anywhere between 6 and 8pm, having worked through all of my breaks and most of my lunch, always at break-neck speed, because there was so much work to do.  I worked myself ragged, and I went back in and did it all again the next day, because that’s just what you do.  I’ve done this in every role until I moved to my current city, so that’s a good decade or so.

Throughout most of that decade, I was also with It.  The narcissist.  The ending came about because It was becoming desperate, and eventually manipulated Itself into the position of ‘either you come with me or I go alone’.  I was in a position where I was actively pursuing the career I wanted, and I wasn’t prepared to jeopardize the career I had been working for years to be able to pursue, and I was angry that he would ask that of me while putting his own career first (always first).  So I said no.

Then I went straight back to work the next day.  And continued working, and overworking, and not thinking about anything, and putting on the facade of being a lively, successful young businesswoman.

It’s all caught up with me and there is no escaping the exhaustion that I have denied for so long.  I ignored my body at every turn.  When it screamed ‘rest’ I said ‘harden up’ and went to work.  When it said ‘no more, go home’ I said ‘nope, we’ve still got to finish this document pack’ and kept going.  And when I say I worked fast, I mean I worked bloody fast.  I put out more work in one day than most would in three.  My brain was constantly on the go planning my next move, identifying the path to take to complete the required tasks in the shortest amount of time, and in the right priority order.

Oh, and through most of that I was working a second job on weekends and doing one paper a semester at university.

So yeah, I’m allowed to be burnt out now.  I sound defensive, and that’s because I am, because I expect to be told ‘no, you’re not allowed to be burnt out, harden up and keep on going’, because that’s what I’ve basically been told my entire life in various ways.  Stiff upper lip.  Carry on.  That kind of claptrap.  Telling myself I’m allowed to be burnt out is one thing, but taking a stand and saying ‘I AM ALLOWED TO BE BURNT OUT’ to the world is an entirely different kettle of fish.

Because despite the abuse I’ve been through, despite feeling as though I’m brittle and nothing but bone and sinew, despite almost falling asleep at work on numerous occasions because I am so exhausted, I … I gaslight myself.  It’s so ingrained in me, I gaslight myself.  It has been reinforced so thoroughly in my life that I am not important, what I feel is not important, what I want to do is not important, what I don’t want to do is not important, that I can’t possibly imagine that what I’ve been through is … something.  That it’s actually not good, that I’ve been impacted by it and that feeling is valid and true and reasonable.

It’s a horrific mindset, but I’m battling it.  Slowly but surely.  Because I deserve to not be burnt out.

PTSD – Re-experiencing The Trauma

dark-daylight-eerie-1165982

Yesterday, when I got back from my evening rounds, I saw a video still on my amazing human’s PC screen.  It was a paused youtube video, perfectly innocuous.  It was of two men.

One of them looked like It.

My stomach clenched and my mind went numb.  I avoided my gaze.  But it was like a trainwreck, my eyes were drawn back to It over and over again – the image was so horrifically like It that I went into full shut down (which looks like nothing more than I’m a bit more dazed than usual).  My mind blanked it.

I distracted myself and eventually fell asleep on the couch.  Later on, when my amazing human was ready to go to bed, he woke me and we went.  All was well.  We tucked in  and fell asleep.

Then the nightmares started.  It was there, in them, in my old home.  I was dealing with Its old cars.  The exacts of the dream are hazy now, I just remember keeping my amazing human hidden from It, It must never know, never meet my amazing human.  Play nice, play polite, simper, do all the things I used to do.  Scrape and bow, scrape and bow, do everything he asks, do everything he says, everything is okay, hide it all, hide my new life, don’t let him know…

It’s a mixture of reliving the abuse he visited on me and the fear of him … not ‘coming back’ but being near me, encroaching on my life that I have struggled and worked so fucking hard to build, and the positive and deep relationships I’ve built with my friends and family, and my amazing human being.

I’ve been feeling … not quite right all day.  The nightmare has been on my mind a lot.  I’ve been running it around my head, trying to make sense of it all, but all it seems to be doing is making me more out of sorts.  I’m hoping this is enough to get it out, and I can now rest, relax, and sleep a bit better tonight.  Ideally without It and the nightmares.

Processing Trauma In Dreams

dream-filter-infrared-2222

Dreams have long been touted as insights into your deep psyche, with a myriad of sites and experts claiming they can interpret your dreams and tell you … well, what you’re thinking, how your life is panning, and possibly even your future.

And it’s not all bollocks.

I’ll often find myself dreaming of spiders when I’m overly stressed.  Or that my car’s brakes don’t fully work – they sometimes slow the car down but never quite stop it, and sometimes they just don’t work at all – when I’m feeling like life has swept me up and I can’t slow down.

Last night I had a series of dreams.  There were five distinct ones.

In the first, I was loved and cherished, and I improved people’s lives by going full aspie on a water spirit who had people in its thrall (it’s not like there was a negative impact on them, just that they’d waste a lot of time in its thrall splashing around in its waters because it wanted the company).  It was so flattered that I was taking an unreasonably intense interest in what it was doing and what it was that it stopped the thrall and we sat and talked for hours and it realised it liked conversation more than splashy company.

The second one involved a frisbee, a stolen prototype helicopter, monster robots and a toy world warehouse.  There was a lot of screaming from me, and a lot of very creative piloting (of the suddenly small enough to fit between toy boxes and through open-backed shelving helicopter).

The third involved bears.  I couldn’t get the door shut and locked, and there were bears.  I finally got the door shut and locked properly (it required a huge shove and a perfectly timed key turn), then ran around making sure all the windows and doors were locked and the blinds were pulled so they couldn’t see in.  This was actually related to a conversation about Alaska and Canada and the bears and the fact that I won’t be able to go tramping out there without a big fuckoff gun because bears.

The fourth and fifth … well I’m not entirely sure which order they came in.  One involved It.  I’m starting to realise that a lot of Its behaviour, especially around sex, was abusive.  In this dream I told It he could take his blue balls and wank off, I wasn’t responsible for it.

The other … the other I’ve just realised is me speaking back about my sexual abuse to my abuser.  It and Thing (as that person will now be known) are two different people.  Very similar people, but definitely two different ones.  They were, in fact, best friends.  They suited each other well.  Both were self absorbed, showed little empathy for others, and were largely sexist.  They joked, they said they were joking, but their actions always said otherwise.

Mind you, I never realised this until this year.

So this part of my dream.  This final, crucial part of my dream.  I was at work.  I wasn’t at my current work, I was somewhere else … not entirely sure where, but I was in an office and I was working.  There was a loud male colleague over the other way, a real jokester, and he’d leer at me.  I got up to do some work at one of the benches.  He got up and came past and stood behind me as he reached for the printing next to me and ground his crotch against me.

This is what Thing did.  At parties we had at our house, he would get drunk and then pester me to give me a massage because he “gives great massages” and later because I “loved his massages”.  I’d already been conditioned by It to agree, to do what I was asked to do, to do what I was told and to not make a scene.  I’d inevitably agree.  We’d then go to the room I shared with It, I would lie face down on the bed, he’d insist I take my top off and try to convince me to take my bra off (that one never worked), and he’d give me a massage.  The first few were actually really great massages.  It was only later that he started to press his erection (in pants) against my ass and rub while giving me a massage.  I would wait a few minutes (so as not to be rude, how laughable) and then say ‘that’s great, thanks Thing’, and I’d put my top back on and we’d go.  Much later, he’d grab me by the waist during parties and sit me on his lap and grind his erection against my ass.  I’d escape pretty quickly then.

He breathed heavily.  I still panic when there is a male heavy breather around.

So back to the dream.  This ‘colleague’ ground his crotch against my arse and then sauntered back to his desk with his printing.  I was furious.  I held the end of the bench, then I went and sat down, and then I thought, no, I’m going to tell him that what he did was inappropriate and if he did anything similar again I would report him for sexual assault and pursue him to the full extent of the law.

So I did.  I got up and I went over there and I leaned on his desk and he smirked.  I told him that what he did was unacceptable and if he did anything similar, I would report him for sexual assault to HR, and then I would file charges against him.  And he started laughing and making light of it and started turning his chair away from me to laugh with his other colleagues and make a big joke of it.  So I grabbed the back of his chair and spun him around to face me fully, and told him in a much louder voice (which always carries in an open plan office) that he did not get to laugh this off, or make light of it.  That grinding his dick against my arse was sexual assault, and I would pursue him to the fullest extent of the law, and I would make sure he was locked up.  That what he did was serious and absolutely inappropriate to do to anyone.

His little beady eyes glared up at me as I woke up after delivering my grand and impassioned speech.

It’s been on my mind all day.  I’ve been turning it over and over again, trying to understand what it was.  It was only this evening that I realised that dream was me confronting Thing and not allowing him to dismiss his actions, to dismiss his impact on me, to minimise what he did or make light of it.

Once It is no longer a part of my life and I am fully in the clear of It, I will no longer have to pretend to like Thing should I ever see him again at mutual friend functions.  I will be able let mutual friends know that Thing and It have traumatised me and abused me – probably not the details, but I can let them know in no uncertain terms that these two creatures have seriously harmed me.  I won’t have to pretend.  About any of it.