Recovering from sustained, targeted workplace bullying is hard enough. But discovering a sense of renewal in the aftermath can be even more of a challenge. Still, people can and do reach that higher level.
For example, educator and school counselor Kim Werner recently posted this to her Facebook page, which I reprint in full, with her permission and my thanks:
Three years later after the abuse, the sun is fully shining.
Eagerness. Enthusiasm. I awoke with both today. I haven’t always. Since 2008, I’ve often gotten up with fretfulness, bitterness, and blame. I’ve gotten up worried about life in general; its unfairness: cat puke on the patio for example; homework not done, clothes not laundered….and bullying bosses to face. I didn’t understand that my approach to life’s other “stuff” was exacerbated by the daily–Monday through Friday–worry of “what-will-happen-today?” at my school.
My former principal targeted me for bullying– pure and simple. But it’s not his bullying about which I write today, for I have spent hours and hours dissecting my horror for myself and for you. It’s the effects of his bullying on the rest of my life–and the realization now, three years later–of the effect his disgusting behavior would have had on me now in 2014 had I not taken a medical leave then. Had I not reported his abuse. Had I stayed.
So what is it like to get up in the morning and know you stand no chance of pleasing your boss? Know that you are considered a problem? Know that he does not work alone? Know that some of your co-workers take great delight in his daily torture of you? Know that others folded long before he “found you” and there will be no support from them? Know your health and your career are in danger?
What is the rest of your life like? How does this kind of injustice at your job affect your family? Your marriage? Your joy? Your happiness? For workplace bullying is not something that turns on and off like a faucet. It doesn’t disappear at 3:00 p.m. as you walk to your car in the school’s parking lot. Oh no. There is no respite for a target of abuse. Breath is always short, for you are always on guard. Your heart rapidly beats and flutters for he is always waiting around the next corner of your mind. He will surprise you. He’ll jump out of a brain cell as you are cooking dinner and helping with homework. He’ll cackle and laugh in your head–you can see over and over the spittle flying from his mouth as he chortles–as you carefully apply makeup. Oh if only you could hide behind that mascara and that blush! But no.
Workplace bullying, like water torture, drip-drip-drips into the most silent and still times of your life. Workplace bullying floods your mind and your heart at night with worry. Sometimes you feel that you are drowning; that your head is barely above the water line. It’s exhausting, yet you cannot sleep for, as I’ve just written, when you lie down the flood gates open.
“Just do what he says and you will be okay,” his friend, the other school counselor with whom he rode to work told me when I first started at that school. Perhaps it was her frown and furrowed brow–a shake of her well coiffed head–as she sat in the passenger’s seat of his vehicle and discussed her “concerns” about me that generated his “we have to talk; there have been complaints” menace.
Had I, in 2008, 2009,and 2010, done “what he said” I would not, however, be okay. Doing “what he said” would not have protected me. I would not have been okay. I would not have been okay because doing “what he said” meant lying and cheating and participating in things so ugly and awful–testimonies against fellow teachers and documenting things never done–that, although I am not such a “goodie-two-shoes,” I simply could not do it.
Not doing “what he said” was the most difficult professional thing I have ever done.
So, it’s only now, three years later–awakening with enthusiasm and eagerness–in spite of cat puke and clothes not laundered–that I feel fully “okay”; more than okay–back to my former self–joyous and happy.
Add grateful, then, to my “wake up” virtues. They’ve been a long time returning.
And don’t forget to check out her website, A Piece Full World, dedicated to fighting workplace bullying in K-12 educational settings. You also can contact her via the website.
Workplace bullying: Recognition, response, recovery, renewal (2013)
Deb Caldieri, supporter of school bullying victim Phoebe Prince, faces severe challenges today (2013)
Legal and policy challenges facing public school teachers: A brief report from Memphis (2012)
Kudos to the writer for rising above the bullying and getting her life back. I can relate to every word.
Thank you so much for posting your story. A Pieceful World has been a place of refuge for me as writers share their stories of abuse in our schools. I have tried to post something on the site and always get into rambling about all the things that happen and can not get it written out as articulately as you have done. I basically went through hell and everything in my life changed. I sued the school district on 7 counts of illegal actions against me, but I still have PTSD and have trouble with daily social activities. I pray that someday teachers will be able to rise above these “Good ‘Ol Boy” administrators who can’t seem to do their jobs other than harass women. I pray for the women who are in situations now where their pensions are affected if they quit. Teaching is not something that you can easily transfer years of service to another district or state. Being a teacher is hard work and it is my prayer that this harassment will stop because more “teeth” will be put into the laws to protect teachers.