A colleague discloses….what would you do?

(a repost )

Today I spent time contemplating some of my actions and behaviours in the workplace a few years ago.  I never told anyone about my abuse and held on to the secret for over 40 years.  Carrying that secret and suffering through more abuse and self destructive behaviours certainly took its toll.  It impacted other people as well as myself.  How could it not?  I will not detail the harmful things I did to myself but they were significant and lasted a very, very long time.

One of the things I was most proud of was the day I left an abusive marriage and began to carve out a healthy life for myself and my sons.   One day I was the corporate wife of an executive, member of a prestigious private club and the next day I was standing in line to get legal aid.  From soirees with the rich and famous  to getting my sons’ snowsuits from a social agency. It was one of the happiest times of my life even though I had no car, a part time job and no support.  I was FREE and I was creating the life I wanted for my sons….and myself.  Long story short – I went from virtually nothing to self supporting with a good job in one year.

Life went on.  I remarried and was blessed with twin girls.  With no formal education but a genius IQ and a TON of streetsmarts, I decided to work in the hightech industry which was booming at the time.  I needed to generate a good income and I have always really enjoyed working.  There were some amazing years.  I moved up the ladder quickly and eventually found myself in the perfect job.  I was so happy.  I was told and could see that I was an inspiration to others.  I was so passionate and was the person that others’ reached out to for help.  I LOVED helping them…guiding them…going out of my way to put a smile on others’ faces.  And then….the world crashed in around me.

My father died in September of 2004.  He was only 70 years old and I had bought him a plane ticket to come visit in November.    We had only recently begun to  reconcile decades of hurt from his decision to move to New Zealand when I was only 13. I was SO looking forward to his visit.  His sudden and unexpected death was too much for me to bear at that time.  Other things were going on in my life at that time….a sick child, a new boss and a stressful job.  I hit the wall.  I did my best but I felt my world was falling apart all around me.  I struggled to stay upright and continued to push through but it was obvious that I was not well.

In the fall of 2005 I decided to get help.  I knew that this was bigger than me.  Where the biggest change came was in the workplace.  I went from being a competent and cheerful employee who was respected and considerate of others to a withdrawn and nasty person.  I could not handle my boss…I lashed out at people…I got sucked into the negative stuff.  I did not know which way was up.  I was wounded, confused and isolating.  I was starting to hurt myself again and it got to the point where I considered suicide.   The death of my father had opened up the floodgates and I was getting sucked into a downward spiral. (It is important to note here that my father was not my abuser.)

December of 2005, at the age of 48….I finally told someone about the abuse.  That admission was the beginning of the healing journey.

Today I am thinking about my behaviour in the workplace from the fall of 2004 til 2006.  I feel such sorrrow and remorse for my self centredness and actions.  I take responsibility for those actions and now forgive myself for how I behaved.  There are some who will probably never understand or want to forgive me and I have to accept that.  I am sure it was difficult for them as I went just a little bit crazy at times…crying and disclosing and talking about it in the workplace.  That was a huge mistake. I was out of control.  It was an unfair burden on them and they did not know what to do.  If only I had felt supported by the organization…if only someone had gently led me to help.  But how could they?  They did not know what to do.

One of the things I want to do with Voice Found is to help others to understand the fallout from childhood sexual abuse.  Today I am focused on my experience in the workplace and so I will ask this of you.  If you notice a significant change in behaviour in a colleague, stop and consider what might be the cause.  If they are disclosing, help them to do it appropriately with a professional.  Lead them to the help.   Think about this…1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.  Someone you work with is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.  Someone you work with may be carrying this secret and someday it just MAY come bursting forth.   What will YOU do if they disclose this to you?

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One thought on “A colleague discloses….what would you do?

  1. Today, I would share with them that I am an incest survivor. I would tell them to seek counseling or therapy (not sure exactly what the difference is). Not immediately but, I would tell them to start taking to their inner child and to start doing things to learn to love themselves. I would tell them that I am a good listener. I would warn them that not everybody needs to know their story, especially at work. I would tell them that working through their hurt and anger is well worth the experience. Joy does wait on the other side. I would suggest that they write about what is going on and what they are feeling.

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