ARE YOU BEING BULLIED?

I’ve been thinking about the topic of bullying for a while now since it came to a head in my life this past month. I hadn’t actually thought about the bullying I had been experiencing until I began reading more articles and realized that I had been a textbook case victim of bullies since I was child. As a young child, I didn’t have the comprehension to understand what was happening, I just knew it hurt and made me cry. But if I had learned some basic principles as a teenager or young adult, been told of my worth and that I deserved respect, I may have been spared from a lot of grief.


My experience with bullies has been lifelong, and it stops NOW. I’ve always been “the nice girl”, the “quiet shy one”, and rarely spoke up for myself. If you are going through what feels like an uncomfortable situation and think you may be being bullied – whether at school, work or home, I want to encourage you to break the cycle and speak out. No one deserves to be a victim-and you’re not a doormat!

BULLYING CAN BE IDENTIFIED BY ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:
Typical or Aggressive Bullying:
*Repeated aggressive physical behavior (Pushing, kicking, slapping, shoving, punching, pinching, etc.) directed at another to take away one’s power and gain control over another.

Verbal Bullying:
*Using negative words as insults, unwanted teasing, putdowns, name-calling, and belittling others for the way they look, act, or behave to take away their power. This unfortunately happens to many special needs children.

Relational or Emotional Bullying:
*This type tends to begin slowly and begins to escalate as a type of manipulation over another person, and increases over time to a controlling and aggressive type of behavior, or can go the opposite direction and the victim may be suddenly ignored, excluded and intimidated by a person(s) or group. This happens in every area of life; home, school, relationships and the workplace, and may be harder to identify.

Sexual Bullying:
*This type of behavior may start with small things like winks or gestures, and then advance to name calling (hottie, slut, tramp, whore etc.), vulgar and crude gestures, unwanted touching, coarse comments on a girl’s looks or sexual development, and even sexting. Children who are victims of pedophiles may be subjected to the their sick manipulation and control as they are being abused. Kids at school can be brutally cruel, and name calling can destroy reputations and push young people over the edge.

Cyber Bullying:
*The age of the internet and cell phones have given bullies a whole new platform for attacking their victims without even having to look at them. Cell phones can receive threats or vulgar photos, images may be posted online for the world to see, and more people are being affected by the different tactics of bullies in this realm, and it can happen to anyone at anytime.


I became a nurse in my late 30’s, and I have loved being a nurse since the beginning. I tend to have a quiet voice, a calm and easygoing spirit, and I was able to connect with my patient population on a wonderfully intimate and helpful level…because they knew that I REALLY cared about them and wanted to help them in anyway I could. What I didn’t know back then was that quiet, nice people get shafted a lot, typically because we don’t like to make waves or like confrontation. Big mistake.


After being at the hospital I’d worked at for 14 wonderful years, a new nurse manager was hired in from another hospital, and she was a newer kind of bully, the kind who plasters a mask over their real face, and leads you to believe that you can trust them and confide in them. Then when your back is turned and you least expect it, the knife is plunged in – and you don’t know what hit you until you turn around to face a stranger you didn’t actually know. This was the beginning of a difficult life lesson for me about human nature and manipulative and evil people, and was the end of my trust in people.

My last experience in dealing with bullies transpired while working for a group of surgeons. It started out not long after I was hired, but I didn’t realize the real damage it had done until I left. No how positive or kind I was, it was like walking around landmines everyday. I have actually found that I have many symptoms similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, stemming from nearly 3 years of dealing with dishonest, evil people and toxic work environments and the craziness in my personal life. I drew the short straw, and was assigned to work with the meanest surgeon in the practice. He had this look of something like constipation on his face all the time, and he could never make his mind up-and when he did he would change it 3 more times. His insults and harsh attitude were expected, and he was a cruel and nasty person when I had to call critical test results or requests from patients to him that he didn’t like. He made me so uncomfortable with his behavior that I began to feel physically ill daily and as though I would hurl before I walked in the door each day at work, and headaches began coming daily. My blood pressure was through the roof at the end of a day. I knew I could no longer deal with him after a phone conversation with him one Friday afternoon. After the brief conversation with him where he had yelled at me again…I stated that I wanted to castrate him and forcefully place his crowned jewels down his throat with no sedation. I was done in.


IMPORTANT ADVICE: DOCUMENT & JOURNAL EVERYTHING
If I had it to do again, I realize now that if I had kept a work journal and documented every single thing that had happened at my jobs, all the things that were said to me, lies that were told to or about me, insults and names hurled at me, and if I’d had a complete and thorough collection of documentation with dates, times, and examples that painted a vivid picture of what had been occurring, both outcomes would have been much better and most likely resolved in my favor. But I had a misguided sense of trust, and I now I’m wise enough to have little to no trust in people.

If you are dealing with anything like what I’ve described, you may want to begin documenting about each work day when something occurs that you suspect is a form of bullying (including sexual harassment or any type of abuse), including what was said and by who, any actions that took place, date and times, and anyone who may have been present. After awhile you may be surprised at the collection of documentation you will have. If you choose to take action, your odds of winning a case against your bully will multiply greatly with excellent documentation. Think WORD PICTURES. Begin your quest to stop the bullying by speaking with your immediate manager (unless they are the bully), and if you don’t get satisfaction with them, go up the chain of command until you do get it.


EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS TO WATCH FOR
When you continually are living or working in a toxic environment, it will eventually begin to affect you emotionally, physically and mentally. You could be at risk of developing depression or anxiety issues, or even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder if it’s severe enough. Some symptoms of PTSD include: anxiety, nightmares, avoidance of others, loss of memory, feelings of detachment or numbness, insomnia, anger and/or outbursts, irritability, difficulty concentrating, depression, and even drug or alcohol addiction. PTSD usually manifests after a traumatic event such as negative war experience, being raped, being mugged or robbed, severe physical harm (including domestic violence), or any traumatic event that triggers the above symptoms, and may be suspected if symptoms lasted longer than a few months. It is imperative that you get treatment right away and moved into a more positive and stable environment where you can heal. Nothing is worth losing yourself or dying for.

ACCEPT THINGS FOR WHAT THEY ARE AND MOVE ON IF NECESSARY
When all is said and done, at the end of the day you must be happy with your decisions, your job (or lack of one), and have peace with the outcome. You may not win every battle, but you may win the war. I’m telling you from experience, DON’T LIVE A LIFE OF REGRETS! If things go your way – celebrate! You’ve achieved a victory that will help pave a more positive path for the next generation that comes along! If you don’t prevail, then you have an experience that will give you the knowledge that you did what was right, you stood up for your integrity as a human being – and that’s something to be proud about. Never be a doormat for anyone.


REMEMBER: YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL, WORTHY AND VALUABLE
Above all, live your life in a way that you will have no regrets, and in such a way that when you look back at your life at the end – you will be filled with the peace that passes understanding that you made a difference in the world and gave it your all. I challenge you to examine your life, if you’re happy, and ask yourself if there are things going on that need to stop. Never have to regret letting someone bully you or take your power away. Stand up for yourself, respectfully tell them you don’t appreciate their actions, nor will no longer accept those actions, and if they refuse to change and the system supports them, move on; if they support you-stay and work it out. Your inner beauty, your soul, and your heart are not worth the damage that evil people can cause. Be true to yourself, and live with no regrets!

My New Winter Project: An Indoor Herbal/Healing Garden

I’ve decided that I need a healthy project to keep positive things going around in my brain, and one of my favorite pastimes is going to the garden centers, and spending hours roaming through them and taking in all the varieties of colorful flowers, herbs, trees, succulents…I love it all! It is the one thing my 17 yr old Katey and I have in common – our love of plants. I’ve always had houseplants in my home in abundance, but herbs?

I was in Hobby Lobby with my granddaughter Ava, and we were just going to pick up a few nick nacks for something to do over the weekend. I happened to spot this great wooden – thing – and had one of those “lightbulb” moments where my brain said “my new herb garden holder”! It had layers, partitions, and wouldn’t take up much room and had plenty of space for small containers to grow seeds…which will be new for me. I’m an instant gratification gardener, I love buying the pre-grown plants and seeing what they look like and how I will arrange them – rather than buying seed packets and praying they’ll grow.

So, seeds…I have a few things to learn there. It’s good to learn every day, so each day I’ll learn a little more about each of theses herb seeds I’ve bought, and with prayer and luck (and hopefully the dogs and cat won’t dig them out and eat them), I may have some herbs to begin working with in a few months! I had them in my yard last year, and by the time I got home from work and did everything else, I used a few for cooking and that was it. Now though – I want all the benefits. Drying them, tinctures, using for spices, and aromatherapy…. (now to find the darn seed packs and soil discs…)

The “Bully Affect” on Nurses

In my 16 years of nursing practice, I have been a victim of and witness to bullying by physicians, nurses, managers, and patients. It can be an incredibly difficult job when you are in a healthcare setting where the goal is to heal others, yet there is unseen trauma and hurt all around you caused by a toxic and hostile work environment. The more I read about this crisis, the more I realize that it isn’t just about other nurses eating their young, it is happening at all levels of healthcare. But the “system” wants us to move on and behave as though everything is ok, and we are encouraged to have thick skin, “shake it off”, and get on with our life (a direct quote from a prior bully manager).

The definition of bullying is “repeated, offensive, abusive, intimidating, or insulting behaviors; abuse of power, or unfair sanctions that make recipients feel humiliated, vulnerable, or threatened, thus creating stress and undermining their self-confidence.” Typical behaviors by nurses towards other nurses can include undermining, backstabbing, withholding information, gossiping, eye-rolling, breaking confidences, and even ignoring or excluding another nurse. In other words, nurses with bully complexes not only eat their young, but anyone who isn’t stronger or louder and more abusive than they are. Doctors who practice this behavior seem to feel it is a “right” to impose their power, anger, frustration and aggression on staff. I have found in researching this epidemic that I am in a vast majority of nurses who have experienced this problem and have been negatively affected and scarred by it, and it truly is an epidemic.

Bullying in the workplace causes emotional stress, pain to its victims, along with anxiety, isolation, symptoms of physical illness, depression, and has even been linked to post traumatic stress disorder in severe cases. I can’t fathom the number of wonderful, bright new nurses beginning their practice who actually left or considered leaving the nursing field because of this problem. Reporting the bullying isn’t always a viable solution to the problem due to retaliation, managers who side with the bully and believe the lies that have been spread about a nurse, and management that does not want to deal with the poor job satisfaction ratings and negative impacts that it might cause in their “magnet status hospital” and risk dropping their scores.

Physicians are the most difficult to pin down on this behavior, as many have mastered the Jekyll/Hyde behavior to perfection, and the only unfortunate ones to see Mr. Hyde are the victims. I would be willing to place bets and guarantee that unless a whistleblower has talkative and fearless witnesses who are willing to defend them, and detailed documentation of experiences over a period of time that have been verified, a nurse will never stand a chance in prevailing over a physician bully.

What can we do? Ideally in a perfect world, there should be 0 tolerance for this behavior, especially in a healthcare setting. That is what the literature tells us, but I no longer trust facilities to enforce it because I am a realist. I’ve been there, done that, and know what really goes on. You should be able to speak to your manager, or someone in management if your manager is unresponsive to your concerns, and actions should be set in motion for the behavior to be addressed and stopped. Unfortunately, it ends up being a “he said she said” game much of the time, and the nurse who has been there the longest or the physician who is so good at putting on their Dr. Jekyll face will usually not hesitate to verbally destroy the person making the accusation. The hidden and elusive Mr. Hyde usually wins in large hospital settings and medical practices.

What I will share with you is that if YOU are being bullied, begin documenting NOW. Always keep a small notebook on you, and begin documenting the events of your days (excluding any HIPPA sensitive information), any adverse events that happened and the circumstances surrounding it. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS document what your bully is saying or doing, the date and time it occurred, anyone who may have been preset at that time, any disrespectful or demeaning remarks, any sexual innuendos or remarks, and any events that are disrupting your workflow or patient safety by this person. Document ALL of it, and keep a running log of every event if you ever hope to stop your bully in his/or her tracks and be taken seriously should you decide to report them. And if you bravely make the choice to report them, be prepared to stand strong, determine at the onset not back down, and keep in mind that you may be saving someone else, if not countless others from the sick actions of your Mr. Hyde. Unless we begin standing up to these kinds of behaviors, they will never stop.

NOTE TO SELF: RE MEDITATION

DEAR SELF:

REMEMBER THAT MEDITATION IS NOT EFFECTIVE OR PRODUCTIVE WITH AN 80 LB RESTLESS 1 YR OLD OVERGROWN GERMAN SHEPHERD PUP IN ROOM.
RE: Put Judd in his kennel or outside prior to trying to have productive, calming and relaxing meditation… it does not work well with a slobbering dog putting toys in my lap and hands, and dog wanting in/on lap… better luck tomorrow.

Time Moves Too Quickly

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was in this picture with my beloved grandmother, mother, oldest daughter, and newest granddaughter! I was early into my career and it felt like I was successfully keeping up with my family, my career, and I had my ducks in a row. Within a few years of this picture, my life would begin to unravel into chaos, going in too many directions that I was not prepared to go.

Life has a way of doing that. It will hand you the ridiculous, the crazy, and incomprehensible with no notice. Inexplicable heartaches, they are inevitable. But mine began coming, and wouldn’t stop. My 29 yr old younger brother passed away unexpectedly from kidney failure, my grandmother passed away, and then during the period of one year alone, my husband received a cancer diagnosis, my father nearly died from heart disease and infectious pneumonia and underwent several surgeries, my son was brought to my door by law enforcement and I found out that my father had molested him when he was 13 and he had developed a drug addiction over the years to cope, and to top it all off, my oldest daughter disappeared without warning, and we went for months either hearing nothing, or would occasionally get one of those bone chilling calls from law enforcement saying that they believed our daughter was either dead-or severely injured. It just kept coming.

Instead of using my insight as a nurse and evaluating the signs and symptoms of burnout that I was beginning to have back then and addressing them, I shoved them down and just kept allowing myself to be everything to everyone, leaving no time for myself. It took almost 4 months to find my daughter and get her back with her daughters, and since then we’ve gone through court and jail episodes, hospitalization for newly diagnosed bipolar disorder, homelessness and the list goes on; my son has battled his addiction demons and still struggles; my youngest has experienced severe depression periodically; and not long after that, my mother suffered from a nearly fatal stroke that stole nearly a year of her life. And last month, we found out my husband’s cancer has returned. Life has been unraveling in the most brutal of ways.

In the last year and a half, I’ve gone through 2 traumatic work experiences that have made me reevaluate my profession. What ultimately did me in was dealing with physician bullies on a daily basis, and no support from management. The daily verbal bullying and belittling caused me headaches and heartache, and I felt stripped of any self confidence or worth as a nurse-and I was too tired to fight back. I had lost all of the joy and confidence I once had of being an excellent nurse who gave my heart and soul to my profession for 15 years. I began having panic attacks prior to or during work in the last few months of my job. And then one morning last month, I simply.. couldn’t.. do it anymore. I tried to get up and brush the dust off and keep going, but my tanks were empty – because I had neglected to fill them for too long.

I took a break from life to rest. Some part of me hoped that all I needed to do was rest for a little while…and then I could hop back on the pathway to functioning again. ONLY MY BODY IS NO LONGER HOPPING. I’m still exhausted, and when I think about walking back into a nursing role again, my mind is flooded with doubts and fears of the unknown…can I still do it? Will there be more work place bullies somewhere else too (of course there will be!)? And if a doctor were to become inappropriately hateful again, would I have the self control not to strangle him with my stethoscope- or would I hurl a sharp or heavy object at his head (probably)? And my body. It hurts…it’s rebelling…it thinks its 83, not 53…HOW DO YOU RESET THAT???

I humbly accepted the fact today that I am only human. Though I feel broken and let down by life, I will get back up. I’ve had to accept that it will take more time than I’d hoped to heal. We are a lot like automobiles…if you don’t maintenance them, they will break down. The fact is, if you don’t take care of yourself and tend to your needs, you may find yourself face down on the rock floor of life as I did…and you DON’T want to be there. It doesn’t seem possible that so many years have gone by so quickly since that picture; and some days I don’t recognize this older woman I see in the mirror. But I will remind myself daily that my hope comes from God who gives me the strength I need, one day at a time. I watch inspiring videos and look at the children in posts on FB and different media battling cancer and other diseases with a smile, of the homeless and starving all around us, things that remind me of how lucky I actually am…I have not walked in the shoes of so many who are so much worse off and have gone through much more than I could imagine. I’m keeping a gratitude journal now, recording things daily that I am grateful for-to remind me that God is taking care of everything and it will all work together for good. “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That’s why they call it the present” (Alice Morse Earle). Ending on a positive note…I’m healing, I’m trusting, I’m forgiving, and I will get to get to where I’m meant to be – in His time.