Horrible Boss Flashback

It never goes away, does it? The involuntary visceral constriction when someone reminds you of a terrible episode in your life. Did the person with whom you imagined yourself building a life break your heart or did you break theirs? Did someone you loved dearly suddenly permanently pass from your life? Did a trusted friend unforgivably betray you? Did you have employers who inappropriately inserted themselves into your personal life? I’ve experienced these situations, and more, that have sometimes made life more difficult than one wishes it to be. However, the incident of which I was recently reminded was the inappropriate treading into my life, which my last employer felt they had the right to do.

I ran into someone recently, whom I had the pleasure of working with on a project for a short time, not long before I became ill almost four years ago. Lucky for her, she did not have to bear the same degree of pain, humiliation, and strife I did to cut ties with our former horrible boss. Hearing the name of the company where we used to work made me cringe. Since the end the legal action I had to take against the company, I’ve done all I can to limit contact with anyone who worked there so I can maintain my peace of mind. Especially those former colleagues who blindly supported my former horrible boss without knowing the truth about what I was subjected to.

My former horrible boss tried to deny me access to my disability benefits when it became clear that I couldn’t return to work after my hospitalization at the onset of my illness. She demanded answers to embarrassingly inappropriate questions about my health. She later terminated the part of my extended health benefits that paid for the many expensive medications I take to function daily; and even worse, she terminated my employment without notifying me about a year into my illness in an attempt to strip me of my long-term disability benefits. On top of all that, she launched a campaign of misinformation within the company to explain my sudden then extended absence. The stress of trying to cope with all of this and my poor health and constant pain was, at times, too much to bear.

The person I ran into knew the crux of the situation because she had heard details from a mutual friend. She expressed her sympathies that someone, anyone, could have done any of what our former horrible boss did to me; especially because the early period of my illness was when my doctors had no conclusive answers about what was happening to my body and I was truly fearful for my life. Instead of being able to direct my focus on my health alone, I was forced to cope with the added stress of an employer who felt they could insert themselves into the most intimate parts of my life. When I refused to share what was happening to me, in part because I truly didn’t know, but mainly because it’s against the law for an employer to ask. It set in motion the series of events I listed above – and much more I try never to think of – that I still sometimes can’t believe. The right to protect my health and personal information caused a protracted legal case that thankfully vindicated me and ended my former horrible boss’s persistently violent prying into my life.

Even though all of that happened, the best thing about this flashback, about any flashback, is that it’s no longer part of one’s current reality. It may be difficult to be transported back to a particular moment when something devastating happened, however, that living moment is gone. Better still, I know I have the protection of the law and the emotional and psychological tools to bolster me if ever the smallest thoughts of that situation resurface in my life, and if any do, I don’t have to stay with them or delve beyond the surface of those memories unless I choose to do so. In this case, where anything involving my former horrible boss is concerned, I choose not to delve deeper than necessary to describe how she attempted to intimidate and deprive me of what I needed to care for myself. I choose not to allow who she was, and probably still is, affect me beyond a momentary tremor in my subconscious because I survived and beat her attempts to harm me during a time when I had to dig deep just to keep living.



Panic Without A Disco

I had a panic attack this morning. It’s the second one I’ve ever had. Both have been visited upon me since becoming ill almost four years ago. The first one came while I was in the hospital emergency room one night seeking help to manage an intensely painful pain spike. Immediately after the nurse injected a dose of morphine into the line of my IV drip it felt like there was an elephant sat on my chest preventing me from breathing properly. Catching my breath felt impossible and I started to feel dizzy, as I lay almost flat on my back on the hospital bed. The medical team treating me had to jump into action to make sure I wasn’t having an allergic reaction or a coronary episode of some kind. They ruled out both and concluded that the feeling that my lungs compressed caused me to panic.

This morning’s panic attack happened because of what I suspect were two concurrent shocks to my system. The first was waking suddenly from a very vivid nightmare. I don’t want to recount it because it’s the kind of thing best left in darkness. However, every moment of it felt frighteningly real and when I woke from it I was afraid. I was trembling. I was breathing heavily. When I moved I felt intense pain in my back, pelvis, and legs that made it hard for me to move so I could self-sooth and calm my breathing. Falling out of such lucid images of fear to land in the pain-filled reality of my body must have shocked my nervous system in a way similar to the day I received that shot of morphine in the emergency room.

When I was finally able to stand up I made my way to the bathroom where I sat for a long time trying to catch my breath. I had to talk to myself to coax my body back to calm. I’m not certain how long it took to normalize my breathing but it felt like an eternity and even then I was still shaking; still feeling the incredible pain shooting up my back and down my legs. In another eternity, I walked to the living room and sat on my couch where I have stayed most of today. I was also forced to face the reality that the plans of having one of my closest friends come visit me later in the day had to be postponed. That hurt too.

Sadly, there are times when my body and mind send me painful messages I can’t ignore. As a result, I’ve spent most of the day trying to move as little as possible because the pain has been so intense. Even though it’s early evening now, my hands are still somewhat shaky and my stomach still feels a bit unsettled. If I could clearly articulate what it felt like during this morning’s episode, it might look something like what I’ve drawn below: spikey, wavy, and disorganized all at once.

I hope no one else has had this kind of Saturday.




Gratitude and Creativity: Low Emotional Valley

I’m just realizing that I spent the better part of the past month in a low emotional valley. The failure of my acupuncture treatment hit me hard. I know this because of the smatterings of energy I managed to invest in anything that resembled something creative, including how little I wrote. The recovery from the pain flare up caused by the acupuncture has been slow – I haven’t been able to reduce the doses of my pain medications. The frustration and disappointment of another treatment that doesn’t work for me is becoming hard to bear. As much as I try being positive, the melancholy found its way in and decided to hang around as I drank copious amounts of tea and binge watched TV while sleep eluded me most nights.

My uninvited guest sapped me of so much energy that I became too tired to sleep. Too tired to feed myself properly, and barely able to meet the few commitments I made to family and friends. The strange thing is while this was happening I didn’t recognize it because I was still moving, still breathing, and still feeling pain. I’m not numb, but I was enveloped by whatever the opposite of being mindful and aware of oneself might be. Then, this morning, as I turned the corner on another sleep-deprived night I flipped through a few pages of my art/gratitude journal and saw how little my brain and hands have produced because of my low energy and sinking emotions.

What was I trying to find in the pages of a sketchbook at 6:45 on a Saturday morning? I was looking for a blank space to teach myself how to draw a new, to me, Zentangle pattern. The space was easy to find because, as I said, I haven’t done a lot of creating lately. I keep saying that I’m teaching myself how to draw. However, at the rate I’m going I may not reach that goal. I have the books and the art supplies I need, but without motivation and a positive mood, that amounts to a lot of blank paper and unused pens, pencils and paint.

I noticed that the time I spend in these emotional valleys seems to be getting longer each time and my awareness of that space is losing its sharpness. This morning, wanting to draw a new combination of lines alerted me to the presence of the current valley. I wanted to connect with one of the things that help to stop me from falling down the steep slopes and that desire, that smallest of desires, pulled me upward.

Last night, while sleep stayed far away from me, I spent time on Adele Bruno’s website Tickled to Tangle. She’s a Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT) from whose posts I’m learning a lot. She writes a series called “Tips for Tangling” where she shares great step-by-step information about how to draw Zentangle patterns that makes drawing them a lot easier. Because of her posts, I’m becoming more comfortable and confident about drawing in ink and not worrying about making mistakes. After all, in Zentangle there are no mistakes. It was one of her posts that made me reach for my sketchbook: Tangling Radiant Sooflowers. I wanted to try creating my own radiant drawing but I first needed to learn the tangle pattern, Sooflowers created by Livia Chua, which luckily wasn’t at all difficult. After a quick practice, I worked on my tile and made one change to customize it. Instead of stippling the white spaces with dots, I filled them with small Tipple circles.

My tired eyes and shaky hands aside, I’m happy with the result. I’m also happy that although I didn’t sleep at all last night, Adele Bruno’s creativity alerted my awareness to my low emotional valley and inspired me to start climbing out.


Ed Sheeran – I See Fire