Wednesday, 24 April 2019

'I have sadness in me. I have anger in me. I have heartbreak in me.' Ellen Degeneres


At my appointment a few weeks ago, I was asked if I could describe what being happy felt like.

I told the CPN I couldn’t, as I didn’t actually know.

I explained that Turtle, Gruffy, Jakey, Coley and Obi were a definition of happiness, but that I couldn’t say how I was made to feel about being with them, only that it felt right. I feel love, profound, deep, soul resonating love for Kelly; she is my sun, moon and stars and until the day I die, there is nowhere I wish to be other than beside and with her. Kelly makes me a better man, simply by default. My beautiful boys make me proud every, single day and are my legacy of something I will have done right in my life. I try to give them the attention, support, guidance, and love that I never had from my father.  

So, my family around me, feels that it is the way life should be, but does it stir anything in me emotionally? 

That, I know, should make me feel sad, but it makes me feel nothing other than correctness. Maybe that is what happiness is? After all, who’s to say what it is or is not – everyone would define it differently, so maybe my impression of content is happiness for me. I know there is nowhere else I would rather be, ever, so perhaps that is enough. But my most recent appointment made me think a lot about my mental health, what may or may not have led me to the place I now find myself and about the profound impact my experience in the hospital had on me.

I still spend hours ruminating over what happened and how the people I thought were friends and cared about me could do what they did. From buying me little Star Wars gifts for my birthday, because they knew me so well, to thanking me for checking in on them when they were ill or having surgery, to sharing baby items between us for our respective partners and daughters, to having personal details shared with me by my manager on a weekend shift because she trusted me enough to be so honest… to being so proud and humbled that I was a small part of the bigger picture that they presented to the organisation… I felt correctness then, too. Not in a sense it was bigger than my sense for my family, but that it was the one, other thing in my life that felt as it should… it felt right.

Kelly knew this, as she felt similarly about her place of work. Kelly was and is a fantastic nurse. I know I would say that, but honestly I never heard a bad word about her even before we met and never have I met someone so diligent at their job and attentive to detail. Yet, she got the shaft to by the same organisation. Same dance, different tune. Colleagues she genuinely thought were friends told lies, just because they were offended that she would go into work when feeling unwell, and they would not. Kelly would never judge nor comment; like me, she has a solid work ethic, and you go into work unless you are physically unable or have the dreaded sickness and diarrhoea! But you never consider that someone else has not with the same symptoms. You just get on with it and think nothing else about it.

But those people; Kelly’s colleagues and mine, take umbrage at this fact, because, to them, you are making them look bad. You aren’t doing it deliberately, nor does it even factor as an issue to you. But, to them, because you carry on and they decide they don’t feel up to it, they believe that you are showing them up.

Prime example – following several staff leaving the team to join pastures new, we were left short. Four nurses, and me, with a newly introduced 7-day service. Now, as mentioned in a previous blog piece (I see Bullied People; They Don’t Know They’re Being Bullied Part 2), one team member was made exempt to altering their hours and working as part of the 7-day service, much to the chagrin of other colleagues. One, in particular, made sure everyone knew how upset and annoyed she was about it. Of course, when it came time to remove me from my post, it was me who had complained and them who were the voice of reason when I was ‘kicking off’ as they put it.
But, I digress. So, short staffed and still have a seven-day service to cover. All staff asked during a meeting; no one volunteers. Don’t blame them. Who wishes to work more hours for minimal reward? It had gone from working one weekend day every eight/nine weeks to suggesting they work a day every two weeks.

Being the lead nurse, I offered to do it on-call, as I didn’t mind taking calls while at home on the weekend. To be fair, I rarely actually received any. But, someone had to do it. I would have never forced anyone and felt it was my responsibility to make sure it continued.
One of my colleagues didn’t like that (the same one who started the whole sorry mess). She frequently told me that I was making them all look bad and why did I have to offer to do it? What was I supposed to do? The old double-edged sword scenario. 

Do it; a friend and colleague are offended. Don’t do it and I look like someone who doesn’t care about his job. 

But then, them not wishing to do it doesn’t mean they don’t care either; they were amongst some of the best nurses I had ever had the pleasure to know and work with, and they had a valid point that the organisation had no contingency for such a situation.

So, just like in Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, I was in a Kobayashi Maru situation – the no-win scenario. 
Needless to say, my actions were twisted slightly by my manager and others who would say I always made out I was better than them.

But, despite that and everything else (and of course, my colleagues who stood by me are not a part of this musing, aside from the fact that they stood by me!), I still miss being with them and having them in my life. Losing them in the manner I did left a hole in me that I have never been able to fill.
This is separate to Kelly, the boys, my Mum, Alan, my Auntie Angela and Uncle Michael, my family… work was such a part of my life; nursing and infection control was such a part of my life as they are for so many (well, the nursing part; most nurses roll their eyes at the mention of IPC!) that, when it was gone, I didn’t know how to fill it.
I still feel humiliated that I didn’t realise how much dislike they ultimately had for me. I still want to slice away at parts of my body so that I look as disfigured on the outside as I feel on the inside. I still consider walking until my hat floats and feel shame that I could even consider leaving my beautiful Turtle and boys.

And it is all because of bullying.

have always acknowledged the part my former manager played in helping me when I first realised I was unwell. She saved me in so many ways. Kelly loved me, cared for me, guided me and caressed my soul at the beginning and every day since, but my boss got me to accept something I refused to see. That I had a problem.

The loss and lies of those people still hurts as much as it did on 16th December 2016. I cannot imagine it ever going, though time does accommodate. Still, I lost my brother last year, and in some ways, that whole experience hurt more. Maybe because John didn’t have a choice in what happened; it was just one of those things. They had a choice and chose the path they did. Kelly’s colleagues did the same. They later recanted their lies, and the whole issue was dropped, but the damage had been done to my beautiful Turtle and now the very thought of bumping into someone from work or even going back makes her have terrible anxiety attacks, and she becomes upset. 

No one asks about her. No one bothers. No matron who was in charge of that area, no manager, no former friend. 

None of them knows about Cole. Not her former colleagues and not the majority of mine. To them, he doesn’t exist.

Yet we so wished we could have shared his being in the world with them.

That is perhaps the saddest part of all. 

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

I see bullied people... they don't know they're being bullied. Part Two

The first part in this short series was my sharing the story of an individual called 'Diane' who I once worked with and who ended up socialising, not only with the individuals who were responsible for my termination from nursing, but who also made a point of bullying her behind her back. The sad truth is that she never suspected or knew. I could never tell her, as it would have seemed like sour grapes given my own situation.

The second example concerns 'Vicky'. I mentioned in the previous post that Vicky and I, though we didn't have a great relationship, it was a professional one. I always got the impression that she didn't think very highly of me; I ended up in a position she once occupied, had very different views on how to take our role forward and disagreed with a number of my decisions. And, as I have mentioned before, I was given my position and never had to interview for it. I never considered it at the time, but in hindsight, it must have been a huge kick in the teeth for nurses with more experience and longer qualified than I. I never actually wanted the position, but could never get out of it as no one else wanted it either!

But I had so much respect for Vicky. She was a fascinating person, had lived an amazing life and was the most knowledgable of nurses. I learnt so much from her during her time there and missed her when she left. She provided a stabilising influence and motherly quality that was unique to her and her alone.

Vicky, I was led to believe by former colleagues in their statements, was also greatly responsible for the false accusations levied at me. I never heard it from her personally, nor saw anything in writing, but others all stated that she had said things against me to support their, eventually debunked and proven to be lies, accusations of bullying.

But once again, there is a huge, sad sense of irony about her 'alleged' claims of bullying towards me. Though we spoke often and never did Vicky once say anything to me that was remotely negative, even replying to an email I sent before she left, wishing me the best of luck for the future, I was told after my suspension that she had left solely because of me.

This is a nurse with over 40 years experience, who had lived through some of the most troubled times in British history and seen nursing changed multiple times during the course of her career, yet she gave it all up, allegedly, because of me and never told a soul why. In her exit interview, there was no mention of me; discussion of health reasons and retirement plans, but nothing about anyone at work. Then, more than six months later, it is all because of me and, as I was told, was not mentioned as she could be bothered with the hassle.

In the time between Vicky leaving and my suspension, many colleagues complained about her. They complained vocally about why she had been allowed to work her original hours and not move to the modified ones that better suited the service. They complained vocally about why she didn't have to work weekends on-call when they were expected to. They complained when I suggested we wait on a morning for handover so we were all present, their complaint being in would push everything else they had to planned backwards. Two individuals complained about her using sickness during her planned retirement as an excuse for more money.

Yet, these very individuals, are individuals that I am aware Vicky still socialises with. Why? Because she never knew about their behaviour - bullying behaviour - in her absence and when she was not present. And I never told her.

As with Diane, I never knew how to go about it, as it would have been 'telling tales' or, after my suspension, the aforementioned sour grapes. I was supposed to lead, support and encourage, so causing discontent amongst others was something I actively avoided. I did address concerns regarding the bullying of a colleague previously, speaking to many individuals in turn and, ultimately, raising my concerns to the bully themselves. I long ago accepted I didn't do enough. Having done more would have perhaps stopped others from suffering in my absence.

I have always felt that, inadvertently, I became a bystander in relation to the bullying of others. Aware that colleagues were being abusive and critical towards another, yet not addressing it when I should have. Ultimately, I resolved to no longer be a 'bystander' and raised my concerns to a senior member of staff... and, well, if you have read previous blog entries, you know what happened next.

And, just like Diane, I have always felt guilty about it. Knowing that people you once knew are still communicating with those who were betraying them behind their back is the worst feeling. Saying anything now would be redundant. I would never be believed. Because that is what bullies do in order to convince others they are not.

They claim solidarity towards the very individuals they have, behind their backs and closed doors, been criticising, humiliating and bullying. Whilst calling them in secret, they then support them in public, ensuring that misdirection is fully implemented and thereby ensuring the focus is shifted, not to their actual harassers, but towards another who couldn't be further from a bully.

A perfect human being? Absolutely not.

I have admitted before to making many mistakes, both consciously and, due to my mental health problems, unconsciously. but accepting of responsibility for them all, I 100% am.

Yet individuals such as Vicky will continue to go through life, not realising that the very people who bullied them behind their backs are the very ones they call friends.

A heartbreaking truth that will be replicated in many organisations, many work environments, around the world.

"I have met the enemy and they are us."

The bullying nurse will never give thought to being kinder. But we can promise that we will focus on helping those who suffer whilst caring for others.

In the end, it is all we can do but I believe that it will ultimately lead to the actualisation of that most precious of motivatios for a nurse.

That of doing no harm.