As I look in the mirror in the bathroom today, I am reminded that three years ago today, I was rushed to the emergency room at the Charles George VA Hospital in Asheville NC and then admitted to the Mental Health ward for my well-being and safety. I was a government “whistleblower” speaking up on behalf of many people who were being abused at my federal agency. I had succumbed to believing I was a “victim”. Only a few years prior to this event, I was a happy-go-lucky person who never suspected I would land in the Mental Health ward for a few days. It did not matter that I had served 20 years in the Air Force and had learned tenacity and courage, there comes a time when even strong people can be “beaten down” from workplace bullying and discrimination. It happened to me on my Mother’s birthday, March 18, 2014, which is three years ago, from today’s writing.
I have overcome childhood sexual abuse, extreme harassment in the Air Force, and 14 severe counts of harassment were served up when I received retaliation for reporting my managers to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Somewhere in the middle of all this chaos, I sensed that I was supposed to experience this “madness”, for I knew I wanted to help others who are harassed and discriminated in their workplace. While looking into a metal mirror on my third day in the Mental Health ward, I realized that I had become my own worst nightmare and enemy. Never mind the yellow and purple skin that reflected a pitiful image back to me—I had had enough of myself! It was time to find not the survivor in me, but the woman who served 20 years in the Air Force under some abusive leaders and managers. I gathered up my strength and told the head Mental Health nurse that I was ready to check out and begin my new life. I was released.
Who would ever guess that I would become a subject matter expert (SME) on workplace bullying and discrimination? I became a certified life coach with iPEC and learned how to get my own life in order before I started helping others as a Personal Power coach. I realized that my tool bag was getting pretty full with “skill sets”. I had also become a consulting hypnotist so I could help others. I drew on my 27 years of working in Human Resources to not only “settle” with my former government agency and without a gag-order to remain silent, but to use my knowledge to help others who face harassment and discrimination in their work environments.
As time went by, I have had the opportunity to be on over 50 radio shows, featured in seven magazines, lauded by the Christian Science Monitor, and sent to educate 30 Senators on the need to protect government employees who speak out about government prohibited personnel practices. The mirror I look at these days provides a reflection of a happier, more empowered woman. The Mental Health Ward was a lesson that I needed to find personal growth and accountability for my own life. Life is very good these days—I am now a government sub-contractor. Yes—a consulting company hired me so I can continue to utilize my skills in the government and in the private sector. One day I am in the Mental Health ward and the three years later (to the day)—I am a workplace bullying and discrimination subject matter expert that is in great demand. We must never give in to our fears, but keep our eyes on the prize. Life has lessons, but they can bring out the greatest version of ourselves if we seize the opportunity to be accountable and see the “silver lining” in everything.