"Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds." Albert Einstein
"The bully selects their target using the following criteria:
bullies are predatory and opportunistic - you just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time; this is always the main reason - investigation will reveal a string of predecessors, and you will have a string of successors
being good at your job, often excelling
being popular with people (colleagues, customers, clients, pupils, parents, patients, etc)
more than anything else, the bully fears exposure of his/her inadequacy and incompetence; your presence, popularity and competence unknowingly and unwittingly fuel that fear
being the expert and the person to whom others come for advice, either personal or professional (IE you get more attention than the bully)
having a well-defined set of values which you are unwilling to compromise
having a strong sense of integrity (bullies despise integrity, for they have none, and seem compelled to destroy anyone who has integrity)
having at least one vulnerability that can be exploited
being too old or too expensive (usually both)
refusing to join an established clique
showing independence of thought or deed
refusing to become a corporate clone and drone
Jealousy (of relationships and perceived exclusion there from) and envy (of talents, abilities, circumstances or possessions) are strong motivators of bullying.
"Targets eventually arrive at a situation where the internalised anger is so great that, like a pressure cooker, some release of the pressure is needed. Rather than resort to violence against others, the target of bullying (usually a person of high integrity) is most likely to direct the violence onto themselves, thus self-harm and attempted suicide. Compare this noble act with the cowardice and thuggery of the bully."(from www.bullyonline.org)
All of these stressors gradually over time made me very ill. The summer of 2005 I spent most of my time in bed to recover when I was not working. Anyone who knows me knows I love the summers in Nome and would be on the beach or fishing if I could. I lost the whole summer. PTSD has physical as well as psychological symptoms. I began to have diarrhea so bad I was incontinent of stool at work. I have a bladder condition which is a type of autoimmune disease. My immune system destroys the lining in my bladder which protects the tissue from the acidic urine. It is very painful. Many people with Interstitial Cystitis are on pain pills. I use sodium bicarb to lower the PH of my urine. I also pee frequently when it flares up. This causes the bladder to become very small. So, between the diarrhea and the bladder pain I went to the bathroom a lot. If I worked in the ER I usually just used the bathroom there as it did not require me to leave or get coverage. I also have rheumatoid type pain to my rib cage and skin. This makes it very painful at times to wear clothing. The medication I was refused helps this also. I also had problems with my skin. I had too much fluid in my body because one of the treatments for Interstitial Cystitis is too drink a lot of water. This caused my tissue to swell up and break down in several areas. I spent much time with my legs elevated to decrease the fluid. My bladder was excruciatingly painful much of the time. I was miserable. I should have left to go somewhere I could get appropriate medical treatment.
On the week end the clinic was closed. People still come in as if it is opened. I had to take care of these clinic patients as well as the ER patients. It can be very busy and unmanageable. I have had the experience of calling the other nurses for help and getting no response on more than one occasion. This meant of course I could only be in the ER or the clinic. It was an unsafe situation. I did the best I could. I usually circulated between the two places in case I was needed, to prevent missing anything and see if the doctor needed anything. When the others were assigned to the ER they often had a second person help them, I was alone. One day I asked the housekeeper what was going on in the inpatient unit that they could not come and help me. He said,"You know, the unusual thing that keeps them busy, sitting in the break room". I want to make it clear that whenever I asked a certain male nurse for help he would come asap unless he was overwhelmed himself. He knows who he is.
The manager of the inpatient unit told me one day that there had been a meeting of several physicians and she was there. She said the medical director announced that no one liked to work with me. She asked some more questions and found out it was two of the doctors. And I think there was a medical student involved because when he left I told him I was going to miss him and he almost started to cry. The complaints were weird, that I would "hide" in the bathroom when it got busy. Colleen told them to write up any of their complaints. She acted like she was supportive of me and against them, I believed it then, but now know the opposite was going on. I of course knew nothing about workplace bullying at that time. I now know this was a part of a group effort to discredit and destroy me. She said one doctor defended me and asked them if they knew I am autistic. This was something she said to make me believe she was on my side. I was devastated to hear that people who should be supportive of differences and disabilities would attack someone who is not neurotypical. Only one of them wrote a letter and it was the obese female. What she wrote did not make much sense and she repeated herself over and over. I still have the letter which Colleen rewrote so I could not figure out who had written it. When I either showed it to or read it to anyone they always said it was that same doctor. They said she does that sort of thing and I should write a response to it. I refused to even respond to something so ridiculous. After all it did not even make sense. I still have it and it doesn't make any more sense now than it did before. After, as I have a sense of humor when I worked with a doctor I would jokingly say,"Thanks for at least pretending as if you like to work with me." I was told things like, "You are fine just the way you are","Consider the source", "Don’t pay any attention to them they are wrong", and my favorite,"On the continuum of difficult people to work with here you are definitely not near the top." These are direct quotes, I wrote them down as they were said. I knew it was all crazy and it was not me, but it devastated me none the less. I was already very ill and very depressed. It was a very cruel thing to do. I believe it was due to me being a threat to the status quo. It was due to my honest and blunt way of stating certain things going on in that hospital were wrong.
I called two local attorneys. One sounded wishy washy. The other one was immediately arguing on the side of the hospital without even hearing the story. I simply said to him calmly that he must be affiliated with the hospital. He then went nuts. He screamed over and over into the phone,"Why would you say that lady, why would you say that lady.....". This went on several times. I held it up for a housekeeper to hear. He started laughing and I hung up. I then said that I guessed he had either forgotten his medication that day or had taken too much. When I told people what he did they said this was typical behaviour for him. Bizarre. How sad, people call attorneys for help in Nome and get a nut case.
I had started to disassociate myself from the other staff. This is one of the symptoms of PTSD. The two other main people who had also been abused had left and I was taking the brunt of it. The one just before me came in on a day she was scheduled to work and gave notice to the manager and then told the clique to go to hell. She then went to get on a plane. I hope she is OK. I have no contact with her. I decided to try and hold on until my two year contract was up. I took my responsibility to fulfill that contract seriously. I had been in a lot of pain from all of my health problems for weeks and I was in emotional pain like I have never known. Over time it felt like Norton Sound Regional Hospital was becoming less real or unreal. It is difficult to describe it. The last day I worked at the hospital it felt as if I was almost nonexistent. Autistics often believe they are not real people , In fact as a child the thought, "I am not a real person", or "I am invisible",(The result of being treated like I am not there) go through my head. I had not had these thoughts in years, now it was back. There was no help from anyone there. I had tried. I had been looking for something in my junk box at home and came across a large bottle of percoset, a strong pain pill, which was several years old. I thought since I was in a lot of pain and could not get my appropriate medication for it I could just take one every now and then. This does not work for a person who is addicted to narcotics. I ended up taking them every day. Narcotics cause depression. I was already depressed and it got even worse. It also changes thinking. On narcotics we loose the ability use logic well. This contributed to what happened next.
I do not remember most of what happened this day, November 12Th 2005. I had become severely disturbed. This happens with PTSD caused by bullying. Sometimes people as a result of this become violent. I would never hurt another person. Instead I planned to hurt myself. I had a plan to put a large gauge catheter(like a big IV) into the artery in my wrist. The plan I formulated included getting in a warm bath after taking large does of narcotics and sedatives and exsanguinating. There was a nurse years ago in Washington state who tried to kill herself with a large amount of morphine and ended up a vegetable instead. I remember thinking I wanted to get enough to actually kill me. A little while later I found them in my pocket, not remembering how they got there. Of course the realization that only I myself could have put them there stunned me. I went to the med room to try and put them back. Being very mentally disturbed at the time I could not see how to fix it and was in the process of trying to solve that problem when someone discovered they were gone. I was totally panicked before they discovered it and when they did I became paralyzed. It was very obvious whoever took them was not right. On the police recording the pharmacist who was called in said he did not think a sane person did it.
When nurses or pharmacist take drugs for their own use it is called diversion. The ANA has issued a statement that addiction is a workplace hazard for nurses. They also said that there should be an intervention that first protects the patients and then facilitates the nurse getting treatment and getting back to work. All but ten states in our country have what is called a diversion program. They do not treat it as a crime, it is treated as chemical dependency or a mental health issue, just like it is for other professionals About 10% of all nurses have a problem with chemical dependency. This means if there are 20 nurses 2 of them are addicted. If one of them is lucky enough to have found recovery there is one. It is very common for nurses to take drugs. It is usually due to addiction. Sometimes it is for suicide. Nurses use drugs to fix problems, pain, anxiety, high blood pressure, etc. We love medications because we have been taught to use them to help people. Sometimes when a nurse needs help for a problem his/herself diversion is resorted to. Most states require chemical dependency treatment, random urine drug tests, groups and 12 step programs. Nurses who divert drugs are usually among the best. The American Nurses Association says nurses should be treated like any other professional with an addiction. Years ago only doctors gave medication and they were the ones with easy access to narcotics and other drugs. They had a huge problem with addiction. One of the risks for addiction is availability.
There is no diversion program in Alaska. They just let the hospital decide what they want to do. The board of licensing in Alaska does have what they call a Memorandum of Agreement which is a type of program to help a nurse in recover keep on working. It is not designed to be instead of criminalization. The serial bullies and all who were aligned with them were already trying to harm me. They had made me so ill I could barely make it through my shifts. I had seen many other targets become mentally and physically ill before me. The main target before me was so distraught and needed a friend. One day in the locker room she asked me why I did not talk to her any more. I told her I was so sick I did not talk to anyone anymore. I still feel guilty about that. I just hope wherever she is she is happy. But, now I was even sicker than any of them. I started to call in sick. Colleen called me into her office and told me if I called in sick again she was going to ask human resources what she could do to me. I came to work even though I was very ill.
They simply called the police. I have very little memory of the actual incident of taking the drugs. I found them and was stunned. I was too disturbed to put them back. I was in terror. Then the police came. They kept on badgering me over and over. Autistic people are suppose to be interviewed by the police in a specific way. Aspies almost always tell the truth so we end up talking when we should shut up. The police are suppose to be aware of this. I do not remember what they were saying I was so messed up. I remember being badgered in the break room. They then went and started searching the locker room.
I wanted to get rid of the drugs. It would have been simple. I did not want to put them in the garbage I was afraid someone would find them and harm themselves with it. I should have just put them in the sharp safe, but I did not think of it(this is where we put sharp things after we use them so no one gets stuck). I was just so mentally ill at the time I could barely function. I usually walked to the grocery store and back to buy groceries. In the winter in Nome it can get -20 or less. If I walked with my produce it often froze and was ruined. I had this big jacket with lots of pockets that I put some in. It was not enough and the lettuce wilted in the jacket. I had a slit in the back I would stick those prewashed bags of greens in. It was warm enough so they did not freeze, but not warm enough to cause wilting . I stuck the drugs in it and thought I would get rid of them in a safe way later so no one would find them and use them. But, I had no idea what I would do.
I lied at first which goes against my every grain. I do not often lie. In fact I generally tell everyone the blunt truth about everything. This causes me a lot of problems. I had told my supervisor I am an addict and alcoholic, as well as my coworkers. Where I am from being in recovery is something to be proud of. They look down on people in recovery. Especially the ones who are chemically dependent themselves. You see in Nome only the native people are considered alcoholic. If a white person is a drunk it is not suppose to be mentioned. I mentioned my addictions and my Aspergers. These were prime reasons in their minds to target me. Heaven forbid someone be seen as being successful in recovery and dare to speak about it. I use to go with a group of fellow alcoholics and speak at a high school every year. We were written into the curriculum. We told them about our lives and what we do to stay sober. One of the things I said to them is that being an alcoholic is a gift and a prime opportunity. It helps us find out who we are and what our true strengths are. One of the reasons we are taught to speak of our addictions in nursing is for the ones who are still suffering with the disease. If it is stigmatized people generally will hide it. If it is treated as the disease it is which can be treated, people will be more likely to seek help. I have had a couple nurses in the past come to me for help. I can not tell you how happy I was to help them and then watch them come back to work.
They decided they wanted a urine specimen for a toxicology screen. My bladder is very small and I never produced a single specimen which filled the container up to the specified line. They have lied on several occasions and stated that I never gave a urine specimen. I gave two. I suggested they use a dip stick test to check for drugs. I do not know if they did this.
They searched my jacket twice before they found anything. I told them that I am autistic two times. They did not stop their process of constantly badgering me. I would have told them anything. They told me I was being charged with something. I was not hearing what they were saying. I just needed to get away from them or I was going to have an autistic melt down. The only thing I can remember an officer saying was when a female officer got down on her knee in front of me and said, "Celia, I have seen how you take care of these patients". I do not remember exactly what else she said next. It was something like, you are a really good nurse and care about the patients. Well that was the main problem really, I cared about the patients. This was also one of the things I was targeted for. It was not too long before that police officer was mobbed out of her job in Nome also. She was well known in the community for being ethical and compassionate.
Someone called the mental health professional on call. She wanted to admit me to the hospital which I said was not a good idea. Of course I was very disturbed at the time and needed help. I was certainly not making good decisions. The cops said Colleen did not want me in the unit and it says in the police report she said I could not be admitted to the hospital. I left even though the mental health professional wanted to admit me(but that made no sense because Colleen would not allow it) and she called the police to go to my house. They saw that I was much calmer and left me alone. One of them stated in a report that I was with my cat and calmer. My cat was a therapeutic animal. One of the things animals do for autistics is calm us down.
When I left the hospital, she had me so upset that I forgot my bag I got out of my locker. They called the police to come and get it. They then kept it without a warrant/subpoena for months. I was told at first that the person who had the key to the lock up was only on night shift/weekends. I thought that was odd, how would they get evidence for court. When I went to get it the time changed and they thought I was nuts for coming at that time. I went several times and it just kept changing. I realized they were playing a game with me. When I finally got it the DA had apparently told them to release it. Why was that necessary? They should have never kept it. When I went to get it the cop told me they had only checked it to see if there was a bomb in it. Yea right, I always brought a bomb to work with me. When he finally gave it to me and I complained about the games they had played he said to me, "You just don't know how we do things around here" I paused a moment because I thought I might hear the word "boy" like in a movie about a corrupt town in the deep south years ago. Then I said, "Really?" The public defender I had at the time said she would help me get it on several occasions, but she did not. I also mentioned it in court and Judge Esch looked at her and said, "You'll help her with that?" I said NO out loud and was ignored. The NO was the right answer to the question every time he asked it.
I was at home that first night wondering if I should kill myself or what totally alone. I was ashamed. I was confused. I could not believe I did what I did. I could not believe how they treated me as I was obviously disturbed. I needed help, but there was none to be had. At least I was away from the constantly hounding voices. The people looking at me like I was a demon. The psychological torture day in and day out. The greatest danger was to be around the serial bullies and their minions. I did not have any understanding of what was going on. I had not ever been in a situation of such evil before. I found out later a lot of the native people feel their are evil spirits in the hospital. There is evil in the form of very sick people who perpetrate harm on others.
Posted by Celia Harrison at 11/19/2007