Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Psychopath in the Office (and In My Life)

Crippled Inside - John Lennon

I just had an appointment that was trying to determine my strength and ability to bounce back. Bounce back from being tossed to the ground and trampled upon until I was little more than a weak shell of my former self. Okay, I am paraphrasing in order to be somewhat vague quite intentionally. You see I am sick and tired of having my head and thoughts probed. People making judgements about me after knowing me for a few hours. 

But at the same time they are forgetting, forgetting that prior to (and while) suffering nearly a decade of abuse by my employer I was a fabulous and successful single parent with no financial or emotional support from family or the sperm donor (that's for you LM). Truly single and alone! My children are a living testament to my character and mental stability - so is my long list of volunteer assignments and personal accomplishments. A published columnist with no formal training, a director of senior baseball who never played the game, a talent with construction that was never taught. And I could go on but its not my style.

Up until December 2010 I was a viable and contributing member of society. Following all (or most of the rules) and doing more than my fair share of making the world a better place for all to live in. And then my world came crashing down around me. It was the beginning of my end...emotionally. 

But one thing that can never ever be taken from me is my intelligence. It is my intelligence that tells me that even though I am emotionally crushed I am worth my space on earth. My self-esteem was taken from me. My sense of self was taken from me. My career was taken from me. My home, my life and my livelihood was taken from me. 

And I found my voice. I don't sing...I write. And when I find myself before the keyboard I find the voice that is struggling to understand. And as the music plays in the background, it speaks to me. Because here alone with my thoughts, I am safe. I can be who I am inside I can be the person that I admire and love without being judged. 

Don't like what I look like - you can't see me. 

Don't like what I sound like - you can't hear me.

Don't like what I say - stop reading.

Up here and far away in my tower - you can't touch me.

Here I have control of the delete and block button. You can't hurt me.

But are all my skills transferable to a career in the outside world? Have you ever gotten so afraid that every muscle in your body tensed up and pulling your arms in to try and protect yourself you feel like one deep breath and you would snap and shatter into a million pieces. That is my fear. I fear people that I can't protect myself from. There are too many people out there that want to hurt. Those that live for the cut-throat, dog-eat-dog, instant gratification of pushing down who ever is in their way. The people like those where I was trashed like non-recyclable garbage by those who should have cared. How can ever expect to be safe when forced to be with people who are given power to control my life and determine that I am not good enough? I am not speaking about capabilities I am speaking about character and personality. Obviously I am not pretending to be a CPA or certified welder. My education focuses on educating.

I know me. I am not a fighter. I am not angry. I am non-confrontational. I am private and distant at times. At times I am confident and the life of the party. I have a wicked sense of humour and love to laugh and love. I am a great advocate for others but can't find my voice to scream when I am being hurt. I love a good debate but don't know how to deal with personal attacks. We don't have to agree but we can be respectful - well I can.

But what do you do when you walk into your bosses office to congratulate them on their new promotion and they respond by saying "You know, I never like you from the first time I met you." (which was two years previous when she wasn't your boss). What are you supposed to say to that? How are you supposed to respond? It happened to me and I ate it. I said nothing. And she spent the rest of our working relationship doing everything she possible could to destroy me. There weren't complaints about my work but fabrications that couldn't be proven or could easily be disproven if given the chance. Or they were blatant character assassinations. I didn't socialize in the staff room. I didn't say hello in the halls. They didn't like my voice. 

When I stopped going to the torture chamber that was my daily job I was all but broken. Four and a half years later and the pieces are starting to come together but it just takes a small breeze to blow the house of cards down. The glue isn't set. I'm not sure that there is a glue strong enough to heal the hurt. The hurt goes far beyond the surface where a simple patch job might have sufficed. Intervention after the first attack more than 12 years ago.  

I trusted those people who were supposed to keep me safe and now I don't know how to be safe again. It is one thing to lose a hand and be unable to do your job as a surgeon. It is quite another to lose your mind and belief in yourself and everything that was good about you and go back to any job where your very soul is in jeopardy of falling apart at any moment. The hand-less surgeon still has the knowledge that they are okay, that they are capable. Their body is broken but not their spirit. Does that make sense to anybody? Besides me? 

In 2010, I wasn't perfect. There were things I wanted to change about myself (including ridding myself of a smoking habit), but I liked myself. I could look in the mirror and like what I saw - the physical flaws were the same as they are today, but they made me who I was and that was okay by me. Then! 

That was then...this is now! 

Now I struggle to tolerate the person in the mirror. If they didn't like me maybe I am not good enough. The snakes penetrated my armour and now there is nothing left to protect me. The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board had (and has) a lot of snakes in their midst. From the King Cobras to the Boa Constrictors to the Rattlers waiting in the wings to strike. 

But there are snakes outside of their fortress. How can I be safe from them? Because there is only one thing I know for sure and that is that I can't take this pain anymore. 

Brain Damage/Eclipse - Pink Floyd

And then I saw a documentary called The Psychopath Next Door on CBC's the Doc Zone. It was a true Eureka moment. Egocentric. Lacking remorse, guilt and empathy. Deceitful. Glib. Shallow. Smooth. Fake. The Bitch In Heels (BIH) was all of these things and more. According to the bosses quiz I took...people (and I) should have been very afraid. She was unable to achieve a higher score. Finally she was a real success at something - pardon my sarcasm. 

But to be fair she was not the only Psycho who worked for the School Board. I would go as far as to say, that it would not surprise me to learn that the DPCDSB uses the Hare Checklist to hire staff. For many of the staff I encountered displayed the traits listed therein. 

According to the authors of Snakes in Suits, corporate psychopaths rate high in communication skills, charisma, appearance but low in performance and productivity. The BIH had the minions doing her work when she was nearing the deadlines and couldn't possible complete her tasks. Who spent more time working in that office than doing her own job. Anyone with at least one good eye and 2 brain cells know that it was a colleague of mine and not the BIH. Then consider the two from the board office who sat, scribbling furiously the details and names I provided while muttering "Oh, dear!" repeatedly. They played their role but they did nothing. They dropped the ball on their responsibilities and their promises to action. Then there was the principal who couldn't find my work performance lacking so she ensured that the student I was responsible for failed. Fabricated discipline and grades that were pulled from her warped imagination. These were/are off-the-charts parasitic predators. I was their prey.

Why me? Well, I am an emotional and empathetic person. It is what made me successful in my career and at the same time a target. I was vulnerable and weak both emotionally and in the fact that I did not have a support system in the form of family or spouse. Top that with the fact that I was confidant in my ability and self and that made me dangerous and susceptible. A psychopath looks for the emotionally vulnerable to exploit them. 

A lure is thrown out to a potential victim. The bait is to assess the empathy that is returned. If the person takes the bait, they become a target. The predators tend to be very adept at detecting fear and emotional vulnerability despite being devoid of those same emotions themselves. They latch on to their victim and suck everything out of it that they can while they step on the corpse to climb the ladder. If not in actual promotions, they take credit for others ideas and blames others for their own failures. 

What is it about me? Nothing that I intend to change. I know that I have the fear and it was only my downfall because I found a community of psycho-predators. These immoral beings are masters at seeing clues in my environment that betray my fear. As open and confident as I may appear, I am actually social phobic. People/the public frightens me. I struggled every September to enter an environment of new faces of staff and students. But I conquered and even mastered the fear for every week, I encountered new and different piano students as well. You tolerate the trepidation because you have to. I had to suck it up or be unable to provide for my children. It wasn't an option. It had to be done. 

Explain how if I was so deficit, if I was such an angry person, if I was so mentally unbalanced - how is it that I would have one or two successful years of employment followed by a year of hell on earth. I was still me. The only thing that changed was my colleagues. At some point even the most dense of us would wonder if it was maybe them? Hmmm

This is a simplified version of the Psychopath Test you can take for yourself. I scored 10. I am not a Psychopath! 

It took me longer to break because I am stubborn and a fighter and stupid...I kept going back for more. But those days are done. I am broken.  

I have always had fear. Now I am scared. Ney...terrified.

Without Conscious. Dr. Robert Hare
Songs about Psychopaths
Psychopath Boss Quiz
Psychopath Test
Snakes in Suits by Paul Babiak, Ph.D. and Robert D. Hare, Ph.D.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

March Madness and April Foolishness

Cough Syrup - Young the Giant
"A dark world aches for a splash of the sun"

One more spoon of cough syrup to go down. And it is too hard to swallow. I connect to this song - a lot! Not because of some odd compulsion to consume cough syrup but because I feel the angst that is being expressed. I don't feel like the fish are staring at me but that I am the goldfish in the bowl - alone and watched. The zombies are after my heart because they want me dead inside. They want to control the living, they want to break my soul and my spirit. 

They are dead to me now, the people who tried to break me. But I am fighting to heal and be whole once again. The zombies can't win. Evil must not prevail. Soon I will be forced to face the demons again and I have been punishing myself in preparation for the the pain. I can see it but I can't stop it. There is something deep within that fights against the odds to survive and thrive. I don't know what it is, I can't make it work for me at will. But I know that I can find the good in me when I celebrate the written word. And when the music is loud and I hear the angels speak to me with their human voices. Call it madness if you will, I call it survival.


Remember the good old days when winter meant winter? Growing up in Thunder Bay wasn't the coldest or snowiest part of the land but we had our fair share. From November until the end of March it was winter. It was cold, it sucked and you dealt with it. Most people actually embraced it and made the most of the snowy season. There were ski hills a-plenty within 15 minutes of town. When families put away the bicycles, they pulled out the snowmobiles. Toboggan hills, tube slides, ice skating, snow forts, King of the Mountain and snowball fights at school. 

The thing is that when you knew it was cold, you dressed for it and it didn't seem so bad. I was almost guaranteed a toboggan or skiing party for my birthday at the end of November. Christmas was always white and March break was the turn around point. The chance to get in some warmer weather skiing without the usual bulky clothing. You knew that summer was around the corner.

To this day, people look at me with furrowed, questioning brows when I say I like winter. But it's the truth, I do. I have many fond memories of winter activities but there are two main reason I embrace the cold. First of all it's the embrace part. Nothing finer than a cuddle with a mate on a chilly evening watching the snow fall outside with a warm fire burning in a hearth. Who hasn't heard "Don't get so close, you're too sweaty." or "I'm too hot for that."? Shared body heat...yeah, it's a good thing. The other reason I like winter is because it is bug free. Yes, for a brief period of time I can do almost everything that I can do in the summer months but without the bother of the creepy, crawly, buzzing, flying, annoying critters. Like a vacation from the above mention zombies. :)

But #I'mSoDoneWithWinter this year. Last year, so many people complained about our seemingly endless Wednesday blizzards. And while it did seem a little too consistent, at least spring came without much haste and gave us a break. This year, November and December were mild (like fall not winter), even January was quiet on the winter front. But February, March and now April - enough! We surrender Mother Nature. April 7th and we had dumping of 10cm of snow. A cruel joke really until you hear that later in the week there will be more! Please make it stop. Not even #StormChips is funny anymore.

I, lover of winter have had enough! Bring it back in November or December and I will be happy to toss the first snowball out. But now it time to throw baseballs. End rant! 


And now for something from the "Did you know" department. Did you know that despite popular belief plastic does de-grade, it doesn't last forever in it's original form. Quicker than once believed, plastic does break down in the oceans waters and in the process leaches some very toxic chemicals. Essentially turning the ocean water into a chemical soup. Some of the remnants of plastic products are so small that we can't see them easily, but the birds and marine animals sure can. They often mistake the floating bits as food. Filling up on plastic is not terribly nutritious and in fact hazardous. 

Environmental advocates have been trying to get the notion of recycling plastic on the forefronts of our minds. And while there is some progress to be seen with use of refillable water bottles and coffee cups and shopping bags, we are falling back in other ways. While we were in the yard sorting our recyclables for community collection and turning our compost, the marketing machine slipped one past us.

You may have heard of the term Microbeads. Those amazing little balls of miracle cures! They clean without the muscles power, they whiten our teeth, strengthen our hair and exfoliating our skin so that we glow in the aura of youthfulness. 

Microbeads are plastic and they are microscopic. They are so abundant in the everyday products that we use that it is difficult to comprehend how much each person is adversely affecting the worlds water by simply performing their morning hygiene routine. The shampoo is washed down the drain, as is the toothpaste and the cleaning residue. The microbeads are so small that conventional filtering systems aren't able to capture them. They are a contaminant and impossible to remove once released. 

The good news is that with knowledge of this issue we can choose to change our shopping habits and we can demand that the multinational companies demonstrate some environmental awareness and stop this contamination. It's being done but the process is slow. Too slow in my mind for something that never should have happened in the first place. What brainiac figured that putting plastic in hygiene products wouldn't get washed down the drain and cause pollution that couldn't be reversed? 

Now you know! If you want to become more informed or help to Beat the Microbead, you can visit the International Campaign Against Microbeads website here.


Drones. What's not to love? 

  • Farmers can survey fields and crops in the comfort of their homes. That's got to be good for the environment.
  • Giving a bird's eye view to real estate can be beneficial for both the home seller and buyer. Look at the condition of the roof without a ladder. That's safer.
  • Law enforcement can use them to catch criminals without the high speed chases. The streets are safer for all. 
  • Rescuers can use the devices to help locate lost or stranded people, freeing up resources for other matters.
  • Monitor wildlife without intrusion and safely.
  • Make viewing sports and activities cooler. Giving people a viewpoint they wouldn't got any other way
  • Deliver packages, pizza, medicine to places near and far, remote and congested. 

But there is a dark side that has me worried. I live in an apartment building, I have used binoculars to ascertain if I am visible to any of the (somewhat) neighbouring buildings. I'm not, so I enjoy the light of the moon adding an ethereal glow to my bedroom and the suns brights rays to wake me up. Not a curtain to shield the beauty of the city. 

Until I considered the uses of a selfie stick. And thought how easy it would be to stand on the balcony and hold it up to see and video the apartment above me or below me. Hopefully having the ability won't mean that it will be done. But do you know that for sure? 

And from this vantage point, I've got to say that flying a drone over the rooftops of the city would be fun. Landing on a roof down below or in the yard making the dog go nuts, stop the cat from chasing the bird. Then I thought that that same drone could fly past my windows like the birds and see more than I want to share with the world. That's scary! 

The airspace outside my world is not controlled and in the wrong hands I could (and you could also) become victims of the 21st century Peeping Tom. 


Not everyone in the world is business-minded or scientifically inclined. Some of us find our passion in creativity. Music, writing, acting, arts of all types. I am angered at the cuts to the CBC that is destroying an important part of my culture. These cuts may not mean much to some but those without the access to cable (either psyically or financially) should not be without truly unbiased news reporting and Canadian content that we the people can identify with. Corner Gas, Murdoch Mysteries, Marketplace, CanadaAM, Friendly Giant and Mr. DressUp, Degrassi High. I could go on.

#SupportOurScreens, #NSFilmJobs and #SupportNSFilm
To add insult to injury the Nova Scotia government has suggested in a pre-budget speech that the Nova Scotia film tax credit will be axed. A blow not only to the culture but the economy. The successful Trailer Park Boys series would be one franchise that would suffer. I know that the movie industry isn't as big here as in Toronto or Vancouver but it is still an important employer. 

Cuts to the arts and music in any way should be fought with all that we can muster together. I'm fairly certain that Snoop Dogg and Axel Rose have very few ties to the Nova Scotia arts scene but they are throwing their support behind a petition aimed at reversing this BAD decision before it takes effect. 

Here is a link to sign the petition yourself and make your voice heard. Pass it along. Retweet it. Get the word out.


And as the last verse in the Cough Syrup songs says:

So I run now to the things they said could restore me
Restore life the way it should be
I'm waiting for this cough syrup to come down

As I wait for the cough syrup, it was pleasant to have this diversion from the anxiety regarding the dread that is headed my way. 

Another wall will soon darken my world. I pray I can climb it...

National Geographic - Plastic in the Ocean
International Campaign Against Microbeads
The Globe and Mail - Nova Scotia Film Tax Credit