This post will be very hard to write. Please read it, and learn. If my experience can help even one person, it will be worth the suffering I describe.
Have you ever told yourself that you were just being paranoid? That they weren't really out to get you, that they really did have good intentions at the core, that you just had some bad luck, that you were being overemotional, and that things would improve? Have have you ever looked a situation and thought, it can't possibly be as bad as I think it is, that it had to improve? And did you ever have to finally, eventually, reluctantly realize that you weren't being paranoid at all, that it really WAS that bad, and that you were really, truly screwed?
THAT has been my experience since Elizabeth Martinez became the library director and Maria Roddy took over as my supervisor in the Salinas Public Library.
It started out small. I heard from a fellow librarian that she had been taken out to lunch by the managers and she had been asked to say negative things about me, and that they had warned her against me and asked her to spy on them. It became worse that same month, September 2008, when the city called in an outside investigator to investigate the claims that I was the instigator of negativity and insubordination in the work place. The first time the library had me in shaking tears is when I knew was the target of that investigation. And my stomach fell out when I got my hands on a document where a manager stated lies about me and reported them to the Director as though they were truth.
It was bad when I had an altercation with a patron who threatened me physically and yet her story was believed, and my truth was disregarded, though Maria Roddy had witnessed it all. It got worse when they started giving me more and more hours on a desk (very exhausting), clearly showing preference to other librarians. And when I was denied my merit increase because of that single unfair patron complaint and I had no recourse at all, my world caved in. The harassment continued when I was yelled at for taking a bathroom break, for sitting down for a minute to rest between patrons because according to Maria I should have been walking around. The bullying continued when others got away with short skirts and I was called to the carpet and written up more than once for wearing skirts that indeed were long enough. Or when other librarians were given time to accomplish their projects and I was given none at all. Or when I caught a 9 year old boy looking at explicit porn in the kid's side of the library and the fact that I touched his neck got me written up and the fact that he was looking at porn bothered them not at all.
It was bad when any question I asked led to retaliation of some sort of another. It was bad when I was so afraid to ask any question, no matter how benign, so I had to have a fellow librarian do it for me. I never knew when an official complaint was going to come or I was going to be called into the office for a little meeting, and I spent most of the last three years at work knotted up with anxiety and fear of doing anything at all, really. I truly had a target on my back.
And believe me, for the sake of brevity I am leaving many, many examples out.
The single most devastating part of this experience is what it did to my self esteem and psyche. I am a hard worker by nature, who believes that one should be proactive and creative in finding solutions to problems, and I was being constantly punished for all of those things. After all, how dare I question or have an idea that might contradict the mighty will of E. Martinez and M. Roddy? I had to deny the most basic part of myself just to try and survive. I am also a natural problem solver, but this is a problem I could not solve. If I worked fast or slow, it was wrong. If I spent too much time or too little time with a patron, it was wrong. If I asked a question it was wrong, if I didn't ask I should have. I could not win. I had multiple complaints and official warnings filed against me, and they all were lies, but they were believed by everyone up to the City Manager, so I had no recourse. I tried filing complaints against the managers, and got nowhere at all. I tried doing nothing and playing along, and it just got worse.
So, by the summer of 2010, I was trapped in this hellish situation with no idea how to get out of it. I'd applied for many jobs of course, but no luck. I was locked in misery and had a very hard time keeping it out of my private life as well. My stomach was continuously cramped, I put on abut 30 pounds between early 2009 and fall of 2010 due to stress, I cried all the time, and I often had to take days off because I was so sick from stress. For a while I truly feared that my chaotic and upset mental and emotional state would drive away the erudite boyfriend because it was all about me, and I couldn't think of anything or anyone else. Thank God the EB put an end to that silliness immediately and was my rock and a great source of strength through it all.
I felt helpless, useless, and incompetent because I couldn't change what was happening, and couldn't make it stop. I felt like a failure in my chosen profession. And I was filled with dread as I watched their lies and unfair actions shred my professional reputation. In short I was mess. I was desperate enough to seek counseling, but it couldn't solve the problem and didn't really help. I was what they call 'depressed' and 'anxious' in the mental health sense but it wasn't because I was a depressed person or an anxious person, I had no chemical imbalance in the brain as do true sufferers of those syndromes. But I was drowning under the weight of what has happening to me, and I exhibited the symptoms because of that.
And it took me the longest time, longer than it should have, to realize that I wasn't being paranoid, and Elizabeth Martinez and Maria Roddy really did have evil intentions towards me. It took me a long time to listen to their actions and not their words. It was hard for me because I was an Aspie, and we have a hard time understanding motivations and emotions in others that we don't have in ourselves. I don't treat people like that, so how could I understand them, even when I was the target?
Fortunately, it was in the late spring of 2010 that the Erudite Mom, who teaches Autistic kids, attended a workshop that taught about the various type of autism, including Autism Spectrum Disorder and Asperger's. And THAT changed everything.
Look for Part Three this weekend: How I was diagnosed as an Aspie and what I did about it.