“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t explain that correctly.”
Although the comment isn’t directed at me, I can’t help but hear the comment, note how instead of blaming the person doing the task incorrectly, our person in charge is taking responsibility as she corrects the problem.
I continue to paint the wall in front of me, but my thoughts are of another work site, where I was in the process of repainting a skull and replacing it on a facade.
“Wow. That’s horrible,” my boss says from below my ladder.
It wasn’t what I was used to. At all. If it had been said to someone else, I might have protested his words. But it was said to me, and I wanted to do a good job, so I tried to laugh it off and figure out what about the task was wrong.
This was one of my first days working for him. It set the tone for the next seven years – criticism, sometimes couched in ‘oh you know I’m kidding’, and praise/compliments mostly offered when there was no other audience but me.
I love having the opportunity to help create scenes, environments. Usually that’s within the walls of a haunted house. I’d fallen in love with this haunt and I was eager for the opportunity to work here as often as possible. Indeed, it was this haunt that had set me on the path to becoming “Halloween Girl” more so than any other haunt project or commitment I’d taken on up to that point in my life.
Part of the appeal was that I was working for a friend.
I didn’t know at the time that I was actually working for a narcissist.
What that means, for me, is that I spent those years on a roller coaster of praise and abuse. I could do anything; I was mostly useless. I was one of his best friends; the more I hurt, the more he wanted to hurt me. The people that worked this haunt were a family; I wasn’t supposed to talk to them about much of anything. The stories and the rules changed depending on the audience, and while hindsight makes it all very clear, the day to day process of living with it is bewildering.
Here’s the really hard thing: This all happened me to before the average person knew the definition of ‘narcissistic personality disorder.’ On one hand, when I walked away from that job, I knew I would be cyberstalked, so it changed many of the ways I handle myself online (including why I am being admittedly vague, and even still I’m having a hard time hitting ‘publish’), and I grew to learn that people that were paying attention weren’t believing the smear campaign that still goes on to this day. Which is typical for a narcissist.
More deeply rooted, and the bigger surprise, was the unexpected PTSD. I found that had lost a lot of my confidence, my ability to trust my coworkers. When Bones and I started our haunt and were building the show, I struggled a lot with an unexpected need for reassurance. And when I started working at the theatre, I discovered that I was shocked to hear people treating each other with respect. That it was ok to take a break. That the way I used to treat my fellow crew members was actually the *norm* rather than something to be mocked. That mistakes weren’t met with, “Wow, that’s horrible,” or other demeaning critical comments, or compliments at the moment followed by negativity muttered to other ears.
I am lucky in that I’ve worked with people that understand why I have PTSD. They’ve known the players in my story. They’ve been able to tell by the look on my face when I’ve stopped hearing them and started hearing the past. Sometimes I feel like every job offers one more bit of healing. And sometimes it’s really hard to not just walk around hugging people that are being genuinely kind to each other on a work site.