I’m here to tell you my personal story on how your state of being and thoughts really do create your reality! Because I am able to look back and recognize my thoughts, fears, and emotions based on a learned belief system, I could identify every energetic and physiological pull of the events that unfolded before me…
At the time it happened, I was mortified. I was hurt and it felt personal. How was such an injustice even possible? I worked hard under extremely stressful working conditions with a handicapping, cervical spine condition. For a person like me, Type A and OCD, I did everything over and above what was expected of me by others; and sometimes by myself. I had the highest number of technical case resolutions working on help desk call issues.
The problem was I had such an overly high work ethic, much higher than many of my colleagues, despite my handicap; I apparently made people feel they looked bad. Now, my observation as I realized much later on, I was targeted because I pointed out the failure of management to maintain a professional work environment for all of us – government civilians, military personnel, and contractors, alike. Of course, at the time I hadn’t realized I was doing this but it eventually came out. I truly felt I was helping when I brought their attention to the unprofessional behavior of the US Navy military personnel. I wasn’t the only one raising concerns but for some reason, it appeared like I was the only one making this attempt; I stuck out amongst the crowd.
By the way, I learned nobody likes it if you are a threat to their position or their image and apparently, management preferred to target the whistle-blower. It would have been more beneficial to improve the work environment and atmosphere along with bettering the career path of the military individuals but clearly correction was not the focus as much as removing the squeaky wheel.
I had served in the USAF for over 10 years so I knew the ramifications of losing one’s military bearing. Of course, I hadn’t realized there was a difference in treatment with the US Navy. Where I worked, they were more concerned with keeping up appearances as buddies who didn’t want to hurt anyone’s career. This was the kinder service I never knew while I was active duty. There was no established line of respect and this was obvious as time went on and the sailors began to deliberately disobey lawful orders by their superiors and disrespect colleagues, each other, and ultimately, themselves in the workplace.
Unfortunately, the managers were doing a great injustice for every person they didn’t mentor or attempt to mold into a more professional and respectable individual. Profane language was accepted as just part of the territory of being a sailor and they supported it; sometimes the even partook in it, as well. It didn’t make it right but that’s the environment management promoted.
I got to witness one such case of a sailor whose lack of military bearing significantly declined as nobody took notice. He was young and easily influenced. By not being guided by his chain of command, he became so bad he came into work late, he ate in the office – we were all told the rules were we had to eat in the break room. He blatantly cursed and made inappropriate comments in the office, and acted like he was untouchable, as did many of the other sailors who knew management wasn’t going to intervene or reprimand them as they’d demonstrated. One day when I asked, “what the rules don’t apply to you?”
To which he responded laughing, “I don’t care, I’m getting out anyway.”
Not long after, this same sailor had been randomly selected for a drug test prior to his PCS (permanent change of station) back to the US. He tested positive but the test result hadn’t return before his flight. And so, thanks to the good ol’ US Navy for your hard earned tax dollars flying him right back to Naples, Italy so he could be put on administrative hold in an orange vest sweeping around the buildings while awaiting a military court marshal.
I had only just started working in my new office, when my medical condition started one Friday afternoon in July of 2007 when I was offered a ride to the Metro from the NATO base where I parked my car after work. I had considered declining the offer but I had a heavy bag weighing me down. The moment I sat into the car the right side of my head bounced off of a broken hand-grip (aka “Oh-Shit-Grip”) hanging from the ceiling. The driver told me nonchalantly “Oh, that’s been broken for a while…,“ as if it wasn’t a big deal. Unfortunately, it was and it sent an electrifying, energy bolt surging down my neck all the way down my left arm. It hurt and I had no idea what was in store for me in the following days!
I hadn’t even considered the idea of getting his insurance information as someone later suggested because the guy was a little sweet on me and I was so not interested. I just wanted to get out of the car and go home.
When I got home, I thought doing some yoga would help. I will tell you carrying the heavy bag didn’t help and the following day it was worse but I went with a girlfriend to a sun spot on in Mare Chiara. By Monday, I was nearly paralyzed on my left side with severe nerve pain, which was unexplainable to anyone else who hadn’t been through the same experience. Heck, how could anyone understand this pain I was feeling if I was driving myself to and from work but of course, being single, there is nobody else. Yeah, that was a feat in itself! Imagine you have nerve pain and atrophy down your entire left arm while driving a manual shift Mini Cooper on Italian cobble-stoned streets.
Vibration exacerbated the pain like you have no idea!
I spent months trying to find relief. In the first couple days, I had been to the US Navy clinic where they gave me something like Vicodin, which only caused me to be sick to my stomach. The first time I took it, I was trying to eat lunch with colleagues and I couldn’t hold any food down. It was clear I couldn’t take it as it certainly didn’t relieve the nerve pain on my left side but only diverted my attention to the nauseous, loopy and woozy feeling I experienced. I will tell you this – one of my colleagues was quick to jump on my medications! He was a true example a prescription pain medication addict! Some of the stuff that came out of his mouth was just crazy and he got away with it. There were times people swore he was drinking in addition to the meds. He told me he had been suffering with pain for quite a long time and the doctors limited his pain medication monthly so he ran out before the end of the month.
See, the military medical professionals really only focus on “patching you up and shipping you out” and so, nobody ever suggested going on disability, which I paid for in my benefits’ package because I was treated just like I was military. This is the reason I sought alternative treatment.
I ended up going to a chiropractor and acupuncturist near where I lived in the center of Naples. It took over 10 visits at 40 Euro a session before I could even turn my head to the left again. I had to resort to strictly sleeping on my right side with pillows lined along my back to my left. Either way, I didn’t sleep well at night with the pain. I quickly started to understand how and why people could and would self medicate with alcohol. I had a few evenings like that where I was drinking and downing several 800mg of Motrin just to mask the pain and enjoy a night of dancing amongst friends.
For weeks, I was complaining of the cold in the office as my desk was sitting atop of several raised air vents and next to the door which, created a wind tunnel effect as soon as it opened and people tended to fail to close it behind them. It was truly unbearable as the heat outside was stifling but the office was like walking into a freezer. To alleviate this, I had to bring heavy sweaters in with me and I had a colleague assist me in swapping the floor tiles so I would be more comfortable. I’ve worked in computer rooms for years and it has never ceased to amaze me how the climate control system is intolerable for humans. There wasn’t a person who didn’t wear a jacket as a result of the cold. I even brought in the Environmental Safety, aka, OSHA, officer to inspect the spaces. Yeah, that didn’t go over too well with management either but they also never took my medical condition seriously into consideration.
I had x-rays and MRIs done of my cervical spine where they pointed out the severity of the nerve pinching, along with the degenerated discs in my neck. I had no idea of the extreme degeneration in my cervical spine until then.
That’s when it hit me.
I had been in an accident at the age of 17 where, by the grace of God and my Angels, I did not go through the windshield. I didn’t have my seat-belt on sitting in the middle of a small Nissan pickup with two friends as we struck the telephone pole. In retrospect, I should have catapulted through that windshield but instead, my head made an impression in the glass windshield with pieces of my hair hanging from it and I had glass in my scalp. I also had indentations along my left shin as it went into the radio console and my right leg was extended to brace me. Well, only a few years prior I had realized my right hip, lower back, and knee pain were also a result of it, it had shifted my pelvis and sacrum off with my right leg extended in the collision.
The first doctor I saw gave me a series of steroids. It didn’t do a whole lot for the pain. In fact, I even went to the local Italian pharmacist where they recommended Voltaren – first, the cream and then, the syringe injections. When that wasn’t strong enough and I went back to the local pharmacist, he gave me a stronger steroid syringe injection and some Vitamin B. I had to inject both into my rear – one for the steroid and the other Vitamin B, consisting of a glass bottle you had to pop to manually fill the syringe with this red colored liquid. It’s amazing what you’ll do when you’re that desperate to relieve pain because this was a new process to me.
I still wasn’t sleeping through the night.
Eventually, I was referred to a specialist who recommended prescribing me Neurontin, a combination of Gabapentin and some other drug that escapes my memory, used for reducing the nerve pain. It wasn’t until nearly 4 months later I sat down and read the counter indications of these drugs which explained many of the mood fluctuations I had been experiencing, in addition to the office politics.
Want to know a little about it? Simply put, what I read about the drugs I had been prescribed was how they were “Non-narcotic drugs with narcotic-like effects…should be slowly taken off as side-effects…”
I’m sorry…how is that possible? You have anxiety as you come down off of them and then need to take them soon before you feel the need to strangle your coworkers who insist on being rude speaking profanity right behind you while you’re on the phone with a customer who also questions “what is going on there?”
Another time, I had two sailors sitting next to me having a conversation about their sexual lives while I was on a call. This kind of deliberate behavior around me was common, like they were testing me! I requested they take the conversation elsewhere as the Navy officer on the phone mentioned hearing the conversation in the background. I received a snide response from the female sailor saying, “They can’t hear us…”
The person on the other end said, “Oh, yes I can! Tell her I can repeat it back to her word for word if she’d like…”
When I told her, she appeared to be slightly embarrassed but clearly didn’t like the fact it was me pointing this out to her.
There were times I could have lost my temper or professionalism but I was able to refrain and I was able to maintain my cool. Even with the medication, I felt the effects but I never acted upon them. It was just the most unsettling sensation to feel these frustrating feelings bubbling up inside from a medication…proof that prescription drugs are never a good choice because they’re certainly not natural!
This was all part of what I was dealing with. In addition, our company project manager was not my biggest fan. He would have gotten rid of me much sooner had I not protected myself the year prior with a formal HR complaint about how I felt my job was being threatened. I had been told how he wanted to get rid of me within the first couple days of his arrival. He hadn’t even known me and I was already a target of his. I was one of the most helpful people in trying to ensure all our new personnel knew how to in-process into the base and get around Naples. What did I know? I had many compliments from people I’d known during my years of working there in the community about how professional I was. You never saw me wearing jeans as I was always in business attire.
There was also our program manager who was in Japan. I didn’t realize it but it turned out he also wasn’t one of my biggest fans either as I had quickly determined who his chosen employees were he’d sent to Naples. I butted heads with these people. They stuck out as they didn’t actually work but delegated it so they could sit around working on their personal schoolwork and discuss stock options. At one point while I was going through all my medical problems, my program manager asked me something I found curious, “Are you disabled?”
I wish I had realized how this would have affected me. I was miserable in that environment. Not once did anyone suggest my going on disability for which I was paying. I was actually disabled but at the time, I didn’t understand how it was determined and who made that determination. Part of me later figured out he felt it might have protected the company if I had been categorized as disabled. It certainly wasn’t because he was looking out for my best interest. In fact, this particular company quickly lost the local government’s favor with the indignant personnel sent over from Japan. I mean, the project manager literally was hired to be a systems engineer but instead created his own position along with claiming a desk in another office far away from the designated location he was hired to work at. This set the initial tone of his arrival and created the rift with the government. The rest of us felt like the forsaken children of the misfit company management. Three of us filed HR complaints because of what we witnessed and for fear of backlash in the first few months, Oct – Dec 2006.
In the first month after my head concussion, someone recommended cortisone injections for my neck. I had requested this but found out they didn’t have any specialized doctors to administer it at the US Navy hospital. Instead, I had to get a referral, which took what seemed like forever. Finally, several months later, when I received the information for the referral, it turned out to be my neighbor in the building where I was living.
Imagine you’ve known someone and their family for years but you don’t even know their profession and it turns out they are a neurologist. I had been given the numbers of two different doctors but Luca was the first I called. You would have laughed at our phone conversation as I called to schedule the appointment while driving home from work, always with hands-free. In midst of our speaking, he said, “Lana, is this the same Lana who lives on Rampe Brancaccio on the 5th floor ….”
My reaction was “Luca, I had no idea it was you I was calling!
Well, I was grateful to have known Luca because he told me like it was. He explained to me, not only as a doctor but as a friend who knew how active I was, and how the detrimental the cortisone shot would be. He pointed out that the nerve feeling pain showed it was alive and this was normal even if unbearable. He said he would give me the cortisone shot if I wanted but if I were to have the shot, it would only mask the pain; and, by not feeling it, I wouldn’t know my body’s limits. If I had hurt myself or further damaged the nerve, the effects wouldn’t be apparent until months later after the shot wore off. Also, cortisone injections eat away at the fluids and cushion between the vertebrae and eventually, you’re rubbing bone on bone. Yes, I was grateful for the delay in this treatment option.
I can tell you, once again my Angels had protected me and I had been delayed from getting the cortisone shots because they would not have been my best option.
My pain was so bad, I wasn’t sleeping at night, having trouble driving and functioning, I was lucky I was even making it to work. So, it was interesting as our hours were established in such a way we weren’t allowed to be late – there was no flexibility. I was never more than five minutes late but it was what they started targeting me on. I was just so miserable with what I was walking into on a daily basis and then, to have an eye on my arrival time. It didn’t matter I would work through lunch and sometimes even longer to cover the desk for others who were out of the office.
I was under the microscope!
I haven’t even highlighted some of the major issues in our office space like the stealing of stuff off of people’s desks or the fact we had a sailor who had a mantra of “What the Fuck!?” which struck a serious nerve in my ear and he said it so often. Believe it, or not, I had actually gotten along very well with this person in the beginning but the minute I simply requested he refrain from the language and then had to pursue this through management, he was personally insulted. From then on, he deemed me the enemy. Even after he was told, for a while his mantra turned into just “What the…”
It ended there but it still sounded just as ear piercing and you knew what it was. He had a vendetta with me and it was clear because he would avoid eye contact, spoke crassly under his breath, and no longer had conversations with me as we did prior. It was rather unfortunate, as I knew how to draw the line between professional and personal relationships. I just hadn’t realized not everyone else understood there was difference between the two and the need to modify behavior in the workplace.
Yeah, this is also the sailor who lost his military bearing after I simply asked him to lower his voice on that fateful day in mid-February 2008. He waited nearly a half hour before I heard him mumble “I’ve had enough of this shit…” and that’s when he stood up yelling demeaning threats at me over the cubicle in our new office space stating how I should be “watching myself.” There was a new US Navy Chief who had just been assigned to the military and I actually thought he was going to intervene on his lack of professionalism and military bearing when he commanded in his authoritative tone, “Slocum, Stop, come with me…”
When I went for lunch in the break room, I had another very uncomfortable incident with a US Navy female sailor who insisted I leave when she walked in. She was literally staring me down as I was finishing my lunch so they could have a meeting. They could have had the meeting anywhere else but the break room. We had no place else to eat and here they were kicking me out of the only break room we had. I walked out nearly in tears.
Then, later, as I returned to the office, I was informed, how I “had been the cause of hate and discontent between military and contractors.” Yes, these exact words expressed how I shouldered and wielded a lot of power and influence over the entire office, so I was told! It may be easier to place blame on others but the truth always comes out in the end.
When I went to speak to the project manager his solution was to tell me how I “should fall upon the sword …and beg for my job back…”
Even though I did request an opportunity to speak to the government management, I was refused. They felt there was nothing they needed to hear from me and they didn’t believe I deserved any explanation for their decision.
Nobody was willing to stand up and fight for me. There were people all around who witnessed what had happened but not one person spoke up in my defense. Instead, they all turned around in their cubicles out of fear for their own jobs having witnessed the way things had been handled and removed themselves from any responsibility, despite how it was still indirectly affecting them.
It’s still karma when you ignore what’s going on around you and don’t speak up for the greater good of all.
I learned a lot of things through that experience. I learned who were my friends and who were the ones looking out for themselves. Sadly, the one person I would confide in and continuously stated to me “Don’t let them steal your joy!” was the same person deliberately working behind my back the entire time, without my realizing it until much later.
I had also trusted one of the people in management and it turned out all the things I divulged about our company problems and my own personal life were used against me. He secretly got off on my stories as I realized later. It was a shame to find out the way I did but I am grateful to know better.
I realized how the Universe had conspired to remove me from a very intolerable and unhappy situation. Toward the end of my time working in that office, I truly had an attitude of “I just want to go to work and do my job and then go home!” I didn’t want to spend a minute more there than I had to.
I still remember the conversation I had with my mother on the phone after it happened. I said to her,
I know God stepped in because I was so unhappy. It didn’t matter how it happened but that it had to happen because I hadn’t made the choice…so, he made it for me!
See, I understood how much my physiology was attuned to a defense mode and this basically put a bull’s-eye on my back. It had everything to do with what I was avoiding and the more I avoided it, the stronger it came at me. My thoughts were worries – of making it to work on time, which sometimes created my being late.
There were many things I could have done different but I know looking back how much the experience taught me. I had to make some serious changes in my life and this was just one wake-up call.
The day I lost my job was the biggest blessing I had ever received! As the Italians say,
Quando una porta si chiude, un portone si apre!
We say the same in America but I like this translation much better:
When one door closes, an even bigger door opens!
As I will admit I made an attempt at finding a resolution, I was left to fend for myself. I also attempted to file a formal complaint against the military and the government but I was brushed off. First, the US Navy said since I wasn’t military myself, there was nothing I could do. Then, the government claimed they didn’t need to provide me any reason or even speak to me. Last, my company simply did nothing despite my constant complaints. I had been told I should have filed through them but at that point it was just another troublemaker gone. My company literally abandoned me in Italy despite my program manager claiming he would do all he could to utilize my expertise. He was just providing me lip service as I had scheduled a one-on-one appointment with him when he flew out from Japan through my project manager who had conveniently forgotten his phone at home and was avoiding me on that particular day. See, it was simple, they had finally gotten rid of me and they didn’t care. I didn’t even receive a return plane ticket home.
As Anthony Robbins teaches, “Change is like death” for some of us, you have to go through the mourning process and embrace all the emotions involved. If you can harness the transition with this knowledge, it can be so much more graceful. Holding onto the past only keeps you stuck from BEing in the Present and doesn’t allow for expansion and personal growth.
I’ve learned to find the silver lining, to embrace change as a blessing and birth of the new NOW!
So, the next time you’re fighting the need to make a change in your life, remember that if you don’t, it may be made for you ~ in a way you may not have chosen for yourself!
Everyone receives 2 kinds of education: the one given him by someone else, and the other, far more important, which he gives himself.
I wish you an Open Mind to Positively Creating Your Reality in the midst of inevitable change!
~ ♥ Lana ♥
Update of Original Post: A Personal Account of How Your Thoughts Create Your Reality