TW: talk of gun and workplace violence, abuse
For those of us who are fortunate enough to still be able to keep working, I think we all have those days where it feels like a nightmare in the making. From not being able to keep up with the work. From being utterly overwhelmed with everything that’s going on outside of work. From life’s trials and tribulations in general, I suppose.
But what happens when work actually amplifies your nightmares? When it makes you afraid to go to sleep at night or prevents you from having a good night’s sleep? What’s a person supposed to do with that? Who can we tell? Our supervisors or co-workers? Who would understand what is happening and help to lessen it? Who would even care?
I’m hoping that it hasn’t happened to others, but I’m fairly certain it has. For me–a job I was asked to do has literally given me nightmares.
About a month or so ago, I got an e-mail from the ‘big cheese‘ requesting that I take the lead on some mandatory training because he’d been directed by the departmental security team that it had to be done. The training consisted of a video as well as handouts for discussion. He requested that I hold a number of half-hour, closed small-group sessions, rather than one large session in order to formulate better comments/questions from staff. I was assured that a member of the management team would be at each session to help me and answer any questions that I couldn’t.
Right from the get go I did not have a great feeling about the request.
There were the obvious reasons–I hate speaking in front of people; I was fairly certain a manager would not show up at every session and I would be left trying to answer things I might not be able to; there would have to be quite a few sessions because irregardless of whether or not something is mandatory some people just never show up; and most importantly, I am actually not in charge of security for the building (although it always seems to end up that way).
Then there were the ‘only obvious to me‘ red-flag reasons for not wanting to have any part in this–the video was deemed to be quite realistic and came with a warning that it might be upsetting to some employees; I was instructed to remind everyone that they could always get emotional support from the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if they found the material too upsetting; and that the video should not be viewed individually.
Last but not least was the GINORMOUS red-flag, send me into sweat-inducing panic mode reason–the title–‘Armed Intruder‘.
In order to prepare for the sessions, I had to watch the video beforehand. The very first thing you hear/see is a warning..
Please be advised that this video production is dramatic and realistic.
Some viewers may find it disturbing.
Viewer discretion is advised.
Less than a minute into the video you see a guy walking towards a building with a shotgun hidden under his coat (I think this is the point where I stopped breathing), open the door, walk in and start shooting people (there’s actually blood that hits the wall). Then he methodically walks through the building, looking calm, yet terrifying, and shoots random people.
6 whole minutes.
That’s how long the video lasted.
But it felt so much longer.
Once it was over, I turned it off, sat at my desk and contemplated writing an e-mail saying that I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t keep watching the video and talking about it with other people. All I could think was ‘who in the world decided it would be a good idea to show this video to anyone and where in the world did they find that guy?‘
But I never sent the e-mail. I tried to tell myself it wouldn’t be that bad. I would get through it and that would be the end of it
I had 3 days booked over a two week period. It would cover 8 sessions (3 on one day, 2 on another day and 3 on the final day). 8 times (plus the one time I had already seen it) I would watch the video. Each time I would barely breathe and got chills down my back.
It was just over two weeks ago that I first saw the video. Yesterday was the last day. It was just over two weeks ago that the nightmares started. Nightmares from a different time and place. From a time so many years ago. It was all because the guy from the video looked so much like a person from my past.
In a nutshell though, E was different than the others. While they threatened with words, E liked to be rough and in charge. He threatened with weapons. He was the one abuser who I believe had the ability to kill someone. Sometimes he would hold me down with a knife and sometimes he would point to the gun (a shotgun that hung in the rafters above us) and say ‘You know what I can do with that right? You know what will happen to you if you tell anyone? I will kill you, and nobody will care and nobody will come looking for you.’ I was literally terrified of him.
In the video they tell employees they have 3 options in the event that there is an armed intruder in the workplace–run, hide or defend. They are not steps to be taken, but are choices that each person needs to make for themselves and that sometimes you will be fighting for your life.
That’s what we had to do so many years ago.
Fight for our lives.
We shouldn’t have to do the same thing today.
I just want the nightmares to be over.
There are going to have to be more sessions after Christmas in order to achieve 100% compliance for our building. I don’t want to do them anymore. I don’t know if I can. I simply don’t want any part of it all. I just don’t know what to say to get out of it. The only thing I can imagine is telling my boss I can’t do it and him rolling his eyes and referring me to EAP. And frankly, that just isn’t going to help me at all.