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Chapter 11: Burden of Proof

I am scheduled for my intake appointment today to discuss my discrimination claim. It is deeply distressing to have been met with disbelief when I repeatedly asserted that the work systems caused significant emotional and mental health challenges. This experience I had feels like a form of gaslighting, as if it is being suggested that the problem lies within me and that my feelings of hurt were invalid. Unfortunately, this is precisely what I encountered during my time at the Oregon Health Authority. Despite my repeated attempts to communicate that certain actions were hurtful, I was met with dismissive responses claiming that their approach, as the authority, was unquestionably the best way to handle things.

It is doubtful that this chapter will conclude on a positive note, and this uncertainty evokes a sense of anxiety within me. It is not because I lack absolute certainty about the mistreatment I endured during my tenure at OHA; rather, it is rooted in the patterns of my past traumas. Whenever I assert my truth, it has been consistently denied, and I am forced to shoulder the burden of change while others, including the system, remain unchanged. This history intensifies my feelings of unease and apprehension.

Throughout my tenure at OHA, I upheld my values of respect, integrity, compassion, and honesty with unwavering dedication. These values served as guiding principles, and I held onto them firmly, embracing their strength and conviction.

To me, respect is a deeply reciprocal truth. When someone shares something about themselves, I believe them, as this fundamental trust forms the foundation of respect. However, at OHA, respect seemed to be defined differently. It appeared to be tied to a culture of non-dissent, where blindly adhering to leadership directives without question was considered respectful. In my view, this version of respect is rooted in respectability politics, which is toxic. True respect should not be contingent on conforming or silencing one's voice, but rather on honoring each individual's experiences and perspectives.

Integrity is a fundamental principle that I hold dear. To me, it means aligning my words with my actions and fulfilling the commitments I make. During my interview, I made it clear that I am an individual of integrity, a non-conformist, a disruptor of the status quo, and someone who challenges authority. I approached these aspects of my identity with resolute dedication, never wavering from my convictions.

Honesty is a value that can be challenging to uphold in this world, and unfortunately, at OHA, it proved to be detrimental to my well-being. I approached my time there with unwavering honesty, sharing my expertise, embracing my identity, expressing my needs, and offering constructive criticism. Regrettably, my honesty was met with fear, exclusion, and, ultimately, retaliation. The repercussions I faced for being honest only served to underscore the toxic environment that hindered my well-being.

Compassion should not be confused with pity, acceptance, or the act of overlooking mistakes. It goes beyond mere sentiment and is rooted in understanding. Compassion is an active value that necessitates continuous learning and an acknowledgment of our own inherent limitations in comprehending others, often influenced by our own social sensitivities. When something triggers us, true compassion prompts us to pause and seek to understand the underlying reasons behind our emotional response rather than reacting impulsively. Compassion is a constant ongoing effort.

I find it challenging to cultivate compassion for those who have caused me harm, but I am actively engaged in the process of working on it. I recognize that their actions may stem from ignorance, and in today's world, where there are numerous resources for self-education, such ignorance is difficult to accept. Despite this, I am making an effort to extend compassion to those who lack it themselves. However, I am left wondering how one can achieve this. How can I hold space in my heart for individuals who refuse to introspect and examine their own actions and perspectives?

I am currently embarking on the difficult journey of learning how to forgive individuals who persistently refuse to acknowledge the harm they have caused, regardless of whether it was intentional or unintentional. Their actions have inflicted deep trauma upon me, and the path towards healing will undoubtedly be arduous and all-encompassing. However, in accordance with the core principles of behavioral health, I understand the importance of recognizing my own role in the situation. Through this process of self-discovery, I hope to find the strength and insight necessary to move forward and heal from the painful experiences I endured during my time at OHA.

The desired outcomes I seek from this situation are twofold: first and foremost, I seek time and space to heal and recover from the wounds inflicted upon me. Secondly, I hope for this experience to serve as a catalyst for education and growth, particularly for those individuals who may have been unaware of the impact of their actions. By fostering understanding and awareness, we can strive towards preventing similar harm in the future.
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