Meet Kim M.

Story Written by Kenny Silva

Kim M with bike
Kim M with bike


“Everyone—from the clinicians to the paraprofessionals to my groupmates—made me feel like I was exactly where I should’ve been. The Veterans Transition Program changed my life.”

From: BC
RCMP E Division Health Services

All names below, unless otherwise noted, have been changed for confidentiality.

I’m not your typical Veterans Transition Program graduate.

In fact, I’m not a military veteran at all. But I learned at VTP—and am continuing to learn today—that stories like mine must be told. I may never have donned a military uniform, but I faithfully served my country for 10 years as a nurse for RCMP E Division Health Services.

Every day, I worked to improve our members’ quality of life so that they could turn around and do their jobs as best as they possibly could. But, in the end, I found myself broken and alone—chewed up and spit out by the very organization I’d sworn to serve.

Stethescope

A Promising Career

Prior to the RCMP, I’d worked for nearly a decade as a nurse. I started my career at Vancouver General Hospital. After 5 years of palliative care, I moved into occupational health. A few years later, I heard that E Division was looking for someone to pick up a few shifts and I jumped at the opportunity to interview for the job.

When I sat down with the woman who’d one day become my boss, I was surprised just how well we hit it off. I’d gone in hoping for a few extra shifts but, in the end, they presented me with a full-time offer. I was immediately interested. For years, I’d watched my sister serve her community with the Vancouver Police Department, and now I had my own chance to make a difference. Even better, the RCMP was going to provide me with new opportunities to learn, grow, and press forward in my career field.

So, I took the job.

When I got to E Division, I was immediately impressed by my officer-in-charge—let’s call her Theresa. A no-nonsense “fixer,” Theresa had been tapped to get the department back on track after years of flagging performance. She was firm but fair, and she had a way of drawing the best out of people—including me. I was given ample opportunity to hone my skills and, before long, promoted to nursing manager of E Division.

Theresa was the greatest boss I’ve ever had. Under her leadership, I found my vocational sweet spot. This was my career job, and I’d stick with it until the very end.

Or, so I thought.

“For the next year of my life, I couldn’t go a single night without having a nightmare.”

Goodbye, Theresa. Hello, Jake.

For 5 years, everything hummed along at E Division. Theresa ran an outstanding operation, and I was thrilled to be a part of it. But, as they say, all good things must come to an end. The RCMP decided Theresa would be put to better use elsewhere, so they shipped her out and brought in a replacement—we’ll call him Jake.

Jake could not have been any more different than his predecessor. I think he knew as much, which would explain why he made it his mission to snuff out every last bit of Theresa’s influence. In part, that meant painting a big red target on my head and that of our office manager, Betty.

Betty and I were the two female management hold-overs from the days of Theresa. While Jake mostly stayed off the backs of our male colleagues, he came at us full barrel. Micromanagement, verbal abuse, public humiliation—these were just a few of the tools our new boss wielded to try and force us out of the office. To make matters worse, he’d find ways to blame us for his poor decisions, telling angry members that I was the one responsible for denying their benefits when, really, it was him.

Jake was nearly impossible to work for. He’d load us down with unreasonable expectations then threaten us when we came looking for some form of relief. You need to know: I was no slouch. I’d regularly handled massive caseloads for the department and was never shy about taking on extra duty assignments. I loved the work and poured my heart out for it. But when Jake started pulling files from junior workers and putting them on my desk (without their knowledge), something had to give.

I can remember the times I’d go to Jake to discuss my impossible workload. Sometimes, he dismissed me out of hand. Other times, he threatened to send me for a psychiatric evaluation. One time, he was so vicious that he reduced me to tears in his office. You’d think he would have backed off at that point, but he didn’t. Instead, he chastised me for crying and then announced to everyone in the office that I was a big cry baby.

I’m sorry to say, episodes like that one were the norm. But the straw that broke the camel’s back came one day when Jake was particularly upset about something he didn’t like. He had me in a public hallway, ripping into me at the top of his lungs. I don’t know if he realized it, but he had me backed up against the wall and trembling in fear.

Jake never hit me that day, but I was convinced he would. Once I got away, my body couldn’t stop shaking. I was so wound up; I just had to get out of there. But, even at home, I found no peace. I’d already had trouble sleeping but, now, Jake had given me one more reason to toss and turn at night. For the next year of my life, I couldn’t go a single night without having a nightmare. I lived in constant dread of my job.

Dark bedroom

The Beginning of the End

It wasn’t long before I found myself sitting with a psychiatrist. At her urging, I decided to take some time off from the RCMP. I didn’t want to do it—I loved my work and, more importantly, I was good at it. I felt ashamed and betrayed like my career had been sabotaged by one man. I spent most of my time at home, curled up in a ball and trying to make sense of what had happened, how I’d gone from the top of my profession to being stripped of everything within one year of Jake coming on the job.

During my time off, I received a call from Saskatchewan to give a deposition regarding the harassment and bullying that Betty experienced with Jake. If I had known she was going to file the complaint, I would’ve joined her. It felt good to get Jake’s behavior on the record, but even as I testified I found myself very afraid of him.

Eventually, Jake was moved out of our department. With him gone, I thought it’d be safe to go back to work. I was wrong. My first hint that things would never be the same for me came when I visited human resources. I asked for a note to be added to my file documenting that Jake’s harassment had caused my 8-month medical leave. Instead of granting my request, however, they pushed back. Perhaps I was mistaken, they said. Maybe I was exaggerating. When they saw I wasn’t going to be put off, they told me whatever I wanted to hear just to get me out of the room. The Inspector admitted I was affected by Jake’s behavior and agreed to put the note in my file (more on that later).

That’s when everything really began to change. When I returned to my job, my new supervisor informed me that my role as nursing manager had ended—due to “restructuring,” of course. Then, they took my office away and stuck me at a desk by the new boss’s office—not exactly the best space for sensitive interviews with clients. Over the next 2 years, my cases were pulled, and I was disinvited from nursing meetings.

I’ve done a lot of great work in my field. I’ve earned multiple degrees and certifications from Douglas College (RN), University of British Columbia (BSN), and Grant McEwen College (OHN). At the height of my career, I traveled Canada as an expert in occupational health for the RCMP. I’ve made a real difference in people’s lives.

But none of that made any difference. Marginalized by my department, I was barely a nurse anymore. I was a glorified clerk, getting paid a lot of money to do nothing more than push paper. I didn’t realize it at the time, but at this point, I’d officially hit rock bottom. I was afraid and ashamed. How could I let Jake ruin my career in this way? How could I allow myself to be so mistreated by my division? How could I fall so far?

Here, at the bottom, is when I got the news that E Division would be moving from Vancouver to Surrey to establish headquarters at Green Timbers. And, as chance would have, or new office would sit right next door to a familiar face: Jake. Just the suggestion that I’d have to see him again was enough to trigger everything I’d experienced in the previous years. I turned into a mess. I couldn’t sleep. The nightmares came back.

There was only one choice left for me if I wanted to survive: I had to quit.

“VTP changed my life.”

Life After RCMP

Shortly after my departure from the E Division in 2012, I became one of the early group of women to join my name to a class action lawsuit against the RCMP for gender harassment. I’d seen how horrible the RCMP had treated women in my own experience and that of my clients—many of whose names turned up in the lawsuit.

It took several years for the lawsuit to be adjudicated. In the meantime, I went to work for Great West Life Insurance as a Disability Services Medical Coordinator. Unlike E Division, my new employer took a great interest in supporting and encouraging me to do good work. Things went great for the first year, but before long the cognitive and emotional wounds I’d received with RCMP began to bubble to the surface. My boss was understanding, but eventually, enough was enough. She invited me into her office and suggested I take some time off.

I left Great West 5 years ago and haven’t been back to work since. Much of that time–especially in the beginning—has been marked by constant anxiety, nightmares, and isolation. But things began to take a turn for the better in 2016 when a friend and former police officer turned me on the Veterans Transition Program. He’d played a key role in taking down William Pickton and, as a result of what he’d seen in that case, suffered from PTSD. VTP played a crucial part in helping him work through it, and he was convinced that the program could do the same for me.

I wasn’t so sure. I wasn’t a military veteran. I’d never seen a war. What right did I have to go sit in a circle with a bunch of war heroes and complain about my PTSD? But my friend insisted, and eventually, he got me in touch with Carson (real name!). After I explained my situation, Carson made the arrangements for me to participate in late 2016.

Driving to VTP was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life—psychologically and physically. In 2015, I’d been t-boned and needed 4 surgeries. Just to get in a car and drive out to VTP took every last ounce of strength I had in my body. By the time I arrived, my arms and legs were completely numb, and I was ready to throw up.

To add to that physical distress, I still wondered whether anyone would take me seriously. I was sure the other women in the group would call me out and send me home. But when I finally got there, all that changed. Everyone at VTP welcomed me with open arms. The 5 other women in the group (3 military and 2 police) and I were much more alike than we were different. In fact, I felt like I spent the entire first two weekends nodding my heads because I could recognize myself in everything they were saying. Feeling like I belonged made all the difference in the world. Everyone—from the clinicians to the paraprofessionals to my groupmates—made me feel like I was exactly where I should’ve been.

VTP changed my life. I wish I could say it worked like a magic pill, but it didn’t. When I left, I felt as though my heart and mind had been cracked wide open. Like an exposed nerve, everything felt raw—the pain was palpable. For the first few months, I wasn’t happy about that. But, in the end, I’m glad this door is open. I’ve found a great psychologist to help me continue to work through what’s going on. And my golden retriever, Joey, has saved my life in more ways than I could ever communicate here.

6 months ago, the courts finally adjudicated my claim with the RCMP. I’m sorry to say they didn’t rule in my favor. While they acknowledged that I had experienced harassment at a certain level, they declined to acknowledge the PTSD and sick time off. I appealed the decision, but they wouldn’t even look at my medical history. Why not? Apparently, human resources never added that note to my file like they had promised.

This recent bad news triggered a full-on relapse for me. I felt as though the RCMP had screwed me twice—first, by taking away my career and, now, by refusing to acknowledge what they had done. But I’m still here. I’m still pressing on. And I have the VTP to thank for giving me the tools and resources to keep up the fight.

Kim M and Dog

For Kim, the Veterans Transition Program means…

Belonging
At the VTP, Kim’s group-mates made her feel like she was exactly where she needed to be.

Connection
Kim recognized herself in her fellow participants’ stories.

A toolset
Kim now has the tools and resources she needs to keep up the fight.

You can change lives for people like Kim