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Bullied in the workplace

Ok, so noone wants to get bullied, nor do we expect it to happen in adulthood. We tend to look at it as something that happens in childhood. Unfortunately, it happens, and I was the victim of adulthood bullying. I didn’t actually realise that it was happening, until it was a little too late to try and stop it from escalating and causing me significant upset.

The problem I had, was that I was embarrassed it was happening to me. I was embarrassed by the things I was being made to do. I went into a job to do something fun and exciting, when I actually became a victim of mental abuse, and in the end, I wasn’t doing the job I was meant to be doing at all.

At first, I agreed to do random jobs that were definitly not in my job description, yes sure I’ll do that to help out, because that's who I am, then it was another thing, and then another, until basically my day revolved around the shitest jobs (excuse my language).

At this time, my relationship was quite new and my partner, a successful solicitor had no idea what I was doing at work apart from what I was making up. I was making up lies to save me from the embarrassment of it all and him finding out and him thinking I wasn’t good enough for him.

I started to have some really bad headaches, the pain in the side of my head was so bad, it felt like a pin was being stabbed straight through my temple. Sometimes I’d be doubled over with stomach pain. I had persuaded myself that I was dying because the pain was so bad. But the doctor kept saying it was stress. I was a therapist who dealt with somatic pain, surely, I would recognise pain like this as being somatic? Well, no I didn’t.

I'd be so scared of what the bully was going to say to me, even the thought of the look in their eyes would scare me. I felt like I was in an abusive relationship, scared of this person’s face, what mood they would be in, could I kiss their arse enough for them to be kind to me, even if just for a moment in time, maybe that would make all of this ok?

I’d previously had panic attacks, I’d not had any since I went into recovery a few years earlier. Yet, as I was driving to work I could feel them coming on. I even had the crazy idea that if I crashed my car into a ditch I wouldn’t have to go into work. It was now that I really recognised something was really wrong.

The other thing was, I worked with someone else who had been there for a long time, also despicably bullied. The other person whom I worked with was such a beautiful soul, so kind and loving and caring, some days the only reason I dragged myself there because I didn’t want them to deal with it alone. We took it together. But, we’d never opened up about what was happening, I think we both just knew. That was until one day I lost it, I completly lost the plot. I was breaking and I went and spoke to my colleague. I said do you think we’re being bullied? Yes, they said. It was at this point I said, I think we need to leave.

I look back and it’s so sad what happened, what the bully would say to us, how they’d make us feel, how it almost became acceptable in our minds. I’d lost all of my confidence, I didn’t believe I could do anything. I couldn’t even type a one lined email without being utterly paranoid and petrified, I’d read it 20 times (no joke) and be shaking typing it out in case I did it wrong.

My partner and I went on a dream holiday, but my mind was sabotaging it, I was doubled over in pain, my head was killing, I was exhausted, worn out with worry about my return to work even on day one of the holiday.

I was about to explode and decided that I had to tell my partner what had been going on because he just thought I was moaning all the time and not enjoying myself.

He couldn’t have been kinder, he let me talk and talk and talk about it. I took my time, told him everything. He couldn’t believe it, he couldn’t believe I’d not told him. I just felt so embarrassed that I was in this awful situation.

Together we decided that I’d leave and really go for it, setting up my own business. I then had a wonderful holiday. Until the day of my return came and I had to go and hand my notice in and knew that I would be having an exit interview. Well, at this point I was so angry that I told them what I thought.

I left that job, free and relieved, well, so I thought however, it wasn’t over. I actually think it took me about 4 years to fully get over what had happened. To believe in myself again, to know that I am good enough and to let people see me and the work that I do.

Just because of the job I do now, it doesn’t mean I’m invincible, it means I’m human and I feel too.

I look back and it was so interestingly done, so slow and so engraining within my mind. Almost like drinking a poison that delivers a very slow and painful death. But the amount of times that I questioned if this person was right about me was hundreds. Was everything they said to me true? Would I really not get far in life without them? Was I really not good enough or worth anything?

I can look on it now as though I had to have that experience and journey, I had to feel the pain, I had to lose myself to find myself yet again. If I didn’t look on it like this, I wouldn’t be able to move on and support others. I had to experience it for me to help other people, which is why it was so important to leave because if I hadn’t left, I wouldn’t be able to help other people because I’d still be in that situation now.

It’s made me treat everyone with such kindness and respect and to know that how you speak to people can make such a huge impact on their life in years to come. I probably didn’t know that before in the way I did after being bullied.

Being bullied is an abusive relationship, it’s the same kind of behaviour and just because it’s in the work place, it doesn’t mean that it’s not an abusive relationship.

And just like an abusive relationship, it can feel addictive, as though you can’t live without it, sometimes, as though you can’t cope without that person. Perhaps the grief that comes after ending that partnership is too painful to go through, like withdrawing from a drug, it’s not necessarily the drug you want more of because in a way you hate it, it’s the withdraw that you want to avoid.

But once it’s out of your system it feels good to be free, it’s just staying free because the desire to go back can be strong and powerful.

If you’re being bullied or what I have written you can relate to in some way, I want you to know this. This is your life, not theirs. Don’t hand your life over to someone who treats you badly. Don’t give them permission to own your life, this is your life and no one else’s.

You can break the cycle, believe that you can. It can take time, but you can do it. You can have your life back.

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