Reply To: PTSD after workplace abuse – Long post

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Omg…reading this, I feel like I could be your psychological twin!! I suffered debilitating emotional trauma from my workplace of 20+ years, and possible PTSD from the gaslighting, head games (almost like they were trying to drive me insane on purpose), every project I was assigned was often scrutinized in some irrational way, when I would volunteer to take on certain projects I would be instantly declined, constantly told that I don’t offer suggestions, but when I did, I was quickly shut down with “No, we’re not doing that”. One day, the President of our company took it as far to scream at me at the top of his lungs because he didn’t like the way I responded to an e-mail that he was on, because no one else in my department was responding to it, so rather than blow it off, I simply replied, ok, I’m sure we can get together as a group and discuss your thoughts…rather than look as if the person that sent the e-mail was some sort of hero and kiss his ass publicly (mind you, this discussion had already taken place in a phone conversation with the person who sent the e-mail, and I had advised him then to schedule a meeting on the calendar so we could all get together and discuss-and shared my agreement with what was said literally 2 minutes before he sent the e-mail). To me it was a blatant ass-kissing move on his part to try to overstep the entire action to make himself look good. As I was being screamed at (and having just had a talk with my boss about it), my boss sat in the doorway, just staring, not saying a word to explain any of it. I looked like the biggest idiot. And this was not the first time this particular person had done something like this to me.

For years, I had to play referee between my boss and another co-worker because they could not communicate and would end up in screaming matches in meetings. I physically had to inject myself in between them on a few occasions. But then I would be told that I was the one with the problem??? My upper manager even took it upon himself to tell me that I should probably go seek professional help cuz I seemed depressed. I continuously was made to look like I was the one that wasn’t a team player, when in my eyes, there was no team? Finally, HR came to their senses and saw what was happening, but then she retired and I was left to fend for myself.

When Covid hit, we were sent to work remotely with no warning or preparation. I used my home laptop because we weren’t supplied one from the company. I worked from March-August remotely, then all of a sudden it was a “problem” that I has been using my home laptop. My daughter was beginning school in August remotely and I inquired about what was going to be in store for us? I made it known on several occasions that if I could not continue working remotely, then it would be a problem for me cuz my daughter was going to need to be home-schooled and she had asthma. Next thing I know, I was told I needed to report back to the office, at the end of August, and that I needed to move my office for social distancing, after I had already been moved about 5 times in the last 5 years. Not only would J need to move, but now I was being moved next to the main hallway (I had been in an office very segregated from people and that would be safer if I HAD to go back to the office). We discussed this plan and agreed the co-worker I shared am office with would move. Suddenly, these plans changed. Then I was told to go in a day earlier than I was told to report, so I could move my office. Then when I went in to do this, I was given a new desktop computer and monitor ‘to take home. I asked why, and they couldn’t tell me why. That was a mixed message to me. It got to the point where I was having a panic attack at the thought of going back because I did not have another option for my daughter. Then I found out that some employees were being allowed to continue remote work. I was like, wth??? I had had enough. I sent my boss and HR my letter of resignation the Monday I was supposed to return. Oh, and that was on the cusp of thinking I had Covid the week before and was told to go get tested. So I did. It would take 3-5 days for the results. Then my boss played stupid and said he didn’t know what my “status” was after I told long it would be to get my results. He said it was the first time he heard about any of it. Blatant lie because my husband worked at the same company and had to quarantine until I got my results back. He said HR would send me paperwork, but sent it to my work e-mail, the same e-mail I was reprimanded for because I had responded to an e-mail after I was supposed to be off the clock. After all the head games, failure in leadership for either of my managers to support me, I did what I thought I needed. It may have seemed spontaneous, but after all the abuse, it really wasn’t. But now I feel so traumatized by the experience I had while being there for over 20 years, I am really having a hard time to try to get my anxiety under control to get a new job. The first few months felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. But now having been home since March 2020, I am really struggling. I filed for unemployment and was approved back in November, but I have not received one check. It’s so awful I can’t even get my thoughts under control to call someone. I don’t want to return to Purchasing (I was a Buyer previously) and because I worked at only one employer my entire career, I don’t even know how to approach the work force. Plus, every job posting requires you have a degree. I don’t have a degree because my husband opted to go back to school, and I had to stay home at night and take care of our family. I couldn’t fathom going back to school now, nor approach interviews, or know how to approach another company without not feeling anxiety that I may be walking right back into the same situation. My old company made no quams about openly discussing work place politics, or demeaning me or other employees in front of me, my husband experienced the same paranoia toward the end because he got let go, but it wasn’t made to look like a secret (they wanted all veteran employees gone anyway). But in that process, there was a history of demeaning, insulting, making us feel like we were not valued employees after both of us being there over 20 years each. I am worried that I developed some type of PTSD, and that something will trigger me, and it will be constant revolving door of anxiety, reignited traumatic memories, and my self-esteem has possibly hit an all-time low. I honestly don’t know if I can go back?. I was hoping to discover something that I could approach as an entrepreneur, and work for myself moving forward, but I am still being crippled with anxiety even thinking about it.

I just want you to know that you are most definitely not alone. And if you discover a way to help cope or get through that barrier, please let me know your secret. It is embarrassing to think I am now halfway through adulthood and feel so damaged by a toxic work environment. I have also approached the company in the past over a man who was sexually harassing me very badly. I used to be able to hold my own on that matter. Until it got to the point where I was almost physically assaulted twice by 2 separate men. I only asked that they be spoken to and asked to stop. Not a big deal, I thought? Well, the 1st one was told he was going to read some literature on the subject. The 2nd one, the perpetrator actually somehow convinced HR that I was the one harassing him!! He actually did assault me by trying to kiss me one day when we were left alone in the office. I was able to turn my head so he only kissed me on the cheek. But the lack of support yet again, and I believe we had cameras in the building for the 2nd incident to prove my accusation. Both times I felt like I was demanded, was left unprotected from predators, and completely humiliated in their lack of support. I had a certain level of safety before but after all that over the years, I don’t know if I will ever feel safe in a professional environment again. If that makes me sound insane, I guess that’s what a toxic work environment can do after years of abuse. But you are NOT alone…not for one second. I hope you can find a level of peace somewhere in it. You are completely valid in your feelings and I feel there are more people out there that can probably relate to this, than most will ever realize. I am so sorry for what you have gone through….and my opinion would be to take whatever time you need to try to heal from this. Because you already got to a good place once. I have faith in you that you can do it again. 🙂