PTSD after workplace abuse – Long post

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    • #202391

      Has anyone else faced abuse in the work place? My last job 4 years ago I wasn’t diagnosed (but I had my suspicions) and I was horribly abused. I made mistakes every day and suffered from extreme executive dysfunction. I had so much work to do that I’d just play solitaire instead or plan my weekend and end up sometimes months behind. I’d fight it everyday, that urge to do anything but my job and ultimately loose… I knew my internet usage was being monitored but my brain just didn’t care. I couldn’t bring myself to make phone calls or do things in anyone elses order but my own. Obviously this doesn’t sit well with employers and colleagues who would constantly yell me and tell me how useless I was. I was belittled, bullied for my left handedness (my supervisor made everyone in the office watch and laugh at my failed attempt to use right handed scissors), the same supervisor made a point of telling other receptionists in the company that she wished she had them instead of me or that she wished I was more like them in front of me… she basically made me feel like a pointless, useless slug of a person. Add onto that, that the manager was verbally abusive and hated being asked questions, wanted everything done one way when the supervisor wanted it another and made me the pawn in the middle of their fights instead of talking to each other… I used to cop it big time because I’d often try and figure out how to do it on my own to avoid the yelling for asking questions… it got worse too… The manager would often angrily throw paperwork at me or scrunch up my work and throw it at me. And then one day the supervisor decided to hit me over the head for making invoicing mistakes. I was the lowest of the low, dog crap on the bottom of the shoe person around… I have never recovered. I recently got my diagnosis and have been put on dexanphetamine which makes a huge difference. I regained some confidence and started serving the cafe at our church fortnightly and I felt like I was on top of the world… until yesterday when I suddenly found myself under pressure of a busy till for the first time and started making mistakes… I’d ask for someones name and get too scared to ask again if I didn’t hear and got into trouble for not using names on the ticket… and then I printed off two orders and left them in the wrong place and when I finished up for the day I found them and had no knowledge of what they were or why they were there and when my leader told me they had to have been done by my because of the time on them I realized by memory short circuited/ extreme dysfunction had reoccurred even on the dexy and I spent the rest of yesterday having what I call a stress attack… basically hungry but can’t eat, tense but can’t relax, wanting to do something but not knowing what and being so all over the place and unable to get off the couch or sleep at night or eat and just hating myself and fearing ever returning to work. I’ve also found that after all 3 times I’ve served so far I’m so exhausted its torture? I only take peoples coffee orders for like 20 minutes at a time before and after services but when I get home I’m so tired and drained I’m paralyzed to the couch for hours sleeping. I’m so so broken and I don’t know if I can be fixed… all the confidence I regained is now lost and I’m terrified of serving again, never mind returning to paid work… I have a full time working husband and two kids under 3 relying on me and I hate the thought of living off the dole instead of making something of myself but I’m being swallowed whole… I can’t wait to see my psych on the 26th <3

    • #202770
      Penny Williams

      I’m sorry you’re going through this. Hopefully, your psych can help, or maybe an ADHD coach?

      ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Coach, Podcaster & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #202958

      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. 🙂

    • #203125

      I was also severely abused in my workplace. I was laid off due to COVID-19 & am now suffering PTSD. There was also a racial component to the abuse. The sad thing is that I enjoyed my actual job. I was great with the customers and enjoyed keeping busy and thinking on my feet. The expectation though, was that we work out-of-class (w/o extra pay or training). I was expected to know and perform at a very advanced level from my co-workers, even though they were given far more training and support. They wrote me up for not remembering or being late on deadlines, not understanding expectations that hadn’t been laid out, lack of efficiency, perfection, and organization, and I was given pop-quizzes for rules which no-one else knew or followed. I was expected to be a high-performer despite constant interruptions. My work was expected to be perfect and I was expected to know how to use computer programming that no-one else had to use. I was daily mocked and bullied. I survived with therapy and daily prayers. “Please God, lock me inside a bubble of light and protection today, where meannesses can’t hurt me…” It was a huge relief being laid off, but now I can’t stomach looking for a new job.
      , because there was enough truth relating to my ADHD, that I feel broken, and that they were right, that I’m simply not good enough. I don’t know how anyone can be expected to manage life under the expectation of receiving this type of daily toxic harassment and abuse. I wonder if there’s been any studies on the ADHD community and workplace abuse and PTSD?

    • #203799

      Last year during the start of the COVID lockdowns, I was experiencing a lot of feedback from my supervisor that my coworkers were concerned about my behavior. As the breadwinner, this was potentially devastated. I was anxious and not feeling controlled in my ADHD symptoms. I already started counseling around the same time and asked my doctor for a med increase. Initially, I felt VERY strongly my coworkers were misinterpreting my words or the things I was saying. I didn’t know if I could continue working with coworkers (who are all also professional helpers) who couldn’t empathize with me. I already told them about my ADHD, one of them already revealed they had ADHD too. None of that mattered to them, because I was falsely accused. They were the problem in my eyes, because they didn’t ask follow-up questions to my innocent comments to confirm their intent or meaning. I talked to the counselor and they said when you’re written up, only half of employees survive in that job.

      Eventually, I was hauled in front of HR and put on that written work plan. If I didn’t show progress on improving my behavior, I would be out of job. I felt very upset in front of the HR person and my supervisor. I cried and felt deeply ashamed. My brain wasn’t working right, and I didn’t get diagnosed until my mid 30’s. I had previously tried sharing information on ADHD to my supervisor before the HR meeting. ADHD doesn’t look the same in everyone and I was already taking medication. I was already in counseling and was learning how to self-advocate.

      During my episode of shame, I was very vulnerable in front of two powerful people who were attacking me. Not only that, but the data there getting from my coworkers was a sham. No one at work understood me. At that point, I felt justified if I lashed out at the workplace, because I might have a disability and they were discriminating against me. I wanted to harden up and blame them for not doing the research on ADHD.

      But something switched inside of me.

      I had to decide that I COULD be wrong in this whole situation. Even if 1% of me was in the wrong and everyone else was 99%, that is something I needed to work on. ADHDers are not understood by most people. We’re called lazy or stupid by some. We’re also told its not a real disorder and that it’s what children area always like.

      I knew I had the OPTION to accept this workplan and sign it. I didn’t have to like the workplan or how it came to be. But I had the option to accept the situation for what it was. If 1% of me was wrong, that’s still something I have to work on. If I don’t fix that 1%, I won’t do my next job any better either. However, this was a job I loved with even though there was a 50% chance of termination. I get to decide what happens next: acceptance or avoid.

      Last summer, I worked on steps of my workplan. It reminded me of the people who are in alcohol recovery who work the 12 steps. After each step, I felt more confident. My supervisor continued to meet with me regularly and had been gathering information from my coworkers. I already decided they were 99% in the wrong, but I still valued their opinion of me. My supervisor said they noticed I cut down on the idle chat. I wasn’t acting arrogant anymore. That felt good.

      Six months afterward, I had finished my steps and the workplan was completed. Today, I realize now on the 1-year anniversary of being put on the workplan, (the Friday before Memorial Day), that the plan was a gift. I wasn’t managing my ADHD symptoms enough at the time of the lockdown. Besides, I limped along my whole life without knowing I had ADHD. Once I found out I had it, I got complacent. Maybe a little lazy.

      In the last year, I’ve worked harder than ever at TWO things:
      1) becoming a better speaker by using careful words
      2) becoming a better listener by paying attention when someone talks
      I realized this: if I work hard on listening/speaking, it makes the opposite speaking/listening better. By speaking carefully, I then LISTEN carefully so I know they understood my intent. By listening and paying attention to someone talking to me, I then SPEAK carefully to let them know I heard them.

      Maybe I am still only 1% at fault a year out. Even if I’m only 1% wrong, I get the OPTION of how to respond. I must learn this now so my kids who have ADHD have a chance to listen and speak better. I must learn this now, so the next job’s coworkers don’t misinterpret me. Living with ADHD is hard. I don’t want to make it hard than it already is.

    • #204130

      I relate 100%
      I recently took four months off and went into an intensive outpatient treatment program for depression and anxiety. All work related. I went back to work a new person. I was ready to get fired, as my boss couldn’t stand me. I don’t know what happened but she treats me entirely differently today. I don’t know if being out for four months showed her how much work I actually did, I just don’t know. I recently got my annual review and it was good. I’m in a bit of shock as my prior one was improvement required which is a sign they’re setting you up to fire you. The work place can be extremely toxic. Gaslighting all day long. I feel for you. Do what you can to save your sanity. There is hope. She actually complimented me last week.

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