Most of us, well, we've been through some garbage in our lives - and we've given power to a lot of people who simply don't deserve it.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. We here at Band Back Together are shining the spotlight on ALL survivors. Depression, Abuse, Trauma.
It's time to take back the power. Tell us how YOU have taken the power back in your life!
Bullying doesn't just happen to kids, you know.
My last job seemed so great at first. I worked for a non-profit in my field of ten years and I believed in the work we were doing. The new coworkers seemed great, the atmosphere was relaxed, and I felt like I was making a difference in my community.
Then it all changed.
It all started so simply. One of my coworkers liked to make jokes at the expense of the rest of us, sometimes sexual ones. I didn't think much of it because in a high-stress job people tend to band together, and what was a little inappropriate humor between friends? There was only one guy on our team and he didn't seem to mind.
Slowly, it became apparent to me that this coworker was the queen bee of my workplace and that most of the others were careful not to upset her. It was as if she could do no wrong. She would sit back and watch the rest of us work hard, saying flat out that she hated dealing with clients so she avoided them. She was constantly absent or left early - something that would have earned the rest of us demerits – and yet she was never disciplined, meaning that even management was on her side.
I don't know how, but after a while I ended up as the butt of all her jokes. Not just that, but every day she would tell me how useless I was, that if it was up to her I never would have been hired. She told me I was fat, ugly, stupid and slow. Since she was the queen bee, everyone laughed with her and joined in. Work became a miserable place to be, so I started looking for another job.
A week or so after I got the new job, the queen bee found out I had been talking to my friends online about her through one of her friends who had been stalking me without my knowledge. Even though the management acknowledged I had done nothing wrong, they gave me the option of leaving or being fired. I left, knowing I had a new job lined up.
Two weeks after that, she called my new job and whatever she said to them got me fired.
To put it nicely, I had a breakdown.
Everything I'd worked for in my ten years in the field had been taken from me because one person decided she didn't like me. My bipolar and panic disorders crashed into each other spectacularly and I became agoraphobic. I spent days sleeping, just to stop the hallucinations. I took medication like candy. This lasted almost a year.
I swore that no matter what, I would never go back to my profession.
At the end of last year, my doctor changed my medication and my mind started working the way it used to again. As terrifying as it was, I started making changes to my life. I started going to the gym again, started driving myself around, and started taking care of my house again. Slowly I was taking back my life, but there was one thing left to do.
I'm going to get a job.
Not just any job, either. A job that's in my profession. It's going to take time and money to get my accreditation back but I'm going to do it because I'm not going to give her any more power over me. I'm not going to let her ruin everything I've worked for because I'm stronger than that.
Stronger than her.
I'm taking back my life now, thank you very much.
I graduated with my Bachelors of Psychology in December 2011 and in June, 2012, I got what I thought was my dream job, although, has nothing to do with my degree. In fact, I don't need the degree for the job.
The job offers good pay, good insurance, and has very little contact with the public - which I thought was a good thing, considering I have generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. As these conditions are exacerbated when dealing with large amounts of people or stress, this was a good thing, or so I thought.
I work in a small department - only nine people - coding insurance claims for a local medical company. All of us are women.
There were many red flags, which, in hindsight, I realize I shouldn't have ignored.
During my interview, my soon-to-be boss told me that the girl who I was replacing was leaving thanks to a horrible rumor about her husband that another girl (who'd been fired) started. I couldn't understand why she was leaving as the girl responsible had been fired, but I chose not worry about it.
I was a little surprised that The Boss was sharing this during the interview, but she said she wanted me to be aware of the environment I'd be entering. She wanted me to know that no one else started rumors; that she considered it an awful thing to do. I agreed with her; if you have a problem with someone, you should talk to the other and work it out, rather than talking behind their back, allowing rumors and half-truths to be spread.
She also said during the interview was that the two women had gone to HR and The Boss's boss to complain about her, which she was deeply offended by. She explained that if you have a problem with her, you should come to her first to discuss it. Another flag, but I figured that she was right; it was professional courtesy to take it to her first.
It wasn't long before The Boss asked me how I was enjoying my work. I assured her it was wonderful and during our conversation she began complaining about several of my coworkers.
I was shocked.
She'd been clear during the interview that she didn't like talking about others behind their back. Plus, she's The Boss - The Boss isn't supposed to complain about employees to other employees; it causes huge problems. Backstabbing from the top leads people to believe they're better than everyone else, and it makes the more paranoid among us wonder what she's saying about us behind our backs.
After that, I started avoiding conversations with her. I wanted to avoid hearing her complain about other employees so I wouldn't see them differently. Plus, I didn't want to give her ammunition to complain about me.
Soon, I got comfortable enough with one of my coworkers that I started talking about my problem: sometimes I wished we didn't have so much overtime, because it made my new husband upset that I didn't have as much time for him.
Shortly after that conversation, we learned that our department might be outsourced. I told the same coworker that I'd be updating my resume in case we didn't have jobs much longer.
Then, The Boss stopped talking to me entirely. The other girl who did my job began ignoring me when I said anything, gave me sideways looks, and started keeping her headphones on. Several times a day, she'd go into the back and whispering with The Boss.
To cope, I started listening to music - I figured it was okay as my coworker did it.
At the beginning on January, The Boss asked me aside for a talk.
She proceeded to tell me that everyone in the office hated me - no one wanted to work with me, because all I did was listen to music. They thought I was a snob. I'd made my primary coworker cry as she thought I wouldn't work any more overtime; she felt she was doing more work than me (not true). That I'd said to her The Boss was "ruining my marriage," and "I hated my job so much I was revamping my resume."
Everything I'd said to my primary coworker was repeated, and twisted to The Boss to make me sound awful. I was sobbing.
The Boss continued - she realized that I was introverted, and while I'm good at my job, and she felt I was highly intelligent, if she'd known, I was introverted, she wouldn't have hired me, as the position required an extrovert. Which is silly, because half the people in the office are quiet introverts.
Finally, she named the people who hadn't said anything about me; that she was guessing how they felt. I learned that the only person who has a problem with me is my primary coworker whose lies The Boss believes, as they're friends.
After that, I tried to change. I quit listening to music. I made an effort to talk more, even though my work suffered. I worked more overtime, and began working on some of my primary coworkers work to help her.
It hasn't been enough.
For a week, The Boss and coder coworker seemed to like me more, and now things at work are just like they were before I was taken aside by The Boss. What's worse, I absolutely hate my job. I have horrible stress headaches that radiate into my teeth. I can't sleep because I'm so sick with worry about the next work day. I get physically sick to my stomach at work. I can't eat. I'm having daily panic attacks. I cry all of the time.
I can't take it anymore.
My husband might have a job that may allow me to quit, but that might take awhile. We're likely moving in the next couple months, either for his possible job or to be near family.
In the meantime, I have bills to pay. I can't just quit my job. He makes enough now that we'd still make our bills, but the credit cards we stupidly got in college would go unpaid. I would feel awful. And, frankly, I don't want to try to find another job to have to quit in a month or two.
I just don't know what to do.
I just know I can't continue working there.
Fear is a powerful motivator. Please support this brave person as she shares her story.
This is her story:
She would stop talking to me if she read this; I would be excommunicated from the Church of Grandma. Some of the rest of my family might stop talking to me too, as she spreads the story far and wide. Even now I'm hesitating to write this because I'm so afraid of making her angry.
Don't get me wrong - I love my grandma - but I'm afraid of making her angry.
We went to dinner recently; she told me over and over about how she and I are the same - we're both rebels. In some ways it's true and in some ways it isn't.
She told a story - she was IMing with my sister and my sister typed something in Spanish. My grandma wanted her to translate it; my sister told her to look it up - it would be good for her. My grandma went round and round with her for two days, refusing to talk to her other than to demand that she translate the line.
She offered this up as an example of how awesome she is and how ornery her grandkids are.
Sitting there listening to her tell my beau the story, all I could think about was when I was a child and I made her angry. Not letting her lick her finger and rub something off my face, being tackled to the ground, pinned down, and having my face licked all over.
I think I was a teenager the last time that happened.
I think about the time that she took my (future)ex-husband and I on my graduation trip to New York City. We were on the last ferry to Ellis Island. I have family that came over through Ellis Island; their names are on the memorial wall. The museum closed in 20 minutes. She had to go to the bathroom. We started wandering the museum and lost track of how far we'd gone.
Before we realized it, the call to go back to the ferry went out. I got yelled at the entire ride back on the ferry. I don't remember how long it took me to stop crying; I'm sure it wasn't long, she doesn't put up with crybabies. After all, it was she that was hurt by my actions. Weeks later, when she gave me copies of the pictures she had taken on our trip, there were several rolls of film of her pointing at names on the memorial wall.
I wanted to see the memorial wall, I really did, but I also was glad to have seen the museum. Maybe it was more valuable to me to understand what my family endured going through Ellis Island than to see their names on a wall. Not that I could explain that to her then (I didn't have the words) or now (it would just piss her off).
We walk on eggshells.
Don't be a child who dares to say that they don't want to drink the tap water because it smells like sulfur.
Don't be a child who dares to say that they don't want to water-ski even though she dug the child-sized skis out of the shed.
Don't dare ask for money toward a car as a teenager, she might just buy you a car and then hand you the payment book (this happened to my mother).
Don't imply that it was cruel not to take the cat to the vet when it lost an eye somehow.
Don't offer evidence to back up your argument, no matter how logical or well thought out. If you get a token objection in, just to not betray yourself completely, feel like you did all that you could.
Don't respond to any of those posts. You might imply you don't believe in her religion and you don't think that this should be a Christian nation. This will cause a lot of trouble.
Don't be yourself.
Be quiet and smile. Just let her talk. She's her favorite topic and if you just smile and nod, she'll talk about herself all night long.
The effects of bullying can last long after the abuse has stopped.
This is her recovery:
It's been nine months.
Nine months since I was bullied and verbally abused with the full knowledge of my superiors. Nine months since I tried to get away from it, only to have those same people follow me and steal everything from me.
As a result, I had a major breakdown, the kind with paranoia, hallucinations, the whole shebang. My shrink encouraged me to apply for disability because he was afraid I wouldn't be able to work anymore. I was paralyzed by my fears, afraid to leave the house, afraid I might see someone or something who could hurt me again.
I'm sick of it.
The doctor changed my medications again, and this time instead of feeling sluggish or tired, I feel refreshed. I feel like me again for the first time in nine months. I want to get up in the morning and get back into running. I want to get back behind the wheel of my car and drive my husband and myself to a roller derby bout. I want to get out of here.
Because of the people who hurt me, I swore I would never be a veterinary technician again. Just looking at my scrubs made me feel sick; the thought of wearing them was almost too much. Like trying to drive, it made me feel like the world was closing in on me.
I put them all in a drawer that I don't open. It hurt because I was a vet tech for more than ten years and I always loved it. I turned away from everything I used to love. I let my certification expire. I mourned the loss of my career and my freedom at the same time.
I'm sick of that, too.
That's why I've decided that 2013 is going to be my year. Even if it doesn't want to be, I'm going to make it my year. I've even got a plan.
First things first, I'm going to reapply for certification. It's going to mean I have to pay a chunk of money and take a long, boring test but I'll be certified as a Registered Veterinary Technician again, something I worked hard to achieve.
Next, I'm getting my car fixed so I can start driving again. The first place I'm going to drive is to the gym, where I can start trying to run again.
Finally, I'm going to start applying for jobs as a tech and find one that's a good fit for me and our family.
Just looking at all that is scary. Reading it makes me think that it'll be easier to just stay at home and hide from the world, but I know in my heart that's not the answer for me anymore. I'm going to pull myself out of this hole of despair and struggle my way up to the light again. It's going to take some time but I think I can get back to myself if I set my mind to it.
I'm ready, 2013.
Let's do this!
Do you have any resolutions for the New Year?
The scars from child abuse rarely fade, even after the abuse stops:
This is her story of recovery:
My mother's logic - the woman who beat me until the day I left her house with my child - is that my son was never affected by witnessing her belittling, beating, and screaming at me.
Because he has no memory of her abuse, he was not affected. Therefore, blaming her is cruel. How much more stupid can this woman be? It enrages me.
Aside from the instant stress it caused him, ruining his night of planned playing and learning, her abuse stays in his subconscious. I was a little irritated having to explain this to her, and for her to deny it to my face set me on fire.
But I kept calm, because I'm better than her. Because I'm sure she's never picked up a parenting book - yet proclaims herself to be the Ultimate Mother. It doesn't take a book to teach you that what children are exposed to affects them. Just a little logic that she cannot understand.
I'm thankful for the amazing progress my son has made since we've been away from her; from her toxic environment. I am thankful for being here.
The nights that the memories keep me up until five in the morning, sick to my head, I am thankful for being able to sit here and write it out, instead of keeping it all inside.
I'm just happy I'm in a real home now.
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