Hi, The Band! Thanks for offering this site.
I am trying to wrap my head around what is currently happening in my life, in the hopes of gaining some guidance and support here. And perhaps someone else will gain, at the very least, the notion that they are not alone in their suffering.
I broke up with a narcissist three years ago, and had no other choice but to move in with my mother. From the frying pan into the fire. I knew at some point in my life I would have to deal with the root cause of my issues, and have gone at it pretty much full bore, but continue to experience bullying situations again and again that leave me stymied. I know, “what we resist persists,” so I must have a lot of baggage to unload, since I feel I am trying my best. At least I am more aware of what’s going on as I become healthier.
I suffer from PTSD and perhaps that’s part of it. I also live in America and work in a very competitive profession. I am very good at what I do, and that again, may be part of the problem. I don’t know how to play the game, and I stick out like a sore thumb. I am very good at moving beyond crisis to get myself more on track.
I lived and supported my Mother for a year before moving on with my own life. New jobs, new town, new friends, but nothing seems to be working out. It’s like the trauma has reduced me to a little child, who knows no defense and was not defended back then. Things keep getting worse.
I was recently fired from a job, and I believed …no, I know it was because I took the means to stand up to my bullying boss. The Human Resources Department is not there to protect you, but rather to protect the company. I am fighting it, but it’s so demoralizing. I was an exemplary employee, and hence, a threat to someone highly insecure, who abused his power.
This happened after a year-long struggle with a therapist who ended up being equally inconsistent in her connection with me, and sometimes outright abusive. My longtime therapist had retired, and again, I fell into the fire, and perhaps because I was still in crisis, not reading red flags soon enough. I did get out on my own and found a better therapist, who I continue to see.
Throughout all of this, I have tried to take care of myself. Meditating, using body healing modalities to release my frozen trauma, exercising, etc. I know that this kind of work can dredge up long-seated problems, and in my case, child abuse and neglect, but this dark night of the soul is taking its toll on me. This might be what happens when you were not allowed to develop a sense of self way back when, but instead were an instrument for others getting their needs met.
The key here is that I do have an authentic self, a connection with my soul, so to speak. It was tucked away, and I’m trying to integrate it into my life. It is a gift and a curse. I have a bullshit meter a mile deep, but I don’t know how to live with all I see. I am the child who saw the emperor with no clothes on, and keeps getting beaten down. Maybe it’s my desire to individuate, and standing at that bridge, outside of the cave, I am stuck, too afraid to take the next step. I want so badly to get there, but it seems like I was given no ego support for such growing up, that I am scared as hell.
But I know I will do it.
It’s hard being a sensitive, empathic person in this world we currently live in. Pressures are greater, and those who chose narcissistic behavior are freaking out- perhaps the old rules aren’t working. I need to have faith that, as I slough off these abusive entities, that my true self will emerge from the ashes.
When I was in school, I became a target for bullying. I feel like the main reason I was bullied was because I was white. Most of my bullies were African/Black. I am in no way a racist. I’ve had more black friends than white.
One day in gym class, my friend Robbie and I were sitting in the gym and a group of students came up to us. There were five of them, and they were skipping class. They started calling us names, hitting us, and even tried to get us to fight each other. We tried to leave, but they wouldn’t let us. They just kept pushing us. Eventually, they got tired and left.
The next year, the gym teacher would pay Robbie and me with candy for cleaning under the bleachers. A different group of students than before thought it would be funny to choke me with a belt. The coach was downstairs, and had no idea that while he was gone, they were trying to hang me with a belt under the bleachers.
The most recent bullying happened two or three years ago, at work. I was the only white guy on the day maintenance crew. I did the best job I could, without a complaint from anyone. The night maintenance crew took over at 10:00. One of the guys in night maintenance would target me, and me only. He would say the bathrooms weren’t clean, so he would make me go back and clean them again – even going so far as to make me pick up broken glass with my bare hands. The other night workers would just stand there, laughing.
I’m very shy. I’ve never been in a fight with anyone. I grew up in a Christian home, where I was taught to love others. But the guy at work just kept pushing me. I found myself hating him. Thankfully, he transferred to another store, so I don’t have to deal with him anymore.
All of my life, I have been bullied by nothing but blacks. I feel like there is a tug-of-war going on inside of me. I want to be friendly and outgoing, but all the bullying in my past has left its mark. I feel like it is holding me back from who I want to be. I don’t want to feel fear and hatred.
I’m terribly sorry if I have offend anyone with my words.
I used to work as a planning engineer at a big construction company. I am a pure vegetarian. I didn’t like the non-vegegarian food near me, so I used to stay away from all the people who used to eat non-veg food. We all stayed in a company provided guest house, and they were the majority.
My roommate there tortured me physically where we were staying, and mentally at our workplace, on a daily basis. Since I was inexperienced and rather new to the industry, he used to bully me and downgrade me by calling me a clerk even though I was a Senior Engineer there. I wanted to report the physical torture to my superiors, but my roommate threatened that he would have people torture my family if I did.
In the same office I fell in love with a girl I worked with. I told her that I was being bullied, but she thought I was joking. My roommate’s bullying caused me to leave my job and kept me from having a healthy relationship with the girl I loved. He was telling her bad things about me, and I didn’t want to tell her everything he had been doing to me. I had thoughts of committing suicide and sometimes I even thought about killing him. These thoughts would run over and over in my dreams like nightmares.
Because of him, I am depressed, I lost my job, and I lost the girl I love. I want to report him to the police. I want to kill myself. I can’t sleep from all the nightmares. I don’t know who to talk to because I am afraid and embarrassed. Please help me if you have been through something like this.
I’m many things: a daughter, friend, a pet lover and a 4.0 student. I swim, volunteer, love the beach and enjoy music. I’m also a victim of a growing epidemic among teens and young adults entering the workplace: sexual harassment.
On Valentine’s Day 2007, I attended my first corporate event as a volunteer for a major media corporation. I dressed professionally in a long-sleeved pants suit and arrived early to Houston’s baseball stadium. Plastered on my face was the biggest, most secure smile I could find, in spite of the butterflies in my stomach.
This corporate event was a huge deal and I played a special role in it. Around sunrise, the radio station’s videographer arrived and began setting up his equipment. He spotted me and walked over to extend a handshake. Eager to make a good impression, I introduced myself.
“Hi, I’m Jill. I’m the poet,” I said, confidently.
“Hi, I’m Howard. I’m on-air each weekend and do video as a side-gig.”
“I know. I’ve heard you.”
“Well, I work at another station, too.”
Having varied musical tastes, I said I knew – I’d heard him there, too
When the brief, friendly banter had finished, we each continued our business, the discussion far from my mind… Until I arrived home that afternoon and discovered that within an hour of meeting me, he’d found my website and sent a highly personal email. It discussed his dating history, his taste in women, that he thought I was in my forties because “forty-something women are the hottest around;” because I was “hot.”
I wondered how he’d found my information, I told my instincts to “hush” – I was certainly overreacting. After all, the media must’ve given him my information. Pushing concern aside, I believed I needed to keep the peace for my new position and sent a simple, friendly reply.
The conversation continued as he told me he had a daughter my age and found my information through an internet search. The third day, he asked to purchase signed copies of books I’d written. I gave him my home address – easy as that.
The subtle signs of trouble were there from the beginning. The wishy-washy words to keep my feelings off-balance. On my birthday he said, “The world is a better place because you’re in it.” Not two hours later, he said, “You’d look good in black lace … and I’m not talking shirts.”
It took nearly five years for me for me to find the courage to accept that the harassment was serious and not the jokes I’d thought the man was making.
“Nice to meet you” slowly became “You’d look great in an adult film” and “The world is a better place because you’re in it” became a blend of comments like “My girlfriend is an iceberg in the bedroom,” which played to my empathetic side. Feeling “sorry” for his “plight” he claimed would “improve” if he could buy me lingerie and sex toys.
I never thought he was serious, I’d thought he was joking. I know now to trust my gut; this kind of behavior is not normal for the workplace.
By the time a box of lingerie he purchased for me was delivered to my home and I pursued action against him in 2012, I’d endured a lengthy history of requests for dates, pressure to pose for pictures and/or provocative video, cyber-stalking, emotional abuse, and calls and texts at all hours. The toll on my life was apparent – sleepless nights, stomach upset, and stress. I lived in constant fear of what the next step in his obsession might be.
My innocent response happens far too often among teens and young adults unprepared for workplace sexual harassment. Today’s teens and young adults are not alone in dealing with job-related harassment. According to Adolescents at Work: Gender Issues and Sexual Harassment, thirty-five percent (35%) of high school students reported they experienced sexual harassment in their part-time work. Of the 35% who were sexually harassed, 63% were girls and 37% were boys. In 19% of cases, perpetrators were supervisors, and 61% of the time harassment came from coworkers.
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between flirting and harassment, but it’s never okay for an adult to flirt with a child. It’s not okay for someone in a position of power to flirt with or suggest improper behavior. Such behavior in the workplace is illegal and companies must have guidelines in place outlining zero tolerance for sexual harassment.
If you are going through something like what I experienced, I want you to know that this is not your fault. Nothing you did or didn’t do caused this to happen. This did not happen because of anything you said, your choice of friends, your appearance, or your personality. Anyone who harasses another is a bully. Bullies are cowards that pick on the strong and innocent, simply the person is there. No more, no less. You are not guilty of anything, even if you initially went along with the harassment. The blame is with the harasser; you are a survivor. You can heal.
You deserve respect.
From the minute that you feel awkward about a work-situation, tell someone you trust and begin documenting every comment, action, or event that’s left you feeling uncomfortable. If you’ve received e-mails, save screenshots. If you save the e-mails, don’t alter them in any way. If someone says that they don’t think what you’re going through is that bad,” remember – it’s not their place to judge. You own your truth. You own your boundaries. Only you know what you will or will not accept.
While someone else may tolerate behavior that bothers you, it’s your life and your decision. You’re allowed to end uncomfortable situations; no job is worth trauma, torment, or the health toll enduring daily abuse can cause, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. You cannot always leave your job, but you can stop the cycle of harassment. The harasser wants your silence; don’t give them the satisfaction.
Some may believe you’re weak for choosing to address sexual harassment and strive for change, this is not true. You are not weak; you are courageous and brave, trying to make the world a better place for others; that is an admirable aspiration for anyone.
As the result of my journey, I reached out to a therapist to help me understand what had happened. My therapist put the harassment this way: “The harasser is an annoying gnat you can flick away until the pest becomes smaller and smaller on your horizon. By standing up, speaking out, and refusing to accept abuse – you are a big flyswatter with the power and will to end the cycle of harassment.”
If your boss, co-worker, or friend demands your undivided attention, calls you five or ten times per day, follows your every move on and offline, or starts mimicking your style or words, there could be a deeper problem.
Stand your ground; know your boundaries; always listen to your inner voice. Respect, trust yourself and you will get through this. I told my story and put the spotlight on my harasser; you have the power within you to do the same.
Even on the darkest day in your fight against sexual harassment, always remember you’re worth so much more than workplace abuse. You will come through the experience with greater awareness and more compassion for others. You have a bright future ahead of you and you will survive this.
I believe in you!
Starting over fresh can be one of the scariest and most exhilarating things we can do.
This is her story:
“You need to get out of here. Now. While your self-esteem is still intact,” my nurse hissed at me as we pretended to be conferring over a particularly challenging medication pass.
I simply stared at her, my eyes threatening to fill with tears.
“I mean it. This place will chew you up and shred you into a zillion tiny pieces. Get out now!”
I nodded, afraid my voice would give my distress away.
“You okay, Boss?” another nurse came by our “difficult” medication pass.
I shook my head no.
“I saw what just happened – the whole dining room did. What she did was NOT okay, Boss. You deserve better. You’re a good lady,” she continued.
The tears spilled down my cheeks.
“I saw her hit you,” a CNA, also “conferring” on the “difficult” medication pass crept over to chime in. “That’s abuse.”
I nodded, trying to cling to the last vestiges of my leadership. They were right. I just didn’t know what to do: I loved my job, my staff, my building. It was just her.
“Why the hell did she hit you?” yet another CNA pressed some Kleenex into my clutched hand as she wandered up to see how I was doing. “That’s just NOT okay. You can’t work with an abusive boss. Why do you think so many of us leave? We can’t take her.”
“I-I-I,” I stammered trying to wrap my brain around it. “She’s mad at me. There was a misunderstanding.”
“Misunderstandings don’t constitute abuse. I heard her yell at you last week about being a “failure,” for something that was my fault,” the second nurse chimed in. “I’m really sorry.”
“It’s okay,” I replied. “I’m trying to be the buffer between you and her.”
They all looked at me sympathetically. “That’s not your job,” the CNA stated flatly after a moment of silence.
“I know it’s not,” I replied. “But if I don’t, you’ll all walk out and you’re some of the best staff I’ve ever met. And I love my job…. when I can actually do it.” I smiled wanly.
They clucked around sympathetically before I gathered myself together, hugged them, then walked back into the fire, my head high.
“Get in here,” she yelled across a dining room full of staff, residents and family the moment she saw me. “And shut the door.”
I sat perched on the edge of her chair, waiting for the onslaught of insults and character assassination that I knew would follow. I loved my job, but I hated this part of it.
Nurses I’d noted, more than most professions, are more likely to accept abuse and ill-treatment thanks to the way they’re treated on the job. I knew this, and still I stayed, loyal to my ethically-challenged boss, or, at the very least, my amazing staff and the residents whom I adored.
Sure, I’d taken to vomiting on my drive to work from the stress of working with my boss. Sure, my anxiety about being even five minutes late because I dared stop for gas often led me to weep in the car. Yeah, I spent most days walking on eggshells and taking the abuse she loved to dole out. But I had a job! And I loved it! How many people could say that?
I sat there and listened to her berate me, my face impassive, as I allowed the words my coworkers had said to wash over me. Carefully, she’d documented any transgression I’d made from not signing my name on a particular document to daring to be several minutes late following a routine doctor’s appointment. It was all bullshit and I knew it.
I also knew from watching her do this in the past that she was building a case to ensure I wouldn’t see a dime of unemployment. That was her way. I’d been waiting, like the rest of the staff, to be fired during one of her outbursts. We often joked, when she wasn’t around, that we stashed boxes in our office to quickly pack our things because we never knew when the ax would fall.
She offered me probation, a salary cut, and various other indignities, all over being unreachable by my cell for several hours on my weekend, even though I hadn’t gotten a single call on my land-line. She, I knew from experience, didn’t have any desire to listen to me; she was in punishment mode.
And sitting there in her office, I stared outside at the bright blue sky as she continued insulting everything she could think of, then began to lie to fill in the gaps, tuning her out.
A lightning bolt hit me as clear as a bell: this was it. I could sit there and take her shit, continue vomiting into a plastic bag on my way to work and panicking every time my phone rang, or I could start over. I was a grown adult and I was damn good at my job. Certainly this wasn’t the only place I’d be able to work. If I’d learned anything in the past year, it’s that life is too short to be miserable all the time.
When she was done assassinating everything from my dislike of sandwiches to my coffee habit, I stood, shook her hand and looked her in the eye.
“Thank you,” I said, my eyes hardened and cold, momentarily knocking her off balance with my response, as I held out my hand to shake hers. She didn’t take it.
She stammered something cruel as I turned my back, opened her door and walked out, ready for the next chapter of my life to begin.