Workplace bullying and PTSD are not a good combination

I started a new job four months ago, and right away I knew something was “off” in the office. It literally took me one day to realize it, when I went to a lunchtime birthday party for someone in the office — again, my first day — and no one, literally no one, talked to me. No one introduced me or welcomed me. Nothing.

I thought, at first, that maybe I was misreading cues.

Well, I wasn’t misreading anything.

I’m working in an office dominated by a “clique,” and the ringleader is one of the two people I report to. Believe it or not, it feels just like high school: a small clique isolates other people, plays pranks on them, humiliates them and so forth. But the “teacher” — in our case, our director — is fooled because around him, they act like angels.

It is really sick. Really, really sick.

As the weeks have gone on, I’ve noticed that I’m not the only one being targeted, so it’s not necessarily personal against me. But in the past two months, particularly, the bullying behavior has escalated to an almost daily occurrence, in one way or another.

While I don’t want to give specific examples here, I will say this: My body was telling me that something was wrong within the first two weeks of my starting this job. I have developed panic attacks, which I’ve never had before, along with insomnia and serious intestinal problems, neither of which I can ever recall having.

On top of that, this clique’s behavior — mind games, setting traps to make me look stupid and literally laughing at me in front of other people — is causing PTSD symptoms to flare up. That feeling of walking through a mine field every day, of wondering how people are going to treat me and never being sure … it’s a recipe for serious problems for me (and for anyone, actually).

Clearly, I need to get out of this situation, and fast.

I’m taking steps to do that, starting with official channels where I work. While I don’t feel stressed about having to make these “exit strategy” decisions, I do feel stressed from being in such an incredibly toxic environment. I didn’t think it was possible, but this is the worst work environment I have ever worked in. Ever. And I’ve been working for almost 40 years; I started working at my father’s company when I was 13 years old.

What’s really sad is that I like the work itself. I’m making a difference, people are noticing my results and my professionalism, and I’m gaining the respect of people I admire.

But all of that will be gone sometime soon, because I will have to leave a job I like and do well because of a bullying clique. I heard that at least two other people were forced out in years past because of this kind of mistreatment.

I’m also planning on seeing my doctor and my trauma therapist again. I need help to cope with this until I have a definite plan to leave.

Isn’t this sad? I finally found a job that I actually LIKE doing, earning a good salary and working with really interesting people — doctors, researchers, Nobel Prize winners, Pulitzer Prize winners — and I have to give it up because of 3 people who have nothing better to do than bully people.

I will not tolerate being abused. Period. Abuse in the workplace? Absolutely no way that I will allow it to happen, no matter what tough decisions I have to make to get away from it.

I am so angry today

Why do the GOP Republicans believe that if you’re lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual or Native American, you don’t deserve to be protected by the Violence Against Women Act?

The Senate passed the bill, intact, 78 to 22. Then it stalled in the House during the recess, which I wrote about.

Now, the GOP members of the House seem bent (no pun intended) on killing the bill entirely (also no pun intended).

Pertinent quote from a news story:

“Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have answered the Senate’s proposal to renew the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) by presenting their own version of the bill, but with protections of LGBT Americans taken out and a loophole that could exempt Native Americans victims of domestic abuse.

According to Think Progress, the House bill could derail renewal of the VAWA, killing any momentum the Senate bill had gathered since its proposal on Feb. 12.”

Raw Story (

I really don’t know what to say or what to think about our “leadership.” Can someone please explain it to me? Is it as simple and ugly as plain, garden-variety bigotry?

Doing (or not doing) what feels right for me

In the past few days, I’ve continued to assess my own feelings, which is something I’ve never done before. I’m starting to tune into what actions and thoughts make me feel good, creative, happy and what actions contribute to unhappiness.

What I’ve found won’t surprise you, which is that most of my thoughts and actions contribute to unhappiness.

Do you know why? Because most of my thoughts and actions are outwardly focused, mostly directed toward my husband, who has a form of long-term depression.

Here’s an example of an outwardly focused action that has brought me nothing but unhappiness.

For the past year, I have called him twice a day during the workday, religiously. I even set it on my Google calendar to remind me. So a year before we had his official depression diagnosis, I was trying to reconnect with him, and talking to him briefly by phone — no more than a minute or two — twice during the day seemed like a simple thing that might help.

By the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013, I realized that because of his illness, nothing I did, good, bad or otherwise, had any effect on him or on our relationship. All the hard work I was doing on the relationship — the phone calls were just the tip of the iceberg — was basically for naught. It all helped me somewhat, but not “us” and certainly not him.

I don’t believe he even noticed all the things I was doing. He’s never mentioned them or said how much he has appreciated my continuing commitment to him. In the ways that matter most to me, I’m still invisible to him.

Back to those two daily phone calls … Nine times out of 10, I would get his voicemail. I don’t know why he didn’t answer, but he didn’t. And I felt like an idiot, every single time, leaving a voicemail for my husband. He would rarely call back. He’d usually send me a text — maybe.

I told him recently that I expect him to answer the phone when I call, and that I’m very aware that he doesn’t like talking on the phone much at work. But he can make 4 minutes available during the day to talk to his wife. That’s just being respectful of me, in the most basic way possible.

I also told him that I wanted him to call me at least once a day.

In recent weeks, he has answered the phone a bit more often, maybe 25 percent of the time. He calls me maybe once a week when I’m at work. He did send flowers to my office on Valentine’s Day, which was nice.

But something occurred to me today: I don’t want to call him anymore. I don’t want to hear his voicemail pick up. Whenever I hear the voicemail message, I feel like s&*t. And I don’t want to feel like that anymore.

And … I’d like for him to call me! That’s what husbands are supposed to do, right? Call and tell her they love her? Or that she’s on his mind?

So I’m not going to call anymore. It’s what I need to do so that I can continue to gain self-respect and self-love.

It’s also part of a much bigger process of allowing myself to make life decisions that are much more significant than whether or not to make phone calls.

When bad news might be good news

Today I learned that I didn’t get a job I was hoping for. It would have allowed me a lot more freedom with my time, since I could have telecommuted. The people I interviewed with seemed very nice, and everything went well, so the news was a surprise to me.

I wrote in a previous post that I want to work for myself. I’ve done that in the past, and the time has come for me to make that transition again. I believe what might be seen as bad news is actually good news. That decision by the hiring person or committee not to hire me might have been the best thing that’s happened to me lately. Now, I’m more inspired than ever to find a professional path I can be happy with, on my own terms.

Yes, I’m 51 years old. And yes, it’s a little scary to think about what a wrong move might cost me, financially and otherwise, at this point. But if I truly listen to myself, as I’m attempting to do every day (with a struggle, I might add), I know that working for myself is no longer just a fun fantasy to have. It’s a must-have.

Today, I’m choosing to see the good in the things that happen to me.