One less thing to feel stressed about

Yesterday was a good day. Today is a good day, too, although it started out extremely badly.

Yesterday, I interviewed for my old job that I left 3-1/2 years ago — only, it’s not exactly like my old job. It’s better. There’s a new director, who according to everyone in the office has made things absolutely great. I would be reporting to a different supervisor, who also has an excellent reputation. I would be working alongside one of my best friends.

But what made yesterday so special was the reception I received from all the people there who know me and with whom I used to work. Hugs upon hugs, wonderfully genuine greetings of affection.

It felt so nice to feel appreciated and liked by so many people, every one of whom said, “Please, come back. We miss you, and things are so much better here now.”

I left with a job offer.

Which leads me to today, when I had a PTSD meltdown this morning, before going to work, about having to tell my current supervisor that I’m leaving. If you clicked on that link just now about my supervisor, you’ll recall that I am in a workplace that’s filled with cliques and bullying. And she is the ringleader.

So it was no small feat for me to walk into her office today and tell her that I intend to accept this other job offer.

You know what she said?

“Congratulations.”

She seemed surprised and speechless. We talked for a few minutes about what she needed from me in the short term — details about my projects and so forth — and that was it.

Now I’m just waiting for the HR wheels to turn.

And I’m exhausted.

I realized today that the past six months of working in this particular office have really taken a toll on me. In fact, my entire experience of working at this institution, as a whole, has been extremely challenging. I have two reasons for taking my old job in another department: a) because I know the job, it’s easy, and I like the people there, and b) I need a paycheck. Otherwise, I’d dump everything and focus all my energy on developing my own business, with the help of all I’m learning in Marie Forleo’s B-School.

That’s not a choice I have right now, so I’m focusing on the fact that leaving this workplace is giving me one less thing to feel stressed about. As it is, I’m giving almost all my “free” time to creating a new business — a process I’m totally loving, by the way. Without the stress of this particular job, I believe I can do even more, even faster. I don’t want to set a timeline for myself, but my goal is to have a profitable business that I can live on in 12 months.

And I don’t feel stressed about that at all. Only happy. How about that? I actually feel happy.

 

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.

Today’s word: Choice

Today's word: choiceI chose to marry my ex-husband.

I did not choose for him to hurt me.

I get really, really tired of people — most of whom are uneducated about domestic violence — saying that it was my choice to “let him” hurt me or continue to hurt me.

That is so far from reality, it’s hard to even know how to respond.

Domestic violence is not like alcoholism, for example. There, it does seem to me that certain people “enable” the alcoholic’s behavior by their actions.

DV is completely different. There is no “letting” or “choosing” or “enabling.” The actions of the abuser put the victim into a persistent state of trauma, which then proceeds to get worse over time.

Even if you’ve never been the victim of an abusive person, you’ve most likely experienced something you would label as “traumatic.” Let’s say, you were in a car accident, or you witnessed a crime, or whatever it might be.

How did you feel afterward? Picture that moment, and put yourself back there, right now.

  • How do you feel?
  • Do you feel safe?
  • Do you feel like yourself?
  • How is your mind working? Is it clear or fuzzy?
  • Do you know what you’re doing or saying, for sure?
  • Are you shaking?
  • Do you feel like you’re going to be sick?
  • Do you feel afraid?

Multiply those feelings by 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and you’ll have some idea of what a DV victim experiences with an abuser.

Was it your choice to have that car accident? Using the same logic a lot of people do with DV, they would say, Well, it was your choice to get into the car, even though you were reasonably certain the car was working properly and you knew how to drive it. And you also were pretty sure where you were going; you even had directions.

I made the choice to marry that guy.

I did not choose for him to hurt me.

He hurt me. That was his choice.

After the first incident, the trauma was already in place and doing its thing: clouding my mind, making me shaky, setting my life on a course I did not choose. I left when I felt reasonably sure it was safe to do so, though clearly I risked my life during that process. Every woman (I’m generalizing) does when she finally does leave.

I still struggle with choice, every single hour of every single day. I’m never completely sure if the trauma is behind a choice I’m making, or if my real self is behind the choice. If I’m totally honest, I’d say it’s probably about 60-40 or maybe even 70-30 right now, and the trauma is winning.

The lens of truth, not trauma

About a month ago, I wrote about some difficulties I had with my book.

Today, I decided that I’m not going to change anything in the book unless my daughter, and only my daughter, asks me to.

The only people whose opinions matter are hers and mine. No one else’s.

Because in the end, it’s a record of my life and how I experienced it. If someone in the book doesn’t like what I wrote, then they can write their own story. The truth is the truth, and if I start adjusting the truth to suit someone else, where does it end?

What that person wanted me to change isn’t a fact; it’s a difference of perception.

My daughter has mentioned that I made one factual error, although she hasn’t shared with me what it was. And it wasn’t big enough for her to ask me to take the book down. I told her that I want to write a second edition in 2013, this time including some information about trauma therapy, and she said it was fine for me to fix the error then.

Although I’m writing this blog post about my book, it’s about a lot more than that. It’s about being able to connect with the truth of my life. Some days I can see through the fog of trauma much more clearly than other days.

The goal every day, however, is always the same: To experience my life through the lens of truth, not trauma.