Last year I went through a period of my life from around February 2019 onwards (it was actually September 2018 when I stood up to the guys asking them not to joke about rape at work but it wasn't insidious and my boss wasn't on board at that point) where I was experiencing high levels of stress. I was being bullied in work by my colleagues and some were doing things that were very strategic - hiding passwords that they knew so I couldn't progress and I'd have to chase to find them or ring old colleagues, hitting the back of my chair while passing constantly, outright telling me that I was stupid, unproductive, unfocused, sensitive and incompetent while masking it under the umbrella of 'I was trying to help you', joking about raping women and using the word rape constantly in a work environment and the list goes on. My boss was also taking me into a room for sometimes two hours per day telling me how I would never be as good a programmer as another colleague in my team and then telling me that I could work on the same task and improve it. He was continuously telling me that I was terrible and at the same time would give me compliments. It was really confusing. I was frozen and I couldn't move. Being called daily by colleagues stupid and not just by one but by three as well as your boss, you start to begin to believe it. I read books and they told me to ignore them. I would say NEVER IGNORE PEOPLE WHO ARE CALLING YOU NAMES. It sends a signal to your brain that it is alright for them to treat you that way. I ignored them and repressed the negative feelings in order to cope but I don't think anyone could cope under the circumstances. All day everyday if it wasn't in person, it was snickering and laughing loudly at me and the code I had written OR in instant messenger. You start believing that you are stupid.
I wanted to hold onto my job. It was my dream for a long time to become a Software Developer and for this opportunity to come along was a godsend! I was delighted to start into the world of Android development. I was happy to get going and start working on something new. I had worked as a Java programmer previously. I had even given lectures in C# development. I started with carrying two jobs as the previous position didn't want to let me go. This was my first mistake! I was under a lot of stress to preform from the beginning but hadn't the time to put in. I started taking things home and for my own benefit learn Android at home too. After all, I enjoyed programming and still enjoy programming in my spare time. It's like solving a puzzle. I love that aspect.
I had found an error in the live version of the application. This was my second mistake. I was given tasks daily to change and update the same existing section daily. I took it home nightly and would wake around 5am thinking about it. I would come up with a solution and then try to implement it the following day. My boss would want it straight away and I would warn him saying the solution will break and he would say, I don't care, do it anyway. My colleagues then would see the commits and complain that something was wrong. I was getting it from both sides.
I knew my niece was coming in the March to work for a week in work and I had a heavy heart around the time as my boss started to ramp up the pressure in work and bring me into an individual meeting room for up to two hours telling me that I was useless. There were also things sexual in nature which I won't repeat and this was the worst of it. It would wear your confidence, essence of your being down to your core until you crash. I was being brainwashed and I didn't know - although does anyone know that they were being brainwashed when they are being brainwashed. It took me repeating his behaviours outside in a social environment for the anger to come out of me and for his abhorrent behaviour to show itself inside me. It came out as all abuse does eventually.
Burnout had taken its town and I could not stop crying. I was levelled as a person. I was trying all my strategies to keep sane like watching comedy, making jokes, looking at the silver lining, concentrating on my goal, telling myself that it was temporary, focusing on the task but my mind was melted. I could not actually take in new information. I couldn't absorb anything. I was a nervous wreck and it was ruining my life. I was making terrible decisions. My mood was all over the place. I was trying so hard to be happy that I suppressed it instead of addressing it. I tried to stay upbeat and fought too long and too hard.
Eventually I couldn't sleep, I was so exhausted that I would fall asleep on the couch. I couldn't cope and wasn't coping at all. My immunity was low and I picked up everything. I even managed to get an ear, nose and throat infection and I had never gotten one ever before. I didn't even know that that was possible! I was exhausted but one of my ways of coping was exercise and I was too tired to push it. I would try to and feel better but then with lack of sleep and ruminating thoughts overpowering me, it worsened and wore me out. I could hear his words in my head and I couldn't shut them out. It was like he was inside my head all the time. I woke up thinking about what he had said in previous meetings and I couldn't turn it off.
I was working but I wasn't focused. I couldn't concentrate. I was actually unproductive. I wasn't initially but by this stage I was. I couldn't string a sentence together without analysing it and thinking it was incorrect. I was saying peculiar things that didn't make sense. Logic went out the window and my family life also had its own things going on with my niece being sick. I was so concerned for her. I had been a tuning fork for my sister and listened to her about her worries. It made me even more upset and worried and this was my final mistake. It was as if my colleagues bullying me had known that I was going to be unproductive. It was the case. I was unproductive and some part of you start to think were the rest of his words right? Was I stupid, like the way I was unproductive, was I also incompetent?
Abuse always manifests itself when it's suppressed. This form of abuse by my colleagues and boss found its way into my thoughts and words and eventually my actions. It was like an outer body experience. All I could think about was the insults that my boss had thrown at me in our two hour meetings and they became ruminating thoughts. They eventually came out to those around me and in my non-sensical, illogical, rhetoric to everything and everyone and the need to explain the most utter nonsense I got angry. It obliterated my being and my nature. It got into my mind and thoughts and eventually my own actions. I had lost control. By the time I had gotten to the doctor they had said it was one of the worst cases they have heard and I only had to say a few examples between the tears that were continuously pouring down my face.
The doctor took my bloods first and noticed that I was deficient in Vitamin D and had low B12. Vitamin D is linked to depression so a chemical imbalance was already there without the abuse from colleagues and an abhorrent boss. I am an optimistic person so I kept asking myself why and the doctor had given me a chance to visit them every week for the next six weeks but not to go to work. I had explained the situation and that I couldn't stop crying. I had never had this outer body experience and they explained that it was in fact normal. Abuse like that will always come out and your body reacted in a way that was a freeze response. You fought in the end, just in a misdirected way and your brain was scrambled. When they explained the science it made sense and I needed to get back on track. They had told me simply to take the supplements, go outside, do everything that 'brings you joy' and do not think of anything else.
I pulled myself together and organised the 10 friends triathlon. I didn't know how to swim so I pushed myself into learning something knew that didn't involve so much thinking as moving my body in the hope that my mind would catch up. I felt like not retaining new information for weeks on end was a bit like how someone might feel if they were to experience Alzheimers and I am all too aware of its impact as my aunt struggled and eventually passed away from this horrible disease. She eventually couldn't talk, walk or use the bathroom on her own. We thought she would recognise us and she would smile when we'd visit but in the end we don't know if she did or not as she couldn't communicate. It is the most frightening experience I will and have ever experienced. Your brain is like a butterfly and cannot concentrate and for someone who earns a living from having a good working memory and brain in order to program, this was also my own livelihood and identity.
Part of me felt this fear and disgust for these men and another part of me felt so sorry for them because we should have a society that prevents these things from happening. Unfortunately I couldn't go back to a place where I was always going to feel unwelcome. I started to rebuild and get back to my life and back to my level-headed self that has some balance in a safe world. My safety had been threatened so my heart was starting beat faster and I had already been through two heart operations so in the end I had to leave my dream job go and take the time I needed to heal.
The time over the following months was productive. I learnt to swim, made friends, organised weekly training sessions with them, read a lot (my brain started to be able to retain the page that I had read so I could read the next one, previously I would read a page and have to re-read and sometimes re-read a second or third time), I ran, went on two dates (they were also awful but an experience nonetheless and that was enough!), I swam, I met up with friends for lunches, I learnt German and I eventually did the German examination. I started a new job in November and worked on a new project as a lead Software Developer. I started belly dancing and trying new things like painting some artwork as well. I received my results from the B1 German examination and to say that I was validated and relieved is an understatement. I was so happy I had some tears in my eyes. I knew I did well but it was just icing on the cake to have it as a piece of paper. I was delighted. I can safely say that this won't happen again. Some might ask why didn't you leave, it was bad timing. I was in debt, I had some health issues and couldn't move at that time. I felt trapped and that feeling of being trapped will always make people doing some irregular things that are out of character like an animal being trapped when they are normally subdued or serene will eventually attack back when they are abused. You just need to look at nature to realise this. While I defend my actions now, I am remorseful and really sorry for the actions that hurt people. I exploded and blew up to the wrong people. It was a case of being close to me at the wrong time when I had what can only be described as burnout. I have learnt so much and I am grateful that it happened then when I could still manage to do things, meet new people and challenge myself. Although my life blew up, I left an environment that was toxic away from the sexism that I experienced and abuse that I endured to live an even better life now that I could ever have dreamed of. It has given me the strength and courage to do things that I would not have done previously. I have made friends that I will have forever and we made strong bonds over their own experiences that they had in their previous jobs that were similar. I found what can only be described as a serenity within me and a confidence that is unshakable. I am a creator of my life. I am in control of my thoughts. My brain is working and I am at the point in my life that I love my life right now. I love the peace that I have right now. I have created better healthier boundaries. I can't even describe how many more lessons and better experiences that I have had since then. I know that in a way, if I didn't go through that I wouldn't be here now. For all those that are experiencing bullying or mobbing they call it in Germany and sexual harassment in work - it will come out, the anger must go somewhere, the sooner you come out of this period of your life - your best life awaits. The abuse might be sugar coated between insults and compliments which makes the body go to survival mode and if you are optimistic it will keep you from addressing the core issues because you will convince yourself when it's good that 'it's not so bad' when it is bad and things get worse and worse until it's too much to handle. You will be stronger having learnt and kept the lessons from the past but let go of the abuse. Surround yourself with positive people that build you up and not tear you down. Move on, be your own creator and remember how much you have overcome. Never repress your negative emotions, stand up for what you believe in and it doesn't matter if that means going to your bosses boss - even if it against all that you believe in. DO NOT IGNORE ABHORRENT BEHAVIOUR - IT WILL CONTINUE! Never repress negative feelings to focus on positive ones - they will get stronger and result in emotional flooding! FORGIVE YOURSELF FOR YOU KNEW NOT WHAT YOU DID! They didn't break you, they made you stronger.
Dodging energy vampires - An empath's guide to evading relationships that drain you and restoring your health and power - Dr. Christine Northrup
You can heal your life - Louise Hay
The gift of forgiveness - Katherine Schwarzenegger
How to be human - Ruby Wax
The Highly Sensitive Person - Elaine N. Aaron
Burnout - the secret to solving the stress cycle - Emily Nagoski, Amelia Nagoski
Mindset - changing the way you think to fulfil your potential - Dr. Carol Dweck
Grit - Angela Duckworth
Braving the Wilderness - the quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone - Dr. Brené Brown
The Happiness Advantage - How a positive brain fuels success in work and life - Dr. Shawn Achor