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Thread: Left abusive work environment. How to heal?

  1. #1
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    Left abusive work environment. How to heal?

    Hi all,

    Iím hoping someone might have some good advice for me, especially those who have experienced something similar. Thanks in advance.

    A brief background: I was working in my profession for a long time before pursuing a Masters degree in the field. I moved away from my home region to pursue my Masters degree, and fell in love with the city where I studied. After graduation, I moved back home where I was promoted at my existing workplace to a permanent job that I was enjoying. Soon after the promotion, I saw a permanent job posted in the city where I studied, at the location where I had completed my student practicum. Since they already knew me there and the job was in the city I love, I decided to apply. I got the job and moved back to the new city for it (at my own expense, because they didnít cover it and I wanted to live there so badly).

    The job was completely miserable from the start, but I made myself stay because I had made a lot of sacrifices for it and had a significant amount of student debt to pay off. For a while I held out hope that it would settle down and the job would improve, but that never happened. The details of the job are irrelevant to this discussion, but suffice it to say that toward the end of my time there (4 years) I met with a number of third parties including a cognitive behavioral therapist, a conflict resolution specialist, and my union representative among others. Most/all of them separately informed me that the treatment I was receiving there was so bad that I had grounds to pursue a harassment case. Instead, I devoted myself to applying for absolutely every job posted in the city that looked like something I could do. After a year of submitting applications, I finally got an offer for a temporary job in a related field, for half the salary I was making in my previous, abusive job. Because I had been pushed so far beyond my limits that I just had to get out of there ASAP, I accepted the offer and made my escape.

    My decision, of course, came with a number of consequences and stresses which I am now dealing with. Perhaps worst and definitely the stupidest of all is that whenever Iím alone (which is most of the time since I live alone 1000 miles from my family), I keep reliving the traumas in my head. The nasty things people said and did to me keep traumatizing me over and over again. I know itís not good, but I donít know how to make it stop other than sleep, which I do way too much now just to get a break from the constant misery.

    To anyone out there who has experienced a workplace full of harassment, how did you let go of the trauma, start enjoying things again, and move on with your life? The obvious one is therapy, which I tried. However, the last time I went to a therapist, he focused on giving me career advice which is not his specialty and he doesnít really know me, so I donít think thatís what I need right now. I need to leave the trauma behind and start feeling good about life again. Any tips?

    Thank you.

  2. #2
    Platinum Member Jibralta's Avatar
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    Can you provide details about the nature of the abuse, and descriptions of some of the incidents that constituted the abuse?

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    That therapist was a bad fit, try more, the right one will help a lot

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    Platinum Member Rose Mosse's Avatar
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    I worked for an advertising firm and an architectural firm with less than stellar reviews overall. The only thing I can tell you is that you need to keep believing in yourself every. single. day. Do not stop. When you feel down (and you're allowed to feel down), take up the hobbies that uplift you and reinstate your sense of purpose. If you've put all your eggs in one basket (your career), think about diversifying your little arsenal of skills. You can take up a sport, volunteer, develop a new hobby, take up a new language in your free time. Whatever you do, try practicing balance and perspective and learn how to re-train yourself into seeing the world through your eyes again, NOT through the eyes of those who have manipulated or (verbally) abused you.

    If you feel it might help, keep a journal of the recurring anxieties that come to you each day. Don't make a mountain of a molehill and I wouldn't suggest going 50 pages deep into every entry. One or two lines and also reflect on what you hope to learn from that experience. The point is to re-train your mind and guide yourself back to more self-confidence and learning to trust yourself and have faith in yourself. Over time, you'll start to heal more and slowly you'll grow more and more each day. You might surprise yourself how much you propel yourself forwards. The more you do and the more you believe in yourself, the more growth you experience, the greater your self-confidence will grow. The trick is to keep believing that you have a purpose and continuously searching for that purpose.

    I also met last week with a good friend who is an ER(emergency) doctor and we were discussing stress management techniques over pho. Her type of trauma and stress management is different from being abused specifically or targeted at work (harassment) but I feel like what she shared with me might help you too. She emphasized being thankful regardless of the tough days. I thought that was very wise...I remember that more too in my daily life. We may tell the difference between right and wrong and learn from negative experiences but we can also be thankful for the lessons and how it shapes us. I hope this helps.
    Last edited by Rose Mosse; 04-29-2019 at 07:10 PM.

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    Platinum Member JA0371's Avatar
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    Not sure what you endured but for me I try to keep a healthy life outside of work that I dont discuss with co workers... that could be hobbies, dating , friendships etc...because believe me, the ď wrongí people at work will twist things to make you look bad or for their benefit. Just focus on your job...,and doing it well. Donít partake in outside the job activities...unless required. Donít be anti social...just do what is required....and stay neautral. I think regardless of your field, this is the best advice...because youíre gaining respect, and youíre remaining discreet. Two major things in your favor.

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    Platinum Member Wiseman2's Avatar
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    Agree. Emphasize life outside of work. Join some clubs, groups, organizations, sports, etc. make and maintain friendships outside of work. It sounds like you are burned out from work, isolation and loneliness. Are you dating? Consider getting on some dating apps with a nice profile and pics and messaging and meeting men.

    Make an appt with a doctor to check for physical issues contributing to feeling bad, ruminating etc. Also agree that getting a referral to another therapist could help.
    Originally Posted by JA0371
    keep a healthy life outside of work that I dont discuss with co workers... that could be hobbies, dating , friendships etc...because believe me, the ď wrongí people at work will twist things to make you look bad or for their benefit.

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    Originally Posted by JA0371
    Not sure what you endured but for me I try to keep a healthy life outside of work that I dont discuss with co workers... that could be hobbies, dating , friendships etc...because believe me, the ď wrongí people at work will twist things to make you look bad or for their benefit. Just focus on your job...,and doing it well. Donít partake in outside the job activities...unless required. Donít be anti social...just do what is required....and stay neautral. I think regardless of your field, this is the best advice...because youíre gaining respect, and youíre remaining discreet. Two major things in your favor.
    What I endured was all work-related (lack of job description, having projects delegated to me that I didnít have the knowledge, authority, or time to do; which often came from a colleague who did not even have authority over me, attacks on my projects and how I did things even though I finished them successfully, frequent attacks on my skills, a complete lack of teamwork or common goals in my department, etc). My life outside of work was never an issue there. I really didnít share anything personal with the problematic people. Your advice makes sense, although it cuts both ways. When you bond with work colleagues over non-work related things, it can help with teambuilding and give you a boost when it comes time for promotions or reference requests. Hence the old cliche: itís not what you know, itís who you know.

    Originally Posted by Wiseman2
    Agree. Emphasize life outside of work. Join some clubs, groups, organizations, sports, etc. make and maintain friendships outside of work. It sounds like you are burned out from work, isolation and loneliness. Are you dating? Consider getting on some dating apps with a nice profile and pics and messaging and meeting men.

    Make an appt with a doctor to check for physical issues contributing to feeling bad, ruminating etc. Also agree that getting a referral to another therapist could help.
    Thanks, but if I were to check out the dating scene again, I would be back on here in no time for the breakup forum. Again. Ugh. Iím a lot happier without the dating drama, so Iíve opted out of actively pursuing it. I do have a lot of good friends outside of work, which is one of the things that keeps me hanging onto this city.

    Originally Posted by Rose Mosse
    I worked for an advertising firm and an architectural firm with less than stellar reviews overall. The only thing I can tell you is that you need to keep believing in yourself every. single. day. Do not stop. When you feel down (and you're allowed to feel down), take up the hobbies that uplift you and reinstate your sense of purpose. If you've put all your eggs in one basket (your career), think about diversifying your little arsenal of skills. You can take up a sport, volunteer, develop a new hobby, take up a new language in your free time. Whatever you do, try practicing balance and perspective and learn how to re-train yourself into seeing the world through your eyes again, NOT through the eyes of those who have manipulated or (verbally) abused you.

    If you feel it might help, keep a journal of the recurring anxieties that come to you each day. Don't make a mountain of a molehill and I wouldn't suggest going 50 pages deep into every entry. One or two lines and also reflect on what you hope to learn from that experience. The point is to re-train your mind and guide yourself back to more self-confidence and learning to trust yourself and have faith in yourself. Over time, you'll start to heal more and slowly you'll grow more and more each day. You might surprise yourself how much you propel yourself forwards. The more you do and the more you believe in yourself, the more growth you experience, the greater your self-confidence will grow. The trick is to keep believing that you have a purpose and continuously searching for that purpose.

    I also met last week with a good friend who is an ER(emergency) doctor and we were discussing stress management techniques over pho. Her type of trauma and stress management is different from being abused specifically or targeted at work (harassment) but I feel like what she shared with me might help you too. She emphasized being thankful regardless of the tough days. I thought that was very wise...I remember that more too in my daily life. We may tell the difference between right and wrong and learn from negative experiences but we can also be thankful for the lessons and how it shapes us. I hope this helps.
    Thank you so much for this post! I found it very uplifting. I agree with what you are saying, but of course itís easier said than done. I have been finding it a lot harder to get motivated to do my hobbies with all the burnout and depressive symptoms. Also the reduced income is a significant barrier when it comes to hobbies. I had to give up my internet and gym membership in favor of buying food and hopefully keeping my apartment which I can technically no longer afford. Iím also applying for as many jobs as I can internally which, if Iím successful, would get me a raise or permanent status, or both. So a lot of my time and energy goes into that too. I have, however, been trying to get more into writing. It has been brought to my attention that Iím good at it, and I know itís possible to take on freelance projects which would help me make extra money and build my resumť so I have been looking into that and getting my name out there. I really enjoy taking classes and dabbling in creative writing too. I think I will try your journalling suggestion. I know that Iím not actually as deficient as my former colleagues kept telling me because I have a wealth of previous work experience and degrees that prove otherwise, but still, being attacked for 4 years took a huge toll on me. I have a good friend who fled the same profession for the same reason, and told me itís better that my career crisis is happening now when Iím in my 30s instead of when Iím 50. Sheís right, and I truly am thankful that Iím still young and versatile with a lot of time to get established in something else before itís no longer feasible. Iíll see what other nuggets of thankfulness I can come up with. Suggestions would be welcome.

  9. #8
    Platinum Member catfeeder's Avatar
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    My heart goes out to you, Psych, and I'm glad you're outta there. That's probably the starting point where I'd dwell--that I gave the people in that place a chance to redeem themselves, and they failed, so I stepped up to doing what is right for ME.

    I loved Rose's whole post, but I'd like to focus on some advantages of this idea:
    Originally Posted by Rose Mosse
    If you feel it might help, keep a journal of the recurring anxieties that come to you each day. Don't make a mountain of a molehill and I wouldn't suggest going 50 pages deep into every entry. One or two lines and also reflect on what you hope to learn from that experience. The point is to re-train your mind and guide yourself back to more self-confidence and learning to trust yourself and have faith in yourself.
    Used properly, writing your anxieties down can help to curb them because it's an act of not just letting them out onto paper, but letting them GO from your brain. Round one is where you capture ONLY the main trigger points of each instance on paper. Then you won't feel a need to 'hold' those in your mind anymore.

    Rose also points out that this exercise is NOT for ruminating on paper. That's especially detrimental to a good writer. The goal is not to embed yourself into rumination, but rather, just dumping the stuff that troubles you so that you won't keep using it to drill yourself into a deeper hole to climb out of.

    Once you have listed the key disturbing issues on the page, step away from the page. You can instruct your brain to trust that these issues are captured, and you'll revisit them at a later time--AFTER you've done some other work to ground yourself and begin to feel some comfort in normalizing ~beyond~ the anxiety of revisiting them.

    You may find yourself sleeping better after this. One key to keep your dream state from coming out sideways to disturb your rest is to instruct your mind before sleep to allow your front brain to rest while any disturbing issues are put on 'background processing'. This still allows the your brain to do it's helpful job, but you can rest and trust that if there's anything you 'must' be alerted to through sleep, this will still happen even while you're not engaged in self torture while needing rest.

    Don't consider your list as a threat that you 'must' return to and reconcile before you can heal, but rather a safe place to store the past--like a safe depot box--where YOU control what may, or may not, become of that list at some point when you're ready.

    You may opt to explore the list someday from a healthier vantage point where you can consider Rose's suggestion to use each topic as a starting point for a short jot of what you've learned since the incident, which can build confidence. You may someday opt to ritualize some form of destruction of the list that symbolizes YOUR control over how those incidents 'may' or 'may not' impact your own future.

    There are lots of methods to overcoming harmful experiences, so you may want to make learning about those a side focus that you will select and employ at a later date when you are ready. However, trying to exorcise such experiences prior to gaining the right distance from them and new perspectives on them is a way to stay trapped 'with' them. IMO, that's stagnation, not healing. I'd consider broadening your vision and your focus now that you've released yourself from a cage, so to speak, and trust that you can deal with your past as your past instead of embroiling yourself with that stuff as an unnecessary barrier to your future.

    Head high, and thank you for trusting us to contribute to this part of your journey forward.

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    Platinum Member Rose Mosse's Avatar
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    Those tips are extremely helpful, Catfeeder. I might use some of that. Psych, don't feel bad about the lower budgets. When my husband separated from his ex-wife the circumstances were not so good and he was left making ends meet paying all the bills on his own. He began with the cheapest hobby there was: walking. He walked a lot and he discovered he liked to walk upwards. And then he turned it into one of the greatest things he's ever done: mountaineering. Fast forward in time and now he's living his dreams in the mountains and is prepping for one of his biggest accents in July. You shouldn't ever be ashamed of what little you have or how little you start out with. I think greater things can be done with a little than a lot. Keep on looking for those jobs and thinking about those skills, old and new.

    I'm thankful for plenty of things: that I have air and the lungs to breathe, a body that is in relatively good functioning order, my family, our home and all the special things in it and outside it. There are so many things I'm thankful for I think I might burst. Remember you don't have to look very far to appreciate all the little and big things!

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    Thanks for the insightful responses.

    Originally Posted by catfeeder
    That's probably the starting point where I'd dwell--that I gave the people in that place a chance to redeem themselves, and they failed, so I stepped up to doing what is right for ME.
    Yes, for a long time I had been looking forward to the sweet relief of being done with that job, and envisioned joy and celebrations when the day finally came. However, I kind of skipped that step and went straight to worrying about the hardships. Over the past few months I have been settling into my new job and gaining more appreciation for the improvements Iím experiencing. I know what my job is, I know why Iím doing it, it comes easily to me, and the people there seem to value me. But I still worry and obsessively check the job posts for positions that might offer me more security. I have a hard time just living in the moment and enjoying the relief for its own sake.


    Originally Posted by catfeeder
    Used properly, writing your anxieties down can help to curb them because it's an act of not just letting them out onto paper, but letting them GO from your brain. Round one is where you capture ONLY the main trigger points of each instance on paper. Then you won't feel a need to 'hold' those in your mind anymore.

    Rose also points out that this exercise is NOT for ruminating on paper. That's especially detrimental to a good writer. The goal is not to embed yourself into rumination, but rather, just dumping the stuff that troubles you so that you won't keep using it to drill yourself into a deeper hole to climb out of.

    Once you have listed the key disturbing issues on the page, step away from the page. You can instruct your brain to trust that these issues are captured, and you'll revisit them at a later time--AFTER you've done some other work to ground yourself and begin to feel some comfort in normalizing ~beyond~ the anxiety of revisiting them.
    Don't consider your list as a threat that you 'must' return to and reconcile before you can heal, but rather a safe place to store the past--like a safe depot box--where YOU control what may, or may not, become of that list at some point when you're ready.

    You may opt to explore the list someday from a healthier vantage point where you can consider Rose's suggestion to use each topic as a starting point for a short jot of what you've learned since the incident, which can build confidence. You may someday opt to ritualize some form of destruction of the list that symbolizes YOUR control over how those incidents 'may' or 'may not' impact your own future.
    I really like this concept. The topic of writing as a way to work through issues has come up frequently in courses Iíve taken. So far I have only attempted to implement it within writings that other people would be reading, so it needed a narrative and there were things I held back, etc. I will give the raw version a try as suggested and let you know how it goes.




    Originally Posted by catfeeder
    There are lots of methods to overcoming harmful experiences, so you may want to make learning about those a side focus that you will select and employ at a later date when you are ready.
    Do you have some examples, or know a good website where I can look into these?

    Originally Posted by Rose Mosse
    Those tips are extremely helpful, Catfeeder. I might use some of that. Psych, don't feel bad about the lower budgets. When my husband separated from his ex-wife the circumstances were not so good and he was left making ends meet paying all the bills on his own. He began with the cheapest hobby there was: walking. He walked a lot and he discovered he liked to walk upwards. And then he turned it into one of the greatest things he's ever done: mountaineering. Fast forward in time and now he's living his dreams in the mountains and is prepping for one of his biggest accents in July. You shouldn't ever be ashamed of what little you have or how little you start out with. I think greater things can be done with a little than a lot. Keep on looking for those jobs and thinking about those skills, old and new.
    Thanks for sharing. I have similar examples from my own life of starting new hobbies in which I excelled and reaped a lot of benefits. You just reminded of that. Maybe I have the potential to do it again. The hard part is finding something and getting started.

    Originally Posted by Rose Mosse
    I'm thankful for plenty of things: that I have air and the lungs to breathe, a body that is in relatively good functioning order, my family, our home and all the special things in it and outside it. There are so many things I'm thankful for I think I might burst. Remember you don't have to look very far to appreciate all the little and big things!
    Those are all good. Why is it so much easier to dwell on the negative than the positive? At least it is for me.


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