A Blog about Career Changes, Madness, and My Awful Brain

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bullied at Work: How I lost my Mind

As some of my friends know, I've had a pretty tough couple of years. I can't lay the blame on my career, although it certainly didn't help. I started this blog with the purpose of getting out some of the feelings I've been holding in, and in the process, have given quite a bit of personal information. Not "this is my real name and address" kind of information, but real information about my life and my thoughts. Maybe the type of information most people don't share publicly. I've even gotten some feedback asking me if I'm sure I want to share this information with others.

I've thought about it, and it's why I didn't make a post yesterday. My answer? YES. Yes I do want to share myself in this way. I think a big part of the problem of our modern life is that even though we share more information about ourselves than ever, most of the "real" us stays hidden in a way that is really detrimental to our psyche. Maybe other people have close confidants, and can share of themselves in a healthy way, while putting on their fakes smiles for the rest of the world.

I can't. In a lot of ways, I'm an all or nothing sort of person. I can be fake or I can be real. There is no in-between switch for me. There never has been. I either build a fence that keeps everyone out, or I just open the gates and let everybody in on my thoughts. And you know what? I'm getting really tired of the fences. I find the process of writing extremely cathartic, and I really want to share what I write with people. I tried a journal, but I can't stick with it, because there is no feedback, no life, in that outlet.

Here's what I figure...anybody who reads what I'm writing and learns who I am and doesn't like it, can stop being my friend or reader. If they liked a person who I never was, why would I want them to stick around? If they read what I write and some of the things I've read and feel superior or inferior, why is that on me? It's not.

With that being said, let me just say that for the past three or so years I've been dealing with what I think is a low grade depression. My "depression" was nothing that I thought I needed drugs or therapy for (it didn't seem that bad). It wasn't really something that hampered my ability to do my work or enjoy my hobbies, but it was there. It mostly manifested itself as a pessimistic viewpoint that wasn't quite normal for me. I've never been a trembling with excitement pollyanna, but I was always pretty happy go lucky, albeit with an ocassional bit of anxiety. After I finished grad school (and maybe even during grad school), I started getting a little dissatisfied with my life. I was looking for a job, and wasn't having any luck, and it got me down. I worked for the next couple of years at the university, and even though I somewhat enjoyed the work and loved my bosses, I really wanted to get out of there and start my life.

And then I got my first real job. And I moved to a new city. And my mind fell apart.

A lot of you reading this know about the problems I had with my new job and new boss, but I don't think any of you realize just how bad it really was. A big part of it is because of my habit of using humour to deal with my problems; if I'm laughing on the outside, I'm probably crapping myself on the inside (I was going to say cry, but I neither cry on the outside nor inside lol). How bad where things? Well, I'll give you a quick and dirty list that in no way describes EVERYTHING I went through.

-I was called a retard several times, an idiot occasionally, and a bad worker almost daily.

-My boss's micro-managing was total: every minute was to be accounted for. If I went to the bathroom and was missing for more than 3 or 4 minutes, my boss would ask me what I was doing and insist there was work to do. If I 'acted smart' and apologized for needing to use the bathroom (which I did when it got to be too much), I was yelled at and asked why I "didn''t just do what I was asked to do".

-I was told everyday that I had accomplished nothing. Even if an experiment was sure to fail, and it wasn't my fault that it failed, I was still somehow personally responsible for failing.

-Positive feedback? What's that? There was none. Ever. Even when I would come up with a great idea, or got good results, or impressed the hell out of visiting business people, I didn't get a single "good job".

-If I left late, I would get yelled at for not getting stuff done on time. If I finished on time, I was 'trying to get out early and didn't care about my work'.

-Yelled at every day. Often, in front of other people. Sometimes I would answer questions completely honestly, and would be accused of sabotage, or being smart mouthed. Occasionally, I would have a tantrum thrown at me.

-My second day at work, she showed me a recipe I was to use to make media. I was asked to calculate the amount of buffering agent to add while she was standing watching me, without a calculator. When I hesitated, she said, (and I quote). "Look, if you can't make a buffer by now, we are both screwed.".

-My second week, she told me that if I worked a lot harder, I may someday be an average tech.

-At one point, she was so frustrated that she choked me. That did not end well for her, but I don't think I went far enough in dealing with it. At various points, as some of you know, I absolutely blew up on her, told her to go fuck herself, and quit. She would convince me to stay, then be nice to me for about a week, then go back to being her nasty self.

To deal with all this bullshit, I had to go on some heavy duty anti-depressants. I was actually ashamed of it at the time, but it was absolutely necessary. After the doses got higher and higher, I obviously suffered a little bit of "brain fog" (though it went away with time). When I told my boss about the anti-depressants being the reason I was a little more absent minded that usual, she wanted me to quit them because they made me a "crappier lab tech".

I know what you're thinking because I would be thinking it too if I were you. WHY THE FUCK DID YOU STAY AT THAT PLACE???? You know, I can't really give you an answer. I'm off the meds, feeling better, and slowly regaining my self esteem....and I really can't tell you why I stayed. At the time, I thought I had legitimate reasons: it was my first real corporate job and I didn't want to fail; my fiancee was going to school and I wanted to support her; I was in a new city and I didn't have any contacts to get me a new job; I spent close to a year trying to find this job, what luck will I have finding another?

So I stayed, and I lost my mind. I'm better now, but I still have some issues I'm working through. Although I know that science isn't my thing, and I knew it before I got this job, I always wonder what effect that job had on the feeling of anxiety and terror I get at the prospect of being stuck in a lab again.

I also wonder how well this post well be received. Will people think less of me that I allowed myself to be bullied in this way? Will people think I'm a whiner, a weakling, who can't deal with having a job? Will I get sympathy or scorn? I don't know. I hope people understand what I went through, and if any of you want to share some stories in the comments, I would love to hear from you.

As to my next post..... Well I wish the above was the worst of it, but there is more misfortune to come. What happened after I left the job....

Stay tuned kiddies for the fantastic conclusion. Same bat time, same bat channel!

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