Tag Archives: work

The workplace that almost completely ruined my life

For a long time I’ve been in a work situation that’s not suited me but I’m the type of person who just likes to keep my head down and get on with it. I don’t like to be noticed and my work is not my life so, I thought, if I could just go to work, get my work done and come home, I would be ok.

But things started to build up.

My GP asks me to keep a migraine diary and I realise I was getting a migraine at work every day that meant I was driving home with one putting myself and other road users at risk!

One of my colleagues said “I think you’re being bullied”, it took me aback, but thinking about it this was probably because, the person doing it was so manipulative I couldn’t quite admit what was happening.

I took on other people’s work (more senior than me), I wasn’t thanked by them, nor did I feel boosted, I felt more and more down trodden every single day.

I thought my request for reasonable adjustments was…reasonable but I was made to feel as though I was asking for the earth!

Occupational health asked for the same reasonable adjustments and pointed out I was covered by the equality act but still no adjustments were made.

I’d go into meetings feeling confident and come out feeling disrespected, belittled and devalued.

I started to open up about the struggles I was having to senior management but I ended up feeling incredibly vulnerable and felt like this was then actually being used against me.

This was jus the tip of the iceberg! Things build up slowly over time but little by little the toxic environment takes its toll!

No matter what part you play in an organisation, my opinion is that everyone has the right to be valued, but I felt as though I was being treated like the lowest of the low.

It wasn’t that my employers were passive un-listeners, it appeared that they actively had their fingers in their ears and were saying “no-no, we do not want to know about your needs, your needs are not important to us, it would be better for us if you didn’t have needs.”

I needed support but I felt like they didn’t care whether I was there or not, it felt like I meant nothing to them, it felt like they were saying “you are nothing” and the longer it went on, I started to believe it.

My self esteem has ended up in the gutter.

Something had to change!

I tried desperately to manage things from the inside, I had my union rep on my side. I had my GP advising me on what was best for my health and (eventually) I had occupational health recommending reasonable adjustments as I’m covered by the Equality Act.

Lady suffocating in plastic

But what do you do if at every turn, no matter how reasonable I am with my requests, I’m left feeling as though I’m banging my head against a brick wall?! At points, it felt like I was saying “please can I have air to breath?” and Senior Management replied, “It’s raining today.” Their sentence was accurate but completely unrelated to my request and made no attempt to solve the ongoing difficulties I faced.

I was left absolutely bewildered as to why they wouldn’t support my needs.

There are 3 main causes of workplace stress:

  • A mis-match in skills/knowledge—this is why the application/interview process is so important to match the correct people to the correct role. I may be highly over qualified for the role but I’ve managed this in previous roles by my unique capabilities being valued in other ways. I felt like the skills I offered at interview were ignored and I was left feeling completely exhausted by how they treated me.
  • Lack of support—no matter what level of the organisation you’re at, we all need support. I felt like, if I kept quiet all was fine but as soon as I found my voice (to ask for support), I was severely reprimanded.
  • Lack of control—autonomy is something humans desire for the good of their health. Organisations can become so process driven, they forget about the people doing those processes. I felt like a very small cog in a machine that wasn’t working very well. I have no problem being a small cog but sometimes I had ideas about efficiency or improving the process, not only was I ignored, I was made to feel as though I really shouldn’t have stepped out of line.

At one point, I attended a meeting to ask for reasonable adjustments, recommended by occupational health to be put in place. They were denied. I was slowly starving to death but the “choice” I was then given felt similar to being offered the one food to which I was allergic. Seriously, how was I meant to choose?!

Returning to work after some time off sick I was actually grieving after but I felt I had to hide this due to lack of support. Because I’m such a hard worker, no one noticed. I should never have been in this position!

At times, I wondered if I was losing my mind. Because of my disability I have specific needs. I was asked to work in conditions that I’d explained were inappropriate for me. It felt like my employers were deliberately trying to make my working conditions so impossible that I would choose to leave. Would they really do that? Surely not?!

The current climate is not one in which finding a new job is easy, believe me, I applied to 10s of job and went to a near equal number of interviews! Whenever I was given feedback it was always “we really liked you, there was just someone with a bit more experience…” or similar.

I found it really hard to pick myself up after each interview. My workplace were grinding me down, my self esteem was no where to be seen and at each interview I just wasn’t quite good enough. It’s really hard to go to the next interview and persuade them “I am good enough”!

I even began to wonder, if there’s something wrong with me, even if I move workplace, I will take the problem with me, I will still be treated badly in the next place…

But, I have found a new job and it is with some really wonderful people. The are friendly and kind, I have been made to feel welcome and, although I am a very small cog in a machine, I am already feeling valued.

“You’re so lucky!” Really?! Am I really?!

Teensy bit of a rant alert…!

If I happen to mention that I work part time, people, more often than not say “wow, you’re so lucky!” When I’m heading out of work early afternoon on a Thursday, wishing everyone a “good weekend”, people say “you’re so lucky” with a tinge of envy.

I must say, I’m incredibly fortunate that my husband and I are in a position where we can afford for me to bring in a part time wage but I’m not sure where luck comes into that. My husband has worked very hard to get a good job and he continues to work hard to bring home a comfortable wage.

I wonder if people forget that I only actually get paid for the work I do, it’s not like my company has said “yeah, we’ll keep paying you full time but you don’t have to come in every day”! I’m not on much above the hourly living wage for, what can be, a pretty full on job – and this is pro rata!

There are many reasons why I am part time, the one that benefits me the most is that I have time to look after my health. I have had serious mental health problems and currently suffer from arthritis and fibromyalgia so I live to constant severe pain and punishing fatigue. Working full time, I had limited time to look after my health, I need to make time for regular exercise/physio session and plenty of time out.

Lots of people can manage their chronic illnesses by taking a few pills—I do have a lot of pills to that but I also have to do regular exercise sessions, this take quite a bit of time out of my day and just like you’d never expect someone to miss a few days of their pills—nor can I miss a few days of my exercise regime.

When working full time, it was really hard to physically fit exercise sessions into my day, let alone feel motivated to do it because work was taking such a toll on my mind and my body. If I did manage to fit in a session, it was usually at the expense of a social engagement or other activity I would have liked to have done.

So, in order to properly look after my health, working part time is our current solution, if I continued full time, chances are, I was heading for a crisis and would have needed me to take time of work sick and when it comes to chronic illness, this may have led to me being off work permanently.

So, if “lucky” is, waking up with fewer spoons than other people, being in constant physical pain, struggling with brain fog and pervasive fatigue (but having to go to work anyway) and having to manage my symptoms with multiple physical therapy sessions per week, then yeah, I guess I am, very lucky!

After all:

Luck is when preparations meets opportunity!

Seneca

Low self esteem: The hidden condition

Low self esteem can be a painful condition and many of us suffer in silence, unaware of the damage being done, unaware that there is a way out.
Throughout my mental health journey, I was asked numerous times if I had low self esteem, I would struggle with this question. The definition of self esteem is:

“Confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect”

Since I did not believe I had any worth or abilities, how could I possibly have confidence in them? I did not believe there was anything about me to respect. Therefore, the question baffled me because if there is nothing to feel good about how could I rate it as low or high? It’s only since my self esteem has improved have I realised how rock bottom it was and I had previously been viewing myself through a distorted lens. Once the cycle of low self esteem started, add in mental illness and you soon reach no self esteem!
We build a picture of ourselves and  our self esteem grows from a combination of the following:

  • Experiences at home, school, work and in the community
  • How other people react to you and treat you
  • Illness, disability or injury and how those around you cope
  • Your own thoughts and perceptions
  • Culture, religion and societal status and role
  • Media messagesself esteem boxes

Problems associated with low self esteem include:

  • Feelings of fear and anxiety – an all consuming fear of doing something wrong, looking stupid.
  • Isolation and avoiding new situations – these things can feel too overwhelming when you assume you won’t be able to cope.
  • Staying quiet and not sharing thoughts or ideas, not initiating conversation – anything to avoid looking bad, stupid of inept and avoiding rejection.
  • Underachieving and lacking ambition for fear of not coping or being rejected,
  • Or overachieving – constantly working inordinately hard to prove worth and competence to self and others, striving for perfection and perceiving failure if it’s not achieved.
  • Seeking or remaining in destructive relationships through fear of not managing alone.
  • Depression – persistent low self esteem with negative self-talk can lead to other symptoms of depression such as low mood, not sleeping, poor appetite etc
  • Hypersensitivity – assuming negative thoughts from others leads to being on the look out for these signs that confirm these fears. These could lead to acting on a sign that wasn’t perceived accurately (for example a compliment will sound sarcastic). Sometimes people will throw out “tests” to see what people think of them.
  • Lack of assertiveness – anxiety and fear can lead to difficulties sharing feelings and asking assertively for needs to be met. This can lead to people being passive and being “walked on”, which can lead to a build up of pressure and aggression being expressed as being defensive, sarcastic, brusque or even rude. Putting other people down (not necessarily deliberately maliciously) may be a way of covering up a low self esteem. Being passive-aggressive is common, examples include being manipulative, planned tardiness, throwing out cues for others to pick up on and gossiping.
  • Obsessions or addictions can be a way of coping or covering up. From workaholic behaviour through to developing serious mental illness such as anorexia or obsessive compulsive disorder with intrusive thoughts etc
  • Behaving in a needy way, relying on others for direction and trying to please others.

None of these are meant to be criticisms but it’s helpful to know that people behave in all sorts of ways, unintentionally, in order to manage such a negative feeling. It may be helpful to realise that you have low self esteem and that how you’re managing it is having a negative impact on you and the people around you. If you notice other people’s behaviour is annoying, unhelpful or irrational, this may be the tip of the iceberg and it might be worth thinking about whether their self esteem is playing a part, the real root may be hidden.
My lack of self esteem was mostly internalised and exaggerated as I turned to self punishment.
self esteem not good enough
I became depressed, used self harm to manage my emotions and hid inside anorexia to manage strong negative feelings about myself. Once I was on my road to recovery and I was able to reflect on some of my unhelpful thinking I became very aware of my fear of arrogance – my overwhelming fear of my head being too big had pushed me so far in the other direction I was suffering for it! A balance is important. (Arrogance is unattractive, and while some people may think it’s got them places, I never want to venture down that path.) I can be assertive while using humility to keep arrogance at bay!
It is really important to boost your own self esteem and the self esteem of those around you and to avoid unhelpful coping patterns. Here are some tips:self esteem don't compare

  1. Stop comparing yourself to others – a trap a lot of us fall into, thinking it helps us know where we stand but it’s unrealistic as we’re all unique with different abilities and strengths. Get to know yourself rather than thinking you need to be the same as someone else.
  2. Don’t strive for perfection – some people believe only God is perfect, others believe it does not exist. Being OK with “good enough” was one of the best things I ever did for my recovery. Don’t get me wrong, I love my perfectionistic streak (it’s part of who I am) and I can turn it on if I want to but I keep it in cheque!
  3. Make mistakes – it’s natural, it’s the way we learn and it’s fun! They will happen, there’s nothing we can to avoid them so we may as well enjoy them! Apologise if necessary, learn what we need to, treat yourself with compassion and move on – that’s the most important bit!
  4. Focus on the things you can control – focusing on our worries and the things we can’t control leads to a downwards spiral of negativity. Instead, if we look at what we CAN change not only will we feel better but we’re more likely to actually achieve what we want.
  5. Talk to yourself in a positive way – imagine recording a repeater tape with “I’m no good, I can’t do this, I’ll never achieve anything” – if you didn’t believe it in the first place, you will after a very short time! This is what goes on inside the head of someone with low self esteem. Instead, we need to replace it with “I can do this, I’m an OK person” etc. Work out what you want and tell yourself you can do it! If someone you know has low self esteem, make sure you are their positive repeater tape – without prompting tell them they are lovable, tell them what they’re good at, tell them they’re unique.self esteem be careful
  6. Do things you enjoy and help others do the things they enjoy – having low self esteem makes you focus on the things you’re no good at. For once, just relax and do something you know you’re good at – go to the park and read a book, spend some times stroking your cat, make a smoothie, do some weeding. Anything! Helping other to find something they enjoy has its rewards – it will improve their self esteem and you might find something new and fun too!

self esteem you are good enough
Breaking out of low self esteem can be hard. It’s especially hard if its become habitual to behave in these ways over years and years. But improving self esteem will improve every aspect of your life! Feeling better about yourself will mean you will be able to:

  • Communicate better, which in turn improves relationships, from intimate relationships to work colleagues to acquaintances.
  • Manage challenges better – challenges come along, they can defeat us or make us stronger depending on how we approach them.
  • Managing illness better – one of the biggest improvements I’ve seen is that when I’m unwell I’ve started asking for what I need instead of assuming I don’t have a clue and hoping other people will know better than me!
  • Get what you want out of work – being honest about whether you want to achieve highly, be a CEO or whether you want something else – don’t let your self esteem dictate whether you over or under achieve!
  • Have a healthy work-home-life balance – everyone’s different and needs/wants different things out of life. We should not allow our self esteem to allow us to be dictated to by others. Working out what works for us as a unique individual is vital for a healthy life!

If low self esteem is caught up in mental ill health, external support will be vital, recovery is tough but I wouldn’t give up my journey for anything. I’ve learnt so much about me and those around me, my life has been enriched by the experience. Wherever you are on your journey or whether you’re journeying with someone else, I hope my blog has helped in some way.
self esteem just be yourself