For me, bullying began in the first grade and continued all through school, to follow me in my adult relationships and career environments. Examples of my early bullying experiences were emotional abuse in the form of ugly, derogatory name calling and teasing- until my peer tormentors got their wish and made me cry.
Physical bullying came in the form of being kicked in the ankles, having rubber bands shot into my eyes, and having one boy smash his workman's steel lunch box into my skinny little knees. I remember having my itty -bitty girly chest sharply pinched, and having my fragile, bird-like ribcage punched viciously. There were many, many other abuses that were just as devastating and humiliating to the heart and soul of a tiny little girl who was way too sensitive and only weighed thirty pounds soaking wet.
I'd like you to imagine it is YOUR little sister, or YOUR daughter, or some other little girl in your life that YOU love having to endure these kinds of tortures every day.....for twelve long years. These thoughts don't make you feel all warm and fuzzy, do they? I know these thoughts STILL make ME feel scared, depressed, sad, and I grieve for the losses that can never be recovered. My childhood. My education. My sense of personal safety in the world.
Needless to say, I managed to barely obtain an eighth grade education and diploma. This is because all of my time was spent preoccupied with surviving the torments of bullies rather than focusing on getting good grades and playing games like hopscotch and dodge ball with my friends. I didn't care about homework and being on honor roll. I didn't care about anything, to be quite honest.
In addition to suffering at the hands of my peers, more dysfunction came in the form of parents who did NOTHING, and teachers who did NOTHING. Comforting hugs and support came by way of everyone's favorite Irish priest. This jolly and friendly young priest was the ONLY person to see my suffering.....and insidiously took advantage of my pain. It goes without saying that for the most part, life in general was a living hell for me for many, many years- and it did not get any better when I finally became an adult.
Because of the bullying of others and lack of support from the adults in my life, I had zero self esteem and hated myself intensely. It was with a sense of relief and sheer luck that I managed to find my first long term boyfriend. At first he was merely jealous and possessive. To a girl like me, what should have been considered "red flags" only meant that he really loved me. Because I craved a sense of belonging and love, I once again fell pray to an abuser of a different kind.
By the time I had been with him for five years my first boyfriend had punched me in the head and mouth, thrown me into walls and drunkenly tried to strangle me over the hood of my own car, and fired his 9mm Bareta past my head as called me names like "brain dead" and "fat ass"to further terrorize me and erode my non-existent self-esteem.
I left him three days after Christmas after surviving five years of violence. Three days after I left him, I became involved with another violent man. This man is my son's father. This man made the first one look like a walk in the park. With my son's father I was repeatedly sexually harassed and physically assaulted. Many times I had my head smashed into walls and door jams, as well as had my head pounded into the ground when I was eight months pregnant as he sat on my swollen belly. This man head butted me into unconsciousness when I tried to stop him from stealing my hard earned money on drugs, and tried to bite my nose off as I tried to take my share from a jar of coins that we had saved together.
After surviving eighteen years of constant violent assaults, I finally came to the conclusion that being homeless in the streets of San Francisco was better than facing another day in a relationship that left me often contemplating walking into a fast moving Muni Bus, or eating a bottle full of opiates that I used to dull the incredible emotional pain and chronic depression.
Finally, by miracle and through strength of will, my life began to get better once I was finally on my own. After moving into own apartment, I decided I needed a career change to reduce stress and burnout from the hospitality industry. I registered with a temporary staffing agency in order to find the perfect fit. It was my second temp-to-hire assignment at an advertising agency in downtown San Francisco that offered me a position as full time receptionist. This offer was made after a MUTUAL "audition" on the part of both parties.
During employment negotiations with the hiring manager, I adamantly and clearly stressed that I did NOT want to serve as a customer service agent when he informed me that my role as receptionist may eventually go in that direction. I adamantly and clearly explained to the hiring manager that I had just left an award winning hospitality/sales career, and I no longer had the ability to tolerate the inherent negativity and stress of having to "service" "cater to" and "placate" people. I did not feel it was appropriate to share the traumatic personal details of my private life. I simply told the hiring manager that I had HAD IT with demanding, negative, aggressive, hostile people with a sense of entitlement. The hiring manager replied by saying that "it was good to know"and offered me the position of receptionist in spite of my intense and obvious distaste for the "service" industry.
For about a year and a half my new job was wonderful and I was very, very happy with the company. With exception of a few gossipy, snobby, toxic employees, the staff was warm, friendly and professional and made me feel like a valued member of the team. It seemed as though I had finally found my niche, and I easily saw myself retiring with the company.
My duties were to be available at my desk to answer a very low volume of calls, and to greet the occasional walk-in client. Side work was light data entry and general office support, a small amount of filing and watering of office plants. It was also my job to make sure coffee pot was full and to clean the refrigerator whenever it got too nasty. In essence, I had found a stress free, low-key, casual working environment.
Aside from the highest salary I had ever earned, the best part of the job was that I was told by the hiring manager upon hire that I was free to use the internet whenever I wasn't working on a task for someone else. He stated that my main focus was to answer phones and whatever small task that randomly came my way.
Since I was free to use the internet during my free time, I took great pleasure in researching subjects that fascinated me for reasons of personal understanding and growth after my experiences with violence and trauma. I also tended my gardens on farm on Farm Ville, and had a quite nice little piece of virtual property. I assumed that everything was copacetic because I got a decent raise AND won an award for Miss Green Thumb at the annual Christmas party. Imagine that.....ME actually getting an award for having fun on the job! That had never happened before........
In retrospect, I believe that the toxic personalities at work simply did not understand the terms of my employment negotiations- and is the main reason that they slowly began to turn on me. In looking back, for some strange reason, these bullies clearly disrespected my lowly rank on the totem pole so much that they felt ENTITLED to hold me to standards that they failed to live up to themselves.
My workplace bullies felt ENTITLED to ask me for their help- yet never once said please or thank you. They certainly weren't smart enough to be grateful to the ONE person who cheerfully did all the crappy tasks that were a part of their job description that they didn't want to do. They were never, ever smart enough to get the fact that I was receptionist and therefore NOT a member of the media team, or traffic department, or the mail room clerk. For almost two years cheerfully packaged and sent off their samples, sent their faxes and all of the other mundane things they didn't have time to do because it might interfere with their coffee/cigarette/lunch/shoot the breeze/gossip time.
To be sure, these bullies are incredibly stupid if they thought their former cheerful and pleasant receptionist was dumb and clueless. What they didn't seem realize is this receptionist was THE hub of covert communications. She's the one who heard and saw asinine and juvenile behavior that should always be left on the playground.
These bullies are also astoundingly dumb in not realizing that this cheerful and pleasant receptionist was privy to the all the nasty, backstabbing gossip about fellow employees, the bad mouthing of the VP, the condescending attitudes towards the Big Man himself who made it possible for ALL of them to earn a living and buy their fancy houses, cars, shoes and trips to the snow with the whole gang.
My bullies were also too stupid to remember that this receptionist screened ALL the personal calls, mail, and other private information of her fellow co-workers. The NON work related calls from preschool teachers, personal debt collectors, calls from friends, boyfriends, girlfriends; and my personal favorite- the calls from bankers to discuss impending foreclosures.
As if all of this toxic and juvenile behavior was not enough, MY particular workplace bullies are THE worst of the worst in that they are also RATS and SNITCHES.
- I distinctly remember being told "send it in an email" when requesting office supplies- then getting snitched on when I asked the courtesy be reciprocated because I was busy and wouldn't remember.
- I distinctly remember an obnoxious, misogynistic, cottage cheese thigh'd snooty traffic director nosing UNINVITED through the detritus on MY desk- as she looked for this or that.
- I also remember snoot face coming round to MY side of MY desk to lecture down at me- then having the nerve to RAT on me because I took offense to HER invasion of boundaries- so was abrupt and curt in order to get her to leave MY personal space as soon as possible.
None of these bullying behaviors bothered me much, and I kept my mouth shut because I'm not one to go running to tattle like a child. This is because I had long ago learned to ignore bullies, and to take ignorance and hypocrisy with a grain of salt. Mainly, I ignored this toxic behavior because for the first time in my life I felt good about myself and was proud of all that I had overcome. I was in a good place in my life and not about to let a few wormy apples spoil the barrel. Able to ignore the workplace shenanigans and mind my own business, I realized that the only thing that was missing was someone to love and share my blessings with.
My wish for love came when my best friend and soul mate contacted me out of the blue in the middle of February of 2009. My soul mate was the childhood best friend of my older brother's. Within a few emails, I realized that I had always been in love with him and that he was the one to set the bar that the others failed to measure up to. We immediately began making plans for our future together. This included a trip across the country with my son to where my love was living. It was a miracle to find that even after a thirty year absence, my love for this person was unconditional, absolute, perfect.
It was during my trip back east that I also began having excruciating migraine headaches. These headaches lasted for about two months and included vomiting up the green toxic poison that had been lurking at the very bottom of my soul since I took my first beating in life. It took a stroll down memory lane to conjure up my worst pain, and it was finally time to purge- I guess.
Eventually, with proper medication, my headaches got better. But, not before things began "breaking loose" inside my head. I could literally hear popping and snapping inside my head. I attribute this to long buried memories breaking free and coming to the surface of my consciousness. Life long buried memories of terror, physical pain, and abuse on all levels that had been covered up in my day to day struggle to survive a violent existence.
With my reconnection with my love, I began to make connections between the abuse of my childhood to the abuse of my adult years. My world and everything that I had believed had been a lie, and a fantasy to protect myself from the pain of knowing there were people that I had loved that had merely seen me as nothing more than a human garbage can. I went into crisis mode and this began to impact my work.
So as not to lose my job, I began seeing a therapist so that I could somehow resolve my past trauma, and not lose what had taken 40+ years of blood, tears, and enormous pain to build.
Unfortunately, when it rains- it pours, and I was contacted by a classmate that I had not seen since I was ten years old and in fifth grade at the Catholic school that had been a living HELL. Considering that I had not seen this person since I was a child, all manner of things began to occur to me. Was he a past bully coming to take up where he'd left off? was he another victim of abuse by the priest and looking for/offering support? or, worse, had he been a coerced as a child to be accomplice to my own abuse? I really, really had no clue or memory about this person, so it was with considerable unease that I began to obsess about his motives.
My therapist advised me to take three days off so that I could deal with the new input, and the delayed onset of PTSD. By the end of the third day of my medical leave, I called my supervisor to announce my return. Sadly, I was told that I was being terminated for not being able to keep up with the demands of not only my full time receptionist job, but my second job as full time customer service- a role that I had made clear upon hiring that I NEVER wanted.
My supervisor said that "it had taken so-and-so one full day to catch my work up." ONE day. I still am confused about that. It took another employee ONE DAY to catch up on my work. My supervisor seemed to forget all the recent myriad crappy media tasks assigned by others completed by deadline by ME. He did NOT take into consideration that in meeting these other deadlines. That my own work had to be put on the back burner. That ONLY one day is NOTHING compared to all the work I did while others were taking their daily multiple lunch/cigarette/shoot the breeze/coffee/gossip breaks. Or the work that I did for them while they were talking to their friends, wives, mortgage brokers and preschool teachers on company time.
The hypocrisy that stands out most is the one employee who was out for six weeks for back surgery- an employee who surely had more than ONE DAY'S worth of work to catch up on. Oh, wait, that's right......I did her work for her while she was gone so there was NOTHING TO CATCH UP.
I use this forum to thumb my nose at the "local boy" media supervisor who kept asking "is it done yet?" every five minutes and told me "I'm too busy to help you" even as he grabbed his coat to take one of his multiple coffee and cigarette breaks with the rest of "the boys." I thumb by nose up at the snooty, gossipy traffic director who snubbed my cheerful "good mornings" until I finally gave up greeting her loud-mouthed fat a$$. I thumb my nose at the scrawny blonde, "beige personality" media assistant who rolled her eyes and made me feel like an annoying kindergartner every time I needed to use the loo and she had to cover for me.
This story is long, and painful. However, it is necessary for me to tell so that I can get over the anger and pain of being bullied yet again in my last place of employment.
On a positive note, I want to thank those who were actually very nice and professional, and went out of their way to treat me like a valued team member. There is Kyra- who was always friendly and has a great sense of style. There is Peter- who said "please do NOT ever leave because you make things so much easier around here." I want to thank everyone else who treated me respectfully and as a valuable team member.
I want to give a special thank you to the logistics assistant with her compassion and understanding when she wished me well as I was taken by ambulance after tension and jumpiness aggravated my herniated disc to the point of needing the equivalent of two shots of prescription heroin in order to relieve the pain.
Lastly, I want to say to all of my bullies: May you NEVER have to feel the way that I have been made to feel by you and others. I would not wish my experiences on my worst enemy. Nobody deserves to be bullied......not even YOU.
P.S. Al- I told you what would happen if you gave me customer service duties. There aren't many people cut out for that kind of a$$ kissing. It was a perfect job for boring blondie and you should have kept her there.
By writing some words below, you are showing your support and letting everyone know they're not alone.