The Day I Knew It Was Over
About 5 minutes to read
It was a Friday afternoon in the month of March. I was on a train from Cologne to Amsterdam and I started feeling angry. For months the only emotions I felt were numbness, helplessness, sadness, depression yet suddenly something within was thawing and I was furious.
Since the previous November he had been torturing, bullying, falsely accusing and lying about me. He removed my limits of authority, tied my hands and made me accountable, like a trained dog, for each move I made.
I could not speak to colleagues without his permission, I could not write an email without placing him in copy. Everything I knew, he wanted to know. Every action I took he wanted to approve. Absolute control was his goal, demoralisation and bullying his tools.
The psychological torment was extreme. My self-worth, self-confidence, ability to think rationally fell by the wayside. I felt constantly tormented and became ill. First in my body, then in my mind. My hair fell out, I had sleepless nights, and loud noises left me shaking. I could not express my emotions to others, felt insulated as if in a capsule and fear was my constant bedfellow.
I could not see a way out. Everyone KNEW what was happening to me was wrong. My family, friends, even colleagues saw and yet he and his cohorts pressed forth with their plan, the destruction of me. Their aim was to break my spirit, make me pliable, for what purpose this was unclear.
Am I neurotic, was I hallucinating? No! I was experiencing workplace bullying by two men, who although long-time enemies, had allied together against me their common foe. These forces seemed larger than life, almost demonic and the most petrifying aspect for me was not being able to see a way out.
For months I hoped, wished, prayed that things would return to how they were. I desperately wanted to make things work to be able to operate, do my job. You see, I loved that job. Truly loved it. And I was also damn good at it. Perhaps this was part of the problem, being really good at my job, excelling when the infrastructure to support excellence and growth was blaringly absent.
The meeting occurred the Thursday before my train journey. Please come back to work, personnel pleaded. We need you, you are a valuable asset to this company. Have no concerns the head of the business unit said, we will be here to support you, we will protect you from him. Will things go back to how they were, I asked. No, they replied you have to learn to work under him, but we know how he is and we will protect you from him.
For a brief moment the veil fell from his eyes and I saw, really saw his intent towards me. Professional jealousy? Personal offense? Bruised Ego? Fighting a previous pain and past that was unrelated to me? I did not know, yet I somehow had triggered him. Hatred, pure and simple! Better to see me controlled and better yet, destroyed.
In the seconds that it took for the veil to fall and lift again, I saw, really saw him and I knew.
While the platitudes and fine words were heartfelt and well-intended, while they valued me and wanted me healthy and productive again, he did not.
It was with mixed feelings that I left that meeting. Had I really seen what I thought I had seen? Yet I thanked him, truly thanked him, and meant each word that I said.
Until those awful months I had never understood or fully comprehended the despair one must feel to want to end one’s life, and yet through this experience I knew what it was like to walk in those shoes. I understood the full extent of the darkness one can fall into.
It was supposed to be a happy occasion. We were in Amsterdam to see Cirque du Soleil, a favourite activity, yet I was preoccupied. The murmuring rumble that had started the evening before was now a roaring tide. Within I could feel the gears of acceptance were falling into place. After seeing behind the veil, truly looking at the evil intent of another, I knew what lay before me and I became angry, so furious, fucking raging!
NO! You will not have me on your terms! NO! You can’t have my best! NO! I will no longer allow you to treat me this way! NO! I will no longer be party to this! NO! I am done! I will no longer work for you!
The return journey felt fuelled by rage. To transcend numbness and descend straight into rage can be exhilarating. The clear understanding that I was so worthy and that as long as the organisation was prepared to tolerate, support and protect his behaviour, they were not worthy or deserving of my loyal service.
It was accepting that in those circumstances 1+1 did not = 2. The equation had to be 1 – 1 = 0. I needed to wipe the dust off my feet and leave that place as my mother taught me.
I could not guess the consequences of my decision, I could not project into the future. Yes! I was fearful, extremely scared and yet I valued my life, my sanity and my health more than that job or organisation.
That was it! I knew it was over!
I was done with him and them; they were no longer needed in my life. While they paid me a salary for services rendered I was capable of offering valuable service elsewhere without being abused and bullied.
The next day I returned to my workplace, throughout the day I quietly packed up my personal belongings and at 16:00 I left the building, left the premises, left that company and never looked back again.
I signed a legal agreement stating I would not discuss the terms of settlement, and I have honoured this, but more importantly what was fully settled for me was this:
- Never again would I serve a master who does not value me, who would not defend me, who would place politics and saving face above doing the right thing
- Never again would I give away my personal power
- Never again would I so desperately hold onto something I love at the risk of losing my mind, health or life.
Today I am extremely grateful for having lived through and triumphed over such horrendous circumstances.
I now know.
I understand the disease that is workplace bullying, I can empathise with those who have been there or are there. I also know that there is light at the end of the tunnel and even though it may require tremendous effort to walk through that tunnel towards the light, it is possible to flourish on the other side.