I stepped into a professional journey filled with aspirations and hopes for a fulfilling career. However, my path took an unexpected turn once I left for maternity leave with my first daughter. I encountered the dark realities of workplace bullying and harassment returning back to work.
I returned from a 12-month maternity leave, hoping that my workplace valued my contributions not only as a working mother but as a new mother. I was met with disappointment. The simple request for a space to pump during my scheduled unpaid break was denied, as if my needs were inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. The denial of this basic human right accommodation was the first crack in the wall of support that I had hoped to find upon my return. I was offered the women’s public bathroom, which as we know is not the most sanitary and private. I was later offered the room connected to the bathroom which held the garbage and recycling with a door that didn’t lock. Followed with no further option.
This had permanent and profound effects as I was truly forced to wean my daughter 7 days prior to return. While being back to work for 2 months, I was later advised that a room was now available and that I could use it to pump.
Thanks, but that’s not how a women’s body functions. A women can not wean her milk supply to zero, and magically produce milk later. That is not scientifically possible!
What followed, were months of public scrutiny and threats from superiors to gain control and power within my office. Each day, I faced the torment of being publicly ridiculed. I was feeling my self-worth chipped away bit by bit. The psychological toll of this constant harassment between colleagues was immense, and the seeds of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were sown within me.
In search of support and justice, I mustered the courage to approach the organization's channels designated for addressing workplace issues. To my dismay, instead of finding empathy and understanding, I was met with invasive questions about my health, and my integrity questioned. I was questioned about the nature of my condition and I was belittled about my struggles, suggesting that if I could manage grocery shopping and/or caring for my child, I was surely fit for work. If I was not medicated, I was not sick. These dismissive remarks only deepened my sense of isolation and desperation for a resolution.
I was fearful to leave my home for necessities as I thought I would be seen, and then questioned. Fear took hold, and I found myself unable to leave the sanctuary, what I call my home. Even the simple act of checking my mail became a source of anxiety, as the world outside seemed to hold nothing but judgment and hostility.
The debilitating effects of PTSD overwhelmed me. Memories of public scrutiny and threats for power became trapped within me, replaying like a broken record. This continuous loop of painful recollections isolated me from the present, preventing me from fully engaging in the world around me. Each day was a battle. Smells reminiscent of that toxic environment triggered a flood of shame and unworthiness, as if I was reliving those painful moments all over again. Sleep became a distant dream, as insomnia gripped me tightly, refusing to let go.
The weight of replayed and past experiences led to a constant feeling of anxiety, fear and a heightened state of alertness. Simple tasks became arduous challenges as I grappled with intrusive thoughts and overwhelming emotions. The constant fear of encountering similar situations in new environments further perpetuated the sense of isolation. Which affected my ability to seek career change and adjust my career goals.
The impact of PTSD extended beyond my inner world, affecting my ability to develop and maintain strong relationships, both personal and professional. The deep-seated feelings of shame and unworthiness made it difficult to form genuine connections. Trust became a fragile concept, and vulnerability felt like an invitation to further pain.
In personal relationships, the effects were particularly profound. The trauma had a ripple effect, infiltrating my interactions with loved ones. The constant fear of judgment and rejection made it challenging to fully open up, hindering the development of deep emotional bonds. I often found myself withdrawing, emotionally distant, and unable to express my true thoughts and feelings.
The professional sphere was not immune to the impact of PTSD either. The remnants of workplace bullying followed me into new work environments, as it still does, making it challenging to trust my new colleagues and navigate my new office dynamics. The management I had previously encountered triggers a heightened sense of fear and apprehension, which hinders my ability to fully engage and perform at my best.
I often found myself trapped in a cycle of self-doubt and negative self-perception. It seemed as though no one could truly understand the depths of my pain, further fueling the sense of being alone in my battle.
Healing and recovery from such trauma are complex and multifaceted journeys. Seeking professional support, such as therapy and counseling, has provided me a safe space to explore and process my trapped memories.
Through all of this darkness, there is hope. In my journey to heal and reclaim my life back, I seek therapy and professional support. The road to recovery has been long and arduous, but I am slowly regaining control over my thoughts and emotions. Engaging in self-care practices, has become a lifeline, allowing me to find moments of peace amidst the chaos.
I have been blessed with a new career path surrounded by colleagues and superiors who value mental health and wellness including a work- home life balance.
I share my story not only to bring awareness to the insidious nature of workplace bullying and harassment but also to call for change. It is imperative that organizations prioritize fostering respectful, inclusive, and supportive work environments.
Policies and practices should be implemented yet valued and understood to prevent the erosion of mental well-being and the development of PTSD and other mental health challenges with their employees.
As I continue to navigate the aftermath of my harrowing experience, I am determined to rise above the pain and rebuild my life. My hope is that by sharing my perspective, we can inspire others to stand against workplace bullying, advocate for their rights, and find the courage to embark on their own journey of healing and recovery.
Hi, I’m Angela, a woman who embraces the roles of a loving mom, a devoted wife, and an insightful writer. With two beautiful daughters by my side and an amazing husband as my rock, I navigate the intricate paths of motherhood, marriage, and the complexities of daily life. I capture the essence of these experiences, offering insights into the joys, challenges, and triumphs that come with them.
Some may say that one aspect close to my heart is mental health, a topic often shrouded in taboo and secrecy. I fearlessly address the demons of mental health, particularly as they affect mothers and women. Through my writing, I strive to break down barriers, encourage open discussions, and create a sense of unity among those who face similar struggles.
Join Me on my transformative journey as I fearlessly share my challenges, victories, and the invaluable lessons I have learned. I will lead the way, illuminating the path toward healing and resilience.