72. Serenity Now

This post is about the consequences of adult bullying.

I may as well not even be there. I sit between them in the open-plan office and they ignore me. They talk animatedly to each other, about TV, music, food, football, the weather, their families, office politics, weddings, sport, films, holidays, diets, alcohol, clothes, celebrities. If I try to join in, I am frozen out. I sense a prickle in the air as the atmosphere changes. Like I’d opened the window on a winter’s day. Once I asked them if they could talk about a new film another time because I hadn’t yet seen it, so didn’t want any spoiler alerts. Their incredulous looks sent pangs of ice through my heart.

My opinion is of no consequence at all. It does not matter. I am irrelevant. Old. Pointless. Unwanted. Snobby. Up my own arse. Too political. Not cool. Weird. The volume of their voices drowns out everything in my headphones. So there I am, invisible, listening to their chit-chat and jokes all day, but excluded from contributing anything. I am in a glass bubble. Mute. Silenced.

Their repeated, anticipated reaction means I am learning to be afraid to speak. There is a tacit agreement that I am forbidden from joining in. If I do, then the conversation will abruptly end, or they will pretend they have not heard me. If someone does reply to me, our conversation will run parallel to the original one.

My heart booms in my own ears and stomach, my throat constricts with a dry, nervous cough. Swallowing is impossible now. I press my tongue to the roof of my mouth, trying to blink back tears, but cannot stop one from falling down my cheek. I rise, head down and slip out of the room, unnoticed. I want to run. I try to remember my mindfulness training and breathe through the impending panic, then lock myself in the ladies room. I figure that this is the best place for me right now. Silent screams. I blow my nose and wash my face. I could be in here all day. No-one will come looking for me.

They think I’m depressed, anxious, bipolar, have aspergers, hormonal, borderline, got ADHD or every other amateur diagnosis they’ve heard of or read about online. I’m high maintenance. Overemotional. Hypersensitive. Can’t take a joke. Too full on. Annoying. Jekyll and Hyde. That I’ve got pain issues so I’ll snap at them for no reason. A crazy bitch. I talk to much. A nutter. That I never shut up ranting. I don’t fit in so they cannot accomodate me. I agree I was a bit much for a few weeks. It was well over a year ago, I was completely upfront about it at the time, and my new medication stabilised me very quickly. I’ve been a model employee for nearly a year, but as we all know, old habits die hard. No-one likes to be proved wrong. I haven’t said more than 20 words a week to them in the last six months. I’ve worked really hard to change. Have they? When will they consider I have been punished enough? Then, I remember that I’ll be gone soon, so what does it matter? I feel better for a moment. This time next year it will be as if I never existed.

Being treated like this makes me seethe. So much so, that I’ve gone back to my boxercise class to try to rid myself of this constant bubbling anger, and to yoga to try to regain some peace. I’m wearing a teeth guard at night because I grind them so much.

They’ve been counting points and having naughty, cheat days, and between them they haven’t even lost half of what I have. If you really want to know how to lose weight, try being bullied for over a year. A side-effect of the stress.

Every morning I wish for some kind of minor illness so I won’t have to go to work, but I have to, because an employer will look at my sick record. Applying for every new vacancy takes so much effort, and takes up most of my weekends, but I keep going because every day that passes is a day closer to leaving and starting afresh. I can’t even take a day off, because I’m saving up all of my holiday to use in my notice period.

I know the circle never ends. Bystanders don’t intervene. They don’t want to take sides. It’s nothing to do with them. They’re staying out of it and not rocking the boat. Why should they be the one to stick their head above the parapet? They don’t consider being complicit as bullying. People would rather be loyal to group, even though they know it is wrong, for fear of themselves being ostracised. I might think they’re my friend if they’re nice to me or turn on them, mistaking their kindness for pity. Best not to get involved at all.

I wonder if they would want someone to stand up and support the victim if it was one of their family that was living through this day after day?

I’ve seen them walking towards me in the street. I felt like I was going to pass out. I had a few seconds to prepare my reaction and all I could do was wave a hand in a hi gesture whilst willing myself not to cry. NO EYE CONTACT.  DO NOT PANIC.

I breathe in for four, hold my breath for five, then breathe out for six. Repeat until calmer.

Then, one day, I take my house key out of the keyhole, and push open the front door. A large, fat letter on the door mat is preventing the door from opening as smoothly as usual. I notice the envelope has the logo of the company I interviewed with a fortnight ago and in that split-second, I know that everything will be ok.

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14 thoughts on “72. Serenity Now

  1. Firstly congrats on your new job but please keep your wonderful creative pieces coming. Sound like complete arseholes who thrive on what they are doing together. Probably and hopefully feel ashamed when alone at home. I have a family member who does this type of “freezing out” behaviour in general but in recent years to my husband. Awful type of bullying / abuse. 😕

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my god; can I relate. I have been all my life including adulthood. I feel ignored and dismissed; treat as though I’m stupid ( even though im much smarter than they even realize) This floored me. People are so cruel and heartless and love to hurt others because it gives them power. Take the power back; dont let them dictate to you how you should feel or react. When they are cruel just look at the source; it is a reflection upon them; not you. Stay strong, my friend. I am going to reblog this 😃

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my god; I can relate. I have bullied all my life including adulthood. I feel ignored and dismissed; treated as though I am stupid ( even though I am a lot smarter than they give me credit for) Your post floored me. People are so cruel and heartless and love to hurt others because it gives them power. Take the power back; don’t let them dictate to you how you should feel or react. When they are cruel; look at the source; it is a reflection on them and not you. Stay strong my friend. I am going to reblog this

    Like

  4. Brilliant writing of terrible experiences! Adult bullying is epidemic as it is often so subtle. You just feel “yuk” until you are able to put your finger on what’s actually happening.

    Bullies are weak especially when they hide in groups, and without excusing them, they often have been bullied themselves, unfortunately.

    It is very tough how to counter and even survive this!

    I love your writings, poignant, to the point, calling things by name! Keep ’em coming!

    One thing though, I cannot find the “Like” button or am I blind??

    LNG

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much.
      If you press the title, then the post opens up. The like button will be at the end of the post. I don’t know why it’s like that on my blog.

      It’s so reassuring to have my feelings validated. That is not just my imagination and that it won’t just go away. 😃

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know what you mean. In my own bullying experience, if I wouldn’t have most of this in writing, I would sometimes think I just imagined it.

        I can only advise everyone, if you experience bullying at work, keep a diary, keep every written evidence (emails, notes from people) and if needed do a Full Access Request of your file according to the Data Protection Act 1998, which included all the email and other written correspondence your employer has to hand out to you. It only costs £10.

        But now, due to the new GDPR law in Europe, this is even better for you requesting your data. Don’t muck about, put your head up, collect evidence and if possible witnesses. Although with witnesses it’s tricky, as most people are to afraid to speak up against a group. Don’t blame them.

        And finally, if you are in a leadership position and you witness bullying, raise your voice and stop it. Do it even if you are not in a leader position, but a s a leader you have the advantage to do more than others. Don’t close your eyes! Don’t be like the three monkeys who don’t see, don’t hear and don’t say anything.

        Bullying costs lives!
        Keep writing A Rambling Collection!

        LNG

        Liked by 2 people

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