Four Years

Four years ago this morning, I took the morning off from my job in the Staff Development Department of a local organisation to attend a medical appointment, and never went back.

Four years ago yesterday morning, I was sitting in my office crying my eyes out to my poor assistant, telling him I couldn’t cope with work, with life, with anything any more. He was very tolerant, even though I made him cry too. Sorry mate.

Four years ago yesterday, after talking to my assistant, I knew enough was enough, and I rang my mother (again in floods of tears) and in psychological desperation, begged her to put an appointment on with my GP (the reasons for my inability to do this myself aren’t particularly important or interesting.)

And four years ago yesterday, after making that phone call, I dried my eyes and marched down to the Personnel Department to sort out an epic mess some idiot had inflicted upon us. I was efficient, solution-focused, capable and personable, and no one there that day would ever have guessed that they’d never see me again.

Please note that there’s stuff in this post that some people may feel uncomfortable reading – I’ve tried to faithfully recreate the run-up to my four-year breakdown here, and have alluded to some uncomfortable issues such as job loss (obviously), benefits, depression and suicide (in passing).

Was it work that caused the breakdown? No: it would always have happened anyway, because I have recurrent, severe clinical depression (now realised to be manic depression [schizoaffective disorder, whatever – who really gives a fuck], thanks to observations of the joy of hypomania, the particular seven levels of hell that is the bipolarLeaving Work mixed state, and of course my old companions, the psychoses.) Further, I have PTSD, and that had never been adequately explored in therapy. But my job probably sped the whole horrible thing up a little, and maybe it was better to lose my sanity when I did. As it is I’m nearly 30 and lacking any meaningful prospects (as discussed in my last post), so just how bleak would the outlook have been had it taken another year, two years, whatever?

I think back to the period leading up to Four Years, and I feel sad. The job was demanding and responsible, it was endlessly frustrating and every day was a challenge. For months, I’d thrived on it. Pressure was my friend; it made me driven, ridiculously resourceful, the person everyone turned to when perplexed. Most of them were wonderful; I liked everyone in our building – save for one Arsehole (there’s always one) who was fortunately out a lot – and by and large I was very fond of everyone in head office and in the outlying branches.

I started off on a part-time position as the assistant to my retiring predecessor, but was promptly promoted to my latter position (nepotism #1), securing my own office and the promise of my own eventual assistant to share it with me.

Sounds good. Sounded good. Was good. I was good at it. I was well-liked, and I liked well. And then it all fell apart.

My boss, a wonderful woman in her early 60s, decided to retire early. I say ‘wonderful’ – she was a wonderful manager, though I’m not sure we’d have been particularly close had we socialised together. She afforded me a considerable amount of autonomy, letting me carry out my role as I saw fit. She saw when I was under pressure, telling the rest of the department – and often the rest of the entire company – to leave me alone for a while, whilst I got my head down and got on with my work. She – shockhorrorhowisthispossible – understood the flexi-time policy!!! She supported me at every juncture, and when my father died tried to insist I take extended compassionate leave at no cost to my yearly allowance (as it happens, I wish I hadn’t bothered to even take the statutory days [three], but that’s a story for another day.)

During her tenure, I had an equally happy relationship with the girls in the room next door. In fact, they are people I would have – and occasionally did – see(n) outside of working hours.

This all sounds so conceited and saccharine. The job wasn’t perfect, and I certainly wasn’t. It all came together, though. Work and I worked together.

With my boss’s retirement imminent, the higher-ups advertised her position across the local rags. It came as no surprise to any of us when one of the women from next door decided to apply for it. She had the qualifications and, I thought, the capability. I have no idea what the other candidates – if there were any – were like, but predictably, she got the position (nepotism #2). I was genuinely happy for her – we all were – and remember being the one to merrily saunter to the shop to buy her cards and cake in celebration.

Anyway, she took over in February. At that point, I was entirely and singularly responsible for a major departmental project (without my much promised assistant), and had never been so busy in my life. I was in the office at the earliest possible time (8am), leaving at the latest possible time (6pm), and I only occasionally took time to have lunch or a tea break. I didn’t mind; again, I thrived under the pressure. But there were problems. Arsehole was becoming increasingly demanding; when he was in the office, his name flashed up on my phone all day long – either that or he was suddenly in my office unannounced – either way, he was complaining about something. When he was out of the office, he’d ring in all the time asking me to conduct menial tasks for which I did not have time, especially given that they were things he was meant to have damn well done himself on his ‘in’ days. More importantly, without someone to take the calls, deflect the emails, and sort out the crap, I was having to do that as well as the mammoth task that realistically required all my attention, all day. At first my boss was okay with me putting the phone straight to the answering machine, or putting an out of office message on my email account. I was gratified and happy with the arrangement.

I Hate My Boss ButtonHowever, I dared to do this a second time, a few weeks later. To my surprise, my boss was not happy. I wouldn’t say she was furious, but she was very sceptical of my need to devote myself to the project, even though by her own sodding admission she could have never taken it on herself. From there, everything went to hell.

In fairness, I eventually got my assistant. He was great (he still is – he’s the only person I’m still in touch with), but my boss refused to let me have direct management of him (why?!), thus meaning that, in theory at least, we were supposed to consult her every time I wanted to delegate a task. She spent quite a bit of time out of the office – time I increasingly grew to cherish – but when she was there, she began to micro-manage everything. That autonomy I’d been given previously, very much on a but of course you can do this your own way basis, faded into the recesses of memory.

And team meetings…oh, God. I still shudder when I think of each one in the immediate run-up up to Four Years. Almost without exception, my boss would sit at the table listening to complaints from Arsehole, and say, “sure, Karen and [my assistant] can do that.” My assistant and I would steal looks at each other, frowning. For some reason, I lost my ability to adequately stand up for myself in these meetings, and I’d just sit there, looking aghast. Sometimes my assistant spoke up – he’s never been one to mince his words, and I hope he never is. She hated it. “What’s wrong with asking you to do x?” she’d enquire angrily, genuinely mystified as to what the problem was. We’d try to make our case, but somehow we were always shouted down. Occasionally other members of staff would stick up for us, but it was never enough. One well-meaning but clueless woman, relatively new to the place, would unwittingly back up our boss’s increasing demands.

Then the accusations began. In a one-to-one meeting one day, she said:

You’ve changed, Karen. You’ve become so unapproachable.

I was uncharacteristically incandescent with blinding red rage at this. I snarled:

I guarantee you that if you pick up that phone right now and speak to the people that I deal with daily, both within and outside of this organisation, they will vehementlydisagree with that. Just who is it claiming that I’m ‘unapproachable’? [I practically spat the word out.] Arsehole?

She didn’t reply, but had the grace to drop her eyes. Confirmation.

The next one was that I was ‘late’ one day. I calmly pointed out to my boss that I had arrived in the office at about 9.15am. I told her to ‘feel free’ to check that time with the receptionist, to whom I’d spoken briefly when ‘clocking in’.

So? You’re supposed to be here at 9.

Noooo, I’m supposed to be here between 8am and 10am. Head office operates a flexi-time policy for all non-reception staff, except at particularly busy times [by this time departmental business had calmed down, though my role was still very busy, not that she cared.]

I reached to the shelves on my right and pulled out a copy of the flexi-time policy, plus a record of the excessive amount of time owed to me. She eyed me suspiciously, took them from me, and walked out. I never heard anything more about flexible working – not until I’d left, anyhow. Then, apparently, she frequently criticised my assistant for being ‘late’, despite (a) the existence of this policy, for which he was eligible and (b) the fact that the poor man (who didn’t have a car) walked – up and down hills, for over five miles – into work during some of the most adverse weather conditions Northern Ireland had seen. I think he said the very latest he arrived was about half nine. She, on the other hand, didn’t leave her house for fear that she’d crash her poxy car. I still can’t believe the hypocrisy of that.

She emailed me one day.

Do you want to be on this steering committee?

I looked at the attached documentation. The committee (which was head office-wide, not specific to Staff Development)Steering Committee could have been very career-enhancing, and in its own nerdy way was quite interesting – but it involved at least weekly three-hour+ meetings, plus a lot of independent practical testing and research.

Well…actually, I do, if you’re okay with that. But you realise that if you put me forward for this, there is no waythat I can continue to undertake the level of work this department gives me?

I stared at the screen.

Well, we can shift some of your stuff onto [my assistant].

Okay, but it’s not enough. This steering group is going to demand…I don’t know, by the sound of it, something like half my hours! We can’t give half of my workload to a part-time staff member who’s already stretched to capacity.

She didn’t respond. I wanted to run down to her office and smack her, but of course I didn’t. I got on with my job.

And I got on with it well, despite the fact I’d stopped sleeping. When I say that, I mean it more or less literally – on a good night, I might have dozed for 20 minutes. Most nights I didn’t sleep at all, and I somehow survived on nothing more than adrenaline and caffeine. I got on with it well, despite the fact that I now left the house in tears every morning, with The Man holding my hand, desperately trying to offer words of solace, all the way to the office, and turning in concern as I dragged my shaking self through the front door. I got on with it well, despite the fact that all I wanted to do was sit and cry and sigh and even die.

The fortnight before Four Years was okay. My boss was on holiday, and Arsehole was out training. However, they were both due back on the morning of Four Years – for a team meeting, something I had begun to dread with burning agony. In my sleep-deprived, despairing state, I’d become hypersensitive, and managed to surreptitiously pick up enough tidbits of information to determine that I’d got my place on the steering committee – and that the only concession to this 50% extra workload was going to be that the trainers would ‘do a wee bit extra’.

As I sat contemplating the meeting, silent tears rolling down my cheek, I knew I couldn’t go. I knew I couldn’t so much as speak to her without hyperventilating and sobbing hysterically. But I knew more than that: I knew I was utterly spent, and falling head-first down the darkest tunnel I’d ever known. I knew that the violent, splintering crash at the bottom was coming rapidly, and that if I valued the last vestiges of a sound mind, I had to act quickly.

So, Four Years ago yesterday, I rang my mother. And then I went downstairs to sort out HR’s mess.

The moral of that vignette: don’t assume that just because someone seems okay that they really are. There’s nothing much you can do about that in advance if you don’t know what to look for or if the person doesn’t tell you something’s wrong, but please, please, don’t start bitching after the fact that just because you couldn’t see it means that claims of it are false. It isn’t true. We are very good at faΓ§ades, us crazy people.

At 6pm that evening, I checked that everyone had left our building and locked it up. I went to reception in the main building to clock out. I closed the door, not knowing that I would never set foot in there again.

How sad.

My first day of my New Life began four years ago today. My sobbing mother held my hand as I sat practically catatonic in front of one of my GPs.

I have to ask, Karen. Please try to answer me, and honestly at that. Do you see yourself continuing to live after today?

[Long, dazed, pause.] [Slowly.] I want to die.

I know you do. But do you see yourself being alive or dead? [Why he didn’t just ask if I was going to commit suicide was beyond me.]

[Dazed but thoughtful pause.] I can see myself continuing to exist, but not live.

[Cocks his head.] That’s a good way of putting it.

I’m too depressed to kill myself. It’s too much effort. I just want someone, something, anything, anyone, to let me die.

Okay. You’re ill, do you understand that?

[Long, dazed pause.] [Nods.]

Okay. Stay with your mother. Do not leave her side. I will get someone that specialises in this area out to see you today.

And he did, and that was the start of my first proper, regular contact with mental health services, and the advent of Four Years was the start of the New Life (or, as suggested, new existence). There was, inevitably, a saga at work about my absence and a potential return, but as things went from worse to even worse to worseryworstestworstworst, over a year later, they (reluctantly, in fairness) had to dismiss me on the grounds of incapacity.

I had never known a breakdown like this one, and I thought I’d seen the worst of times, having suffered from severe mental health problems since my early teens (and, in hindsight, a lot earlier – for example, I first tried to kill myself when my ageFour Years was in single figures.) This isn’t really the post to talk about it in any detail, because this is more about my regret that Four Years later, I’m still not capable of returning to work (again, beyond the small amount of professional writing I do – thank God for magazines and other commissioners that are willing to take on occasional freelance pieces.)

I hate what I’ve been in the Four Years, but it’s also made me. Or so I think. I know my limits now. I’m more aware of what I can do to mitigate my array of symptoms – well, generally speaking. They can, of course, have a mind of their own when they’re really determined, and the efforts of my care team and I are then rendered utterly redundant, but still: ‘generally’ is better than ‘never’. I’m working through the PTSD in therapy – and with some success, I tentatively think – though the bipolar disorder is, in my view (and what the hell do I know), a permanent part of me and of my life.

I’ve despised being unemployed, but at least I am getting somewhere, and Four Years of absence and benefit-claiming has enabled me to do that. It has made me more likely to go back to work when I’m ready, because I know what medication works for me (at least for now) and have gone through many rough hours facing demons I barely knew I had. I’m stronger for having had time to fight the internal battles without so many of the external ones. This is what the UK government doesn’t (want to?) get. A fair benefits system helps people back to work not through box-ticking and alleged targets, but by giving people the infrastructural space and time to find to find ways of stabilising or, in occasional cases, remitting their illness. And, of course, it needs to recognise that there will always be some people who can never work, and that that is not their fault, and that they are still human beings, as worthy or otherwise as everyone else.

So for now here I am – still a benefit claimant, because I have to work out what stability means for me, and for how long I can expect it to last. Winging it and failing would serve neither the potential employer nor me. So I’ll keep working at finding, and then maintaining, a stable euthymia, and then we’ll see. For now, Four Years will continue, probably into five…maybe more 😦

Do I blame my ex-boss for all of this? Given that most of the nearly 3,000 words (!) of this meandering dross is about the crumbling of my relationship with her, you might very well think so. But honestly, as I noted above, I don’t blame work, nor her specifically. If I were being cruel, I might say that she opened the floodgates. What she did not do was create the reservoir of illness that waited impatiently, bursting to its seams, behind them. I’d experienced trickles and rivers of its escape before, but it wasn’t going to be sated until it flooded my whole entire bloody life (and of course it isn’t sated even then, but let’s keep this crappy metaphor nice and simple by pretending that it is.) So no, my boss and my job weren’t to blame. Catalysis is not the same causation. Manic depression and PTSD caused this.

I do miss it in some ways, and in closing this vast post I find myself longing, pathetically nostalgic, and desperately sad. This was not how I saw my life panning out. But it’s what I’ve got, and I’ve come this far so am not going down without a fight. As I recall that, during my overnight insomnia throughout which thoughts of Four Years plagued me relentlessly, The Man rolled over out of his sleep and tenderly rubbed my weary, aching shoulders, I try to remember that things could be worse. Mental illness and all its myriad consequences destroy lives, and leave a sufferer feeling isolated and helpless.

But, despite the Four Years – and quite possibly because of it – I am not alone in this any more.

EDIT: My former assistant has commented about his experience with my former boss below. If you found that any of the above resonated with you, or if for whatever reason you just found some of interesting, I’d highly recommend that you read his account of things πŸ™‚

Sorry this is so ridiculously long, but I didn’t want to make it into two parts because Four Years is today, and a part two would not have been on the anniversary. If you couldn’t be bothered reading it, I totally understand πŸ™‚ To those of you that fought through it, sorry. Normal service will be resumed next time when I feel less affected by something πŸ˜‰

Picture credits: see outgoing links.

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21 comments on “Four Years

  1. Such a powerful story of how outside stresses can just compound an illness. Work had a big part in my not working back in 2008, but I didn’t have the history with Mental Illness before hand it was all new to me.. my employers were pretty good to a point. Each new manager they gave me had a new set of targets for me to meet and it just dug a deeper hole.

    Thank you for sharing your story.. it really didn’t feel like 3000 words. πŸ™‚

    Paul

    • Thank you Paul πŸ™‚

      I’m sorry to hear about what happened to you. I can completely empathise with your point about people setting targets and it just making things worse – after I went off sick, to be fair to my employers they did do a lot to see about me returning, but like yourself, their aims and goals for me just weren’t going to work 😦

      But having read your recent post, I know things are starting to look up for you in terms of maybe returning to work, so I’ll keep my fingers firmly crossed for you πŸ™‚ Don’t push yourself too hard, but lots and lots of luck anyway.

      Take care

      Karen

  2. I am very moved by your story. In a blue collar way, I have a similar story. I pray that you can get better enough to have a great life. You are so much younger. (((hug))). I know you don’t know me but I just wanted to give you a hug.

    • Thank you so much for commenting πŸ™‚ (((Hugs))) are always greatly appreciated and your good wishes are too.

      I’m sorry you had to endure something similar – fighting mental health problems is a full-time job in itself 😦 I really do hope that you are finding your way – and I look forward to following your journey via your blog!

      Thanks again, and take care

      Karen (((hugs back)))

  3. I am so glad you have been able to take these 4 years to work on yourself at your own pace. What has happened to me this summer feels exceptionally like a break down and the mere thought of returning to work in September fills me with dread but I feel I must push on through. I can’t let my work down. You have such strength to have got thru the 4 years you have x

    • Thank you Bourbon πŸ™‚ I know this summer has been dreadful for you; my fingers are firmly crossed that by September things will have brightened up a bit, and I do understand about not wanting to let work down. But be careful hun – you come first. If you need to take a while off, a few weeks or whatever, then do, and you can play it by ear afterwards. Either way, I’ll still be reading and always hoping for the best for you.

      Take care, ((hugs)))

      Karen xox

  4. This is so sad. I know you are such a competent, intelligent and capable woman who just needs the time to put yourself back together. And that is how it should be, as you say that is how benefits should work, they should support you until you’re in a place that you can get on with whatever life you choose.

    As to management – I know what a huge difference a good boss can make. My previous boss made me ill. Meetings with her would end up with me in pieces. When I was off sick she used to phone me up and harrass me. My new boss is fab. When I’m off sick she phones and asks me if she can do anything for me, the difference this makes is extraordinary.

    Anyway you’re fab. These have definitely not been four wasted years. But I can understand how sad and frustrated you are. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    • Thank you, lovely – I appreciate your kind words as always πŸ™‚ The four years have indeed been frustrating, and whilst at times I have felt as if they’ve been a waste – that my brain (and my body for that matter) has stagnated and atrophied – overall, I think a prolonged break was necessary. I remember writing a feature recently about employing people with mental health problems, and quite forcibly made the point that in some cases employing the person with the long, benefits-laden gap on their CV was better than hiring another candidate – because the former had spent time understanding their health problem, and thus had found ways to manage it. And that if they were applying for work, then they were truly ready for work. I expected to be ripped to shreds over that point (after all, not everyone has a long-term health issue, so why would any of us be preferable to them?) but most people (mainly recruiters/managers) actually took the point well, and admitted that they hadn’t thought of it that way. If only all were so understanding… 😦

      Anyway, I am so glad that your new boss is so much more understanding than your previous one. I remember you writing or tweeting about the meeting you had to go to about your sickness record, and that you’d spoken to your boss about it privately – she sounded wonderful. You deserve that kind of a manager, but I suspect they’re rare.

      The Man and I were lamenting my history of bosses the other day. I have had an absolutely horrendous string of them since I was about 21. Although she was actually a nice person, the woman I’ve discussed here was also in some ways the worst manager I’ve ever had. The one in my previous job (in another organisation) was an absolute and utter bitch, and I loathed her with a passion – but at least she was consistent. She didn’t try to be your friend or feign sympathy or care about you in any way. So at least you knew where you stood.

      I’ve rambled on enough, yet again. Thanks for your comment and for your ever-wonderful friendship πŸ™‚

      Much love

      Karen xoxoxox

  5. Hi Karen, I can’t be anymore eloquent than any of the others so just wanted to echo what they said- a very powerful, moving and sad story, written wondefrully as ever. You _do_ deserve to do well in a job but you have to do that in your own time, your health comes first. FWIW part of me wants to pound on your old bosses door and shout at her lol!! But I do know what you mean- you had bipolar already, not her fault, no one’s fault, but at the same time she sounds like an awful manager.

    Anyway thank you for sharing as ever. Take care

    Best wishes
    Kate

    • Thanks as always Kate πŸ™‚ Yeah, she was pretty crap! I wish I could blame everything on her though – then I could say, “yep, I’ve had a case of severe depression and anxiety brought on reactively by stress, but I’m okay now.” But as you know, it doesn’t quite work that way in cases like this 😦

      And you’re welcome. I hope you’re doing okay at the minute.

      Take care

      Karen xxx

  6. weird; your timings sounded a bit close to mine. having checked with him indoors it turns out my last day of work was 3 days after yours, and he observed that sometimes reading our two blogs it was only the Northern Irish references which distinguished your story from mine (although I had had no prior history of mental illness, lasted 7 years longer than you before the final crash, and very much *do* blame my employers).
    in all though, you sound in much better shape than I, long may you continue your journey to thriving.

    • Okay, what a weird coincidence, timing-wise. I’m just sorry to hear that you’re not in a much better place after the four years…not that mine is by any means great, but I wish yours were better anyway.

      I remember reading your story about how your employers treated you and am not surprised that (a) you had a breakdown and (b) you blame them. It sounds like one of the worst cases of management-fails I’ve heard of. What a bunch of bastards – I’m sorry you had to go through that, and I’m sorry that you’re still having to go through its after-effects 😑

      By the way…it’s good to see you again! πŸ˜€

      Take care

      Karen xoxox πŸ™‚

  7. As someone else said, this post is so eloquent. Its really from deep down inside. Its so heartfelt Karen and I know how you feel to some extent. I just wish employers could read posts like this and then maybe they could begin to appreciate what it is like to live with a mental illness.
    I still maintain because of a few conversations with family members this week that unless you’ve been through it you just don’t get it.
    Hugs hun ❀ xxx

    • Thank you so much Ash. As I said to bourach above, I was quite surprised by the positive reaction I got to my feature about this…but then, the type of managers that are reading that kind of magazine are likely to be either more enlightened or willing to become more enlightened than most out there. So yeah, most of them just don’t get it.

      And I completely agree that anyone who hasn’t been there just doesn’t get it. I’m reasonably fortunate with most of my family, in that many of them have experienced their own mental health issues – but there are certainly some who have no idea. Most of my friends have no clue either, but again I’m lucky in that most of them know they can’t truly understand it, defer to my own experience and are completely non-judgemental. It hasn’t always been this way though, so I’ve been through the holier-than-thou, stigmatic, “pull yourself together” bullshit too 😦

      Anyway, enough rambling. I still owe you an email! Sorry about that hun. I will get round to it, promise πŸ™‚

      Take care

      Karen xoxoxox

  8. Karen:

    Just dropping in to let you know that I’m still reading–I’ve read all your posts since my last comment, but this business of my final thesis and finding a relevant job is taking up most of my time. Sounds like your own ex-job ;] Seriously, I’m still here, and will reply appropriately as soon as I can. Briefly: this blows–your boss sounds like her entire existence needs an apology from a birth factory. How controlling. But either way, what’s done is done–you are very capable and when you’re ready, and with the right colleagues, you will again be a valued worker.

    As the others have said, take your time.

    Sincerely,
    Robert =]

    • Ah, thank you sir! Good to see you about, but totally understand your reasons for not commenting – please don’t worry about it. Wishing you all the best as ever with the job search – you too are very capable, and I’m sure you’ll find something that suits your intellect and research capabilities soon; you certainly deserve to. Good luck πŸ˜€

      Take care

      Karen

      PS. I love the ‘birth factory’ insult. Now a part of my daily verbal discourse πŸ˜‰

  9. Hello all;

    I am “The Assistant” that is spoke of in this blog post.

    First of, I want to say thank you to Karen for the kind words about me in this post & also for being a friend and that she has no need to apologize for having me in flood of tears along with her 4 years ago (Little did she know at the time, I believe that I was in private crying too) April 2008 I joined the department. I was at first excited, after all this would be my 1st proper paid job. I say, “paid” because before I joined this department I worked for a charity. I was there as a student ACA but somehow got shoehorned into becoming a receptionist. The treatment of all staff by the management of this organization was disgusting but some staff felt I was bullied the most, it was here that my own personal issues where re-triggered so I walked out. That was in November & in April I joined this Staff Development team. At first “the boss” seemed lovely and to be perfectly honest 4 years on I still can’t quite work her out which is unusual for me. I used to pride myself of being able to work someone out within the first day of meeting them but I have seemed to have lost that talent. In fact, I think of her as the female version of Jeremy Kyle. One moment I think Jeremy is brilliant & I love him to death and the next I think he is a utter cunt. The same rings true for, “the boss”

    The first 3 months were fine, everyone seemed nice (Apart from the cunt upstairs) But then July hit and I seen a sharp decline in Karen and also the overall atmosphere within the team. The team meetings become something to dread, it was like bear baiting. August came and Karen was gone. I remember the first day without her. Two members of the team met me right at the door and started to gossip and seem to revel in the delight of telling me this, “news” I went to my office and within seconds the majority of the team were in the office shitting themselves about the upcoming Induction. In fact, if I remember correctly every single member of the team came into the office that day apart from one. Can you guess who it was? Yep, that’s right “the boss”

    Her full time employee was gone and the part-time assistant who had little experience in this field was sitting there with every other member of her team berating me with questions & she was sitting in her office the whole day and never came out. She moved me to full time to cope with the extra workload, I say she moved me I actually had to ask for full time hours. I expected support from her, after all this role was totally new to me but none came. Within the role you had to book hotels and flights, I was 19 and had never booked a hotel or a flight before, never used a credit card before so I asked for help but I never got it. It was my mother who booked the hotel & flights that August. Do you remember when Tony Blair came to power in 1997 & he danced to, “Thing’s can only get better” and they didn’t. Well I felt just like that. I thought sure that, “thing’s can only get better” but everything kept getting worse. I have blocked most of this time frame out because after 6 months I myself had left the department on sick leave, I do remember the constant screaming, I remember the tears. One day I had enough of the cunt upstairs and, “the boss” sat down, she urged me to talk honestly about him so we could fix the issue. I said, “He has an inflated ego of himself & he thinks he is better than he actually is. I can’t stand him, he is a totally dickhead” This didn’t go down well. Instead of saying, “I think calling him a dickhead is a bit over the top” She went on to shout at me and blame Karen for me thinking like this & said, “Maybe you are listing to Karen too much” I was shocked as I didn’t even mention Karen. I shouted back saying that I had my own mind & that I wasn’t some pre pubescent boy that followed others.

    December time I was accused of being late for a whole month & I was going to get a warning for it. I shouted, “BULLSHIT” at her. She stared at me and said she had it written down, my reply was, “You’re wrong and please remember on the 20th December I was the only member of staff in your whole team that came into work and I walked the whole way through the snow” She then asked me how many minutes does it take for me to walk down my hill onto the main road, how many minutes in total do I have to walk to get to work etc… I amused her and give her a rough estimate. She typed all these minutes into her calculator because she was too fucking stupid to work it out in her head and told me that my journey should only take me 35 minutes but I was taking roughly 50 minutes. Keep in my mind she had no idea of where I lived or she didn’t take into consideration that I walked and that doing 3.5 miles in 50 minutes was bloody good going. I maintain that I was only late 4 times, 15 minutes max apart from once when I came in at 9.30am She asked me to consider a quicker way to get into work so I said, “Why don’t you come in your car, leave it outside my door and we will walk in together to see how long it takes us?” The matter was dropped.

    The last straw was January’s team meeting. She made the call that it was my job at the end of the day to go into everyone’s office and turn off all the printers and computers because the rest of the team were too lazy to do it. She told me personally the department was getting a volunteer to help with the demanding workload & that this person would be sitting in my office. Sounds good doesn’t it? She then ruined this good moment by saying the volunteer was for the rest of the team not me. I sat speechless.

    I left in February, by that time I had enough. I no longer how any fight left in me. I was a mess. The monthly supervision that were once shouting matches were now 1 hour crying sessions. To be fair to her she did try and support me while I was sitting crying and I know for a fact that people in the organization were pushing for me to be sacked but she didn’t do that & I do appreciate that. If only she would have admitted that she failed to support me in my job and that the constant balls up were her fault as much as they where mine. The stark reality is that she like me didn’t have a fucking clue what to do which is why I believe she tried to pick up on stupid things like time and turning off all the printers etc…

    I’ve had depression since I was 6. I don’t really remember my childhood. I’ve been called every name under the sun. Been punched, kicked, spat on, pushed down stairs, trampled on & almost knifed but I’ve never felt as bad in my entire life I when I left that department in February 2009. I had issues when I joined but that place finished me off and 3 years later I’m a totally different person inside and still more vulnerable than ever yet I went back in August 2009 after 6 months off. Why? To prove a point. One thing I do like about myself is that I fight and it takes a-lot to put me down and by god I made one hell of a point. The organization has awards every year and for 2 years on the trot I was nominated by fellow staff members for an award.
    Stick that in your pipe and smoke it Mr. Cunt in upstairs office!

    My relationship with, “the boss” improved. She improved, for a while. By this time I was back to being, “The Assistant” as they had hired a full-time replacement for Karen. I’m still there but sadly the vicious circle is coming around again. They have gone through 12 full time staff for this one job as of August 2012. Instead of, β€œthe boss” & I shouting we ignore one another, when you need a decision about something she is no where to be found. She is no longer “my boss” & while that is good it means any issues within the department I’m ignored as the full time person who is a temporary member of staff is involved in all discussions and I don’t have a say. We have a whole new computer system coming in and there was discussions on how it would work best for the department. Whose advice did, “the boss” ask? Me, the 3rd longest serving member of the team or the temp who has been there 7 months? Yep, you guessed it! The temp.

    I’m back at that Jeremy Kyle comparison again. One moment she is really lovely and a good friend and then the next a total dick who lies and doesn’t even give you a simple, “Thank you” when you save her department over Β£21,000

    One thing I can say for sure, she’s a shit boss.

    Yours truly;

    The Assistant

    • I have nothing I can possibly add to this. This account gives a great deal of insight into the mindset and behaviour of the woman in question – thank you, sir. I will amend the post to link to this πŸ™‚

      Take care

      Karen xox

  10. good post, but sorry you feel so sad. not surprised things got to much for you esp after the comment from the assistant. you were both more tolerant than we’d ever have been…wishing you well for when youre able to go back to work and best wishes to assistant to, you both deserve better than this.

    • Thanks for your good wishes, Sarah, and I’m sure The Assistant appreciates them too. Lol, as I was writing the post, I wondered how I hadn’t slapped her at times. Fortunately The Assistant got to the point where he gave as good as he got, and I just wish I’d had the balls to do the same πŸ˜‰

      Anyway, thank you. I know it’s been ages since I wrote this, but that passing of time has allowed my sadness to dissipate a little. A large part of me mourns the lost career, but as things stand right now, I’m not so regretful about this specific job.

      Anyway, thanks again, and I hope all is well at your end!

      My best and take care

      Karen xxx

  11. Folks, thank you for all the wonderful comments. I’ll reply individually soon, in the next couple of days. The past few days have been exhausting so I haven’t been able to give them the attention they deserve! Soon.

    Take care

    Karen xoxox

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