A good few years ago now, I worked at a small design agency. Despite essentially being a junior role to begin with, I had to go through several interviews and a presentation to get the job, so I was thrilled when I got it. It was my second “proper job” after graduating and I worked hard for it.
It wasn’t long though, before I came to realise the negativity of the environment. It was a small business, so the bosses actions and attitude had a very real, direct and constant impact.
From frowning if you ever left on time, to underpaying you; from checking your emails, to regularly implying that your job was at risk; from insinuating you were lucky to be there, to controlling where you sat at the office Christmas party.
He was sexist, racist, every -ist really, but it was so subtle, so insidious that you felt you couldn’t really call him out – if you did, it was your problem. He was like an abusive partner who kept you in a constant state of feeling worthless, undermined, nothing.
It had a huge impact on my mental health. I was stressed, anxious and tired all of the time. And it wasn’t a case of just avoid your trigger – it was my job, I didn’t have a choice. Every day felt like I was walking a little closer to the cliff edge.
Then one day, I had a migraine type feeling: I turned my head and my eyesight and brain couldn’t catch up. Then came nausea, followed by horrendous toothache, and when I got to the doctors a few days later, it turns out I had stress-induced shingles. I was in agony, couldn’t eat or sleep and on several types of medication – not to mention the scabs. Oh yes. Scabs.
After that, it was patently clear – after 4 and half years, I had to make a change. Thankfully I had, have, a partner who encouraged me to do what was right. And I quit. With no other job to go to, I walked into that office one day and I said I was leaving.
Like any abusive relationship, he was gobsmacked. He couldn’t fathom that, despite the way he treated us all, I would want to go anywhere. That I *could* go anywhere. But I’d finally gathered up the courage – I could, and I did. And the feeling was like nothing else.
To anyone in a difficult situation now, work or otherwise – don’t let the anxiety stop you. You are worthy, you are enough, and you deserve better. Make the change. You’ll thank yourself for it.