Early Monday morning, a reader of this blog left a comment that specially captured what workplace bullying can do to an individual and why targets need help from family, friends, co-workers, and advocates who are not in harm’s way. Her comment starts with an explanation for why she hasn’t posted more responses to blog posts and commentaries about workplace bullying, mobbing, and abuse, then goes into a more general description of how smart, independent, resourceful individuals can be rendered powerless in the face of sustained, continuing mistreatment.
I shared this comment on Facebook, and the response was overwhelmingly positive and supportive of the sentiments and insights expressed by this writer. I decided that her words should be highlighted for readers of this blog, not merely tucked into a comment to another post.
I’m sharing it below in its entirety, with a few very minor edits and typo corrections, and with deep thanks to this reader, Lilydalelah, for her courage and eloquence. Under her comment, I’ve included the responses that were posted.
Let this be a rallying cry from the heart. Here goes:
Some targets may consume and be affected or comforted by info that strikes a chord, but are either still silenced (for a variety of reasons), struggling to find their “voice” again, or may be dealing with the fear of opening a floodgate.
I, for example, find posts, articles, and research studies all the time that I would love to respond to.
I often begin writing, and find I have written nearly a book by the time I am through. Too long and tangential to post, but too painful to proofread, edit and reorganize, I end up throwing the un-posted draft info my notes, and exasperated by the “reliving” of the trauma during the writing, I force myself to shift gears and just give up on whatever I was trying to say.
I find it nearly impossible to write a brief comment, instead, tangentially spilling the endless intertwined tornado of horrors.
In my case, it is a trauma that I cannot escape, as despite my best efforts, defense mechanisms, and sacrifices, the trauma keeps escalating, despite my job ended almost 3 years ago. However, the stalking, threats, harassment, and so much more, continue in a terrifying smear-campaign, via cyberspace, involving impersonation of my identity, and technical tactics tweaking search engines to keep the lies and fabrications of me as “crazy” and “a threat” discoverable… permanently.
I find so much I want to reply to, and resources to reach out to, but don’t know even where to begin.
The learned helplessness stage is so crippling. I am not sure how or if many voices can be still heard once the abuse goes on for so long, and becomes so all-encompassing.
With an unimaginable plethora of losses to acclimate to, and to mourn, plus fears of present and future we are saddled with, the oft seemingly-hopeless efforts, to grasp for a even a thread of hope, that anyone still cares, or that a future is even still possible, and the mounting stress of becoming more aware of the degree of danger we are in, the healing cannot even begin, until escape and safety is achieved.
I think that those with the most to say, are the targets most silenced.
Ones that escaped the workplace mobbing, by becoming too ill to work, only to find they are dragged into a whole new cycle, of becoming a target of a bully-turned-cybercriminal, becomes totally devastating to every aspect of a target, and the death of all hope of being able to pick up the pieces, and move on to heal someday.
I think it is probably why so many targets of mobbing die within a few years of “escaping” the abusive workplace. Only we never (or rarely) hear from these targets to even know what became of them.
Most are isolated, even by those who supported them, as the strain continues and becomes too much for supporters.
As for anyone else who could have helped, these targets are written off as “crazy” and not many help-resources see through to the “normal” person who is suffering a “normal” reaction to an abnormal, ongoing trauma.
By this stage in this multifaceted, multiple-cycle process of destroying the target, at work, then in every facet of life via online tactics, severe mental injuries like cPTSD [ed: Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder], and various systemic physical illnesses result, and also cause targets to isolate and be silenced. The ailments caused or exacerbated by years of fight/flight stress, will probably kill the target soon, if target is not first driven to end it sooner, to escape the daily fear and continued torture of what I guess most closely equates to being buried alive, and then forgotten about, by anyone who once cared.
The suffering that overtakes the target, every waking moment, becomes so intense, as escape inevitably becomes impossible, so one begins to hope, instead, for the air to run out quickly so the pain will end.
I am sure that sounds “crazy” and will likely be circulated as “proof” of this rumor, but I am just going to hit “post” without proofreading, or this will become yet another draft to add to my collection of things I hoped to say someday.
My point is simply:
We are too far-gone, exasperated, terrified of retaliation, or even fear physical assault plus the many other risks we now bear from what was maliciously and permanently put online to smear us. We are sick, in pain, and are probably very isolated.
We have often become hopeless, after years of coping and clinging to an inner strength, that is now gone.
Some of us are dead. Others may soon be.
Thus it is hard for targets of these most severe and ongoing forms of workplace bullying, cybercrime and mobbing, to actually respond to valuable, insightful posts.
But I think we are reading, and learning from the experts. Some of us consume information continually, and have so much we want to say in response.
Yet some of what we learn, frightens us even more, since depending on the situation, for some, there is no way to stop it. We spend stretches of time in avoidance, finding ways periodically to dissociate from the horror, but that reality lf the nightmare eventually engulfs us again. We can never hide from it for long, particularly when a bully resorts to cyber-tactics, to ensure no escape, healing, or future employment is possible.
We learn that as bad as it all has been, indeed it can, and likely will, get worse.
We remember in earlier stages, when we read of the cycle, and the stages ahead, and thought: “what happens to ‘most targets’ can’t possibly happen to me.”
And then it did.
Despite the knowledge, and every effort to prevent it, we were dragged helplessly through the cycle, and beyond.
We need support, and help from others, because our own (typically strong) abilities to cope, are now depleted.
We need advocacy, major legal changes, and awareness by others, so we are not inadvertently “re-victimized” by societal ignorance.
Our usual resourcefulness and ability to land on our feet, is no longer, as the damages progress. It always seems the road to solution is so close, yet for us alone, remains perpetually just out of reach.
Several readers responded to this comment:
Lily, your post is most eloquent in conveying why those who are targeted often can’t help themselves. I teach about workplace bullying to union representatives and this is a concept I try to convey. They often say to targets that “if you won’t file a grievance, I can’t help you”. I know how damaging this is to a target like yourself hanging on by your fingernails. We have come up with another approach to a toxic workplace that unions can use while keeping the targets anonymous and safe. It’s something I learned by the school of hard knocks. Thank you for your powerful words. I will be sharing them with my classes in the future if you don’t mind.
Been There says:
Lilydalelah, there is nothing “crazy” about what you say and you are not exaggerating about targets dying. A woman in her early 50s who worked where I did was bullied into quitting. A few months later she had a heart attack and died. Another woman, of the same age, at the same institution, was bullied and either quit or got fired. A couple months later, she suffered a stroke and lost her ability to speak. I don’t know what happened to her.
There were many times I felt as though my heart was going to squirm out of my chest. The chest pain would last for weeks, not hours, not minutes, not days. It was perpetual. If I had started out with any kind of risk factor, I’m sure I’d be dead too.