I’ve only ever done a wrap-up once, and haven’t done one since, but I think that this year, I not only want to, but need to do wrap-ups to talk about what I’ve been reading, watching, blogging, do a mental health check-in and find out what everyone’s been up to this month. I invite you to do a little mental health check-in too in the comments, and hopefully this can be not only a safe space for you, but a brave one too. I am not a professional though, so if you need specialist help, please call your local/national helpline or contact, where possible, a therapist.
*Trigger warning: discussions of abuse, workplace discrimination and depression*
Mental Health Check-In
I’m putting this first on the agenda because as of early 2020 and the latter half of 2019, my mental health has greatly suffered because of what was going on at work – I’ve since officially left the organisation in January. I’ve been hesitating to explore this, but so many of us are subjected to victimisation, abuse, bullying and discrimination at work and we NEED to start talking about it. We spend 35 hours a week at work, work makes up a large part of our day, and our mental health, and consequently physical health, should not have to suffer so significantly because of workplace abuse and discrimination. We cannot normalise abuse and discrimination, it should never be the norm, unlike what the retired lawyer said to me: “I don’t want to say man up, but you gotta suck it up, cupcake. You can’t go up against the world.”
I don’t know how I’m going to word this, and I know I may get in a lot of trouble for speaking up given that an employer can look up my blog and find this information. But this is a way for me to tell my story, it’s my little corner on the internet. Many of us are already silenced by HR professionals and the Board when we speak up, they are there to protect the company after all. But we can speak up in other ways.
Today won’t be the day I discuss in-depth what happened, but I’m going to give you an overview. I was working at a leading children’s charity and our service centre deals with child sex abuse – hint: it’s the one with the helpline. You know that this was a big deal for me if you’ve read my post ‘Breaking the Silence.’
I was paid less than my white colleagues in the same role performing the same responsibilities despite the fact that I had direct experience relevant to the role – I had worked in this role twice. My comparators, on the other hand, had & have little to no experience for the role. After I raised this issue, my line manager retaliated against me. Put downs, mocking, breaking confidentiality after I shared what happened to me in my childhood with her which she later seemed to have found my entire situation laughable, and then she attempted to discipline me, without warning, for not being flexible with graphic design despite the fact that I was doing it anyway. I calmly asked her a few times to stop speaking to me and treating me in a hostile manner. On the occasions that I did, she smirked and found it funny.
The longer I was in the role, the more I found out dirt on her and information was being readily supplied to me. I was the fourth WOC she had now harassed and abused. The other three women besides me, a Bengali Muslim woman, were black women. “That’s four people now who’ve complained. It can’t be them; it has to be her who’s the problem,” one employee remarked. Clearly, the charity’s compassion and fight against abuse does not extend to black and Muslim women.
I was diagnosed with endometriosis in November 2019. I wasn’t surprised because I’ve known since the age of 10 that I’ve been experiencing cycles completely differently to my friends. There were brief respites, however, and I’ve had spells where it hasn’t caused me any difficulty. But last year, in the second half of 2019, I’ve never had my endometriosis deteriorate to such an extent where my physical movement was limited.
When my line manager went on annual leave for two weeks, I noticed that my health began flourishing. No more fear creeping up knowing that I would have to see her, no more heart palpitations at night, thinking about having to see her, preventing me from going to sleep… no more severe stomach cramps since then.
I put in my notice when she went on annual leave because I knew that our Service Manager would always take her side, and she doesn’t possess adequate people skills to discern what behaviour is acceptable/not acceptable. I knew that if I wanted to preserve my physical and mental health, then my only option was to quit. My body is in a healthy state now, I haven’t had any problems since… I almost can’t believe it. My symptoms have just disappeared.
Towards the end of working there, I began seeing a therapist to heal and recover from my line manager. I hadn’t even realised that what I was going through was abuse until my therapist pointed it out. I was distraught. The one person I thought would be my protector as a child, I ended up needing to be protected from. When I was young, I had idealised this organisation as the place that protected children who’ve gone through what I have. Now, almost 20 years later, it ended up being the organisation I needed to be protected from.
My former colleague had been texting me this month, discussing how she’s progressing at work. I didn’t expect one conversation to have spiralled me back to square one. I’ve been blogging, tweeting, browsing social media… pretending to be happy, but really I haven’t felt happy for weeks now. And I’m trying, but every time I try, it feels like I’ve forgotten how to be happy. I’m sure I’ll be happy again, it’s the when that’s bothering me, I can’t seem to picture it being soon.
What do I say to employers? That my health suffered because of workplace abuse? Abuse where clearly black and Muslim women were the only one’s who were being targeted. Would they even care? I hope they won’t treat me like a criminal. The only thing I can hope for is that they’ll go on Glassdoor and find where it clearly says: “Discriminatory practice is rife” & “Widely regarded as the worst charity to work for.”
My abuser’s name is Nelini Sharma. The organisation is the NSPCC Camden branch. Marian Moore, Service Manager, ignored my complaints as well of the three black staff mentioned. Suzan Ismail, Team Manager of Letting the Future In, gaslighted me and questioned my “interpretation” because I’m a child sex abuse survivor despite having told her that all of us who were abused, in the span of a year, are black and brown women. The holy trinity of Priti Patel, Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid.
***I would really appreciate if you could share your stories of workplace abuse and discrimination, how it has impacted both your physical and mental health, and how you’ve recovered. We need to start sharing, we need to start speaking up because this should not be happening at all.***
We need this energy (anger, not fire, though that is what the charity should have done to that serial abuser):
On a lighter note… here are the few things, below, that I’ve been doing which has helped:
What I’ve Been Reading, Reviewing & Blogging About:
- The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky – this is my second foray into Russian Lit since Anna Karenina. I’ve been enjoying The Brothers Karamazov so much that I’ve decided that I want to read every Dostoyevsky book there is.
- The Colour of Madness: Exploring BAME mental health in the UK. I’m going to start reading this today. It’s been one of my most anticipated reads.
- Book Review: Our Women on the Ground: Essays by Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World – I’m going to summarise this with Crystal Girl’s comment because she said it so perfectly: “I wonder what the future generations will be taught about these wars and conflicts? About Palestine or will it be Israel by then? About Syria and how the people were only asking for their rights? About Afghanistan and how the people were brutally slaughtered and killed in suspicion of being involved in 9/11 when they were just trying to make an honest day’s living.”
- An Interview with Osi (1) and (2): I wanted to build a narrative here, to showcase (a) the effects of first-gen parenting in (1) & (b) how it impacts mental health and adolescence, but also highlight Osi’s artistic strengths and innovation (like his Berry dating app – an app dedicated to celebrating black love for black singles) in (2). And, once again, thank you to Osi for being so open, and I’m both joyous and pained to see you having the courage to talk about mental health. It’s incredibly important to break the stigma surrounding male mental health, but let’s not focus so much on the movement and forget the individual.
- 3 Shows I’ve Been Watching: this was fun! I shared my thoughts on You, Comedians of the World and The Good Place.
- 3 Reasons Why Pride and Prejudice is Overrated: some light-hearted poking fun at Pride and Prejudice.
- I’m currently watching Love is Blind. Thoughts so far: I love Cameron and Lauren, or ‘Camren’. Jess is a mess. I know Amber is going to be slightly psycho, but from what I’ve heard so far, she’s secured the bag and getting rid of her debt without having to reach for her purse once. She has left me with no choice but to stan. And she also looks like a brunette Jenna Marbles. Giannina does not need to be this dramatic… but she does it anyway, so we can be entertained. I can only be grateful. I hope to see her on Star Plus one day.
What have you all been reading and watching? How has 2020 been for your mental health so far? Have you suffered from workplace abuse and discrimination? Tell me your stories in the comments.
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& if you should feel so generous, why not…