February Wrap-Up – Books, Shows, Talking Race Discrimination & Mental Health Check-In

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):

daenerys

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:

Brothers Karamazov Book Cover

  • 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 WorldI’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.

Sophia Ismaa

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24 Comments

  1. What you went through proves just how strong you are and it only makes me admire you even more.

    It’s something we don’t wish upon anyone but sadly it does happen all around the world.

    Thank you for including my comment in there, I’m glad you found it fitting to the blog post 💓

    I do wonder though, in the future will the students be able to learn our sides of the story or not? I guess only time will tell.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, I appreciate it. It should never have to happen though, there needs to be consequences. No one should ever have to see so much, Insha’Allah, as Muslims, we can do more speak up against so much oppression.

      You said it so perfectly that I felt like you should have written the review! There are some horrifying parts in Our Women on the Ground, so I can’t as of yet recommend it to particular ages, but I think if you ever get the chance to read it one day, I think you’ll find a lot to relate to. They will get to learn our side of the story only if we continue to speak up, we can’t always depend on those who benefit from our silence to speak up for us, but for those who say they “like” us (I’m quoting Rihanna now), they can pull up too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m glad you liked my comment 😊

        I guess when you hear about it everyday and it affects you indirectly or directly you develop some sort of opinion about it at one point or another.

        Inshallah sometime when I’m older I’ll definitely check the book out.

        It’s really upsetting that these things keep happening but you know what, until the Arab world can get decent dictators (we all know a democracy is never going to happen) we’ll never truly be free.

        Like

        1. Of course you would have opinions about it. We should all have opinions (or provide support when we aren’t directly connected to it) when it comes to injustice. It’s terrifying how widespread islamophobia has become – India and China too, and the people I’ve spoken to who are Muslim and live in India, it’s heartbreaking and worrying to hear about the fear they live in. But we have Allah (SWT) Alhumdulillah.

          Yeah, that’s one thing that really struck me was how many dictators there are. It’s sad that it should be this way for governments in Muslim country, our Prophet’s (SAWS) ways were peaceful and compassionate.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Ah dictators… ruining the face of the world since the beginning of time.

            I’ve reached a point where I don’t even understand how in the world did countries like the UK, USA etc progress and our countries who invented things that are still used today are going backwards…

            How?

            Yes, we have to say our broken governments have a role in the country’s failure but there has to be another factor, it can’t just be that!

            Like

            1. Yep, Muslims first made advances in chemistry and a lot of other subjects. I think because we have so much in the east, be it oil or spices which the West lack, their economy was developed using our resources. It boils down to money. And we don’t advocate greed in Islam, Alhumdulillah. They took our stuff and succeeded with it, and now here we are, living in the UK, to build and enhances our lives in countries which have stolen from our ancestors.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. You summed it up.

                There was a video that came out years ago, it was called 1001 inventions and the library of secrets, its all about the golden age of Islam which is more commonly known as the dark age.

                It’s a short 13 minute clip that worth watching! It taught me things I didn’t even know! But yeah it’s very good.

                Like

  2. Unfortunately this happens way too often. I am also going through a rough patch with a colleague at work. It comes down to her resenting me for getting the job that she wanted. I won’t go into specifics except that despite messing up multiple times and a spotty attendance, not to mention multiple incidents that have been documented, she isn’t being fired. I love my job and I refuse to let one person ruin my career but something has got to give and soon.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. There’s recently been cases where people have taken these companies to tribunals and been successful, but it takes a lot of determination and grit, and knowing what the consequences of whistleblowing is. But somethings got to give because race discrimination shouldn’t be the norm.

      I had some sick days in my last place of work because my endometriosis deteriorated under that woman’s management, but, in my case, it’s more so to do with feeling the impacts of discrimination in the workplace which I’m guessing can’t be attributed in your colleagues case? Has she tried to sabotage you in any way?

      Like

  3. What an awful situation. I had a boss whose response to any of our complaints was you’re lucky to have a job. Ugh. Work is such a huge part of our lives it’s a shame it has to be like this so much of the time. But I’m glad you’re moving on to better things! Best of luck!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah, the age old “you should be grateful to even have a job.” Not only patronising, but it also tends to suggest “you’re lucky we hired you.” Great way to keep up employee morale. Though I’m glad to hear that you’re working somewhere else now & I hope they are a lot better. Hopefully!

      Like

  4. I’m so sorry you’ve been treated so badly at work! So frustrating and being a whistleblower often means you end up in the firing line – but well done for standing up for yourself! I’ve worked in male dominated workforce’s where my periods have been a source of hilarity for everyone which was pretty humiliating! Love this post – we definitely have the same (if not good) taste in tv 😂 Hope you watched the love is blind finale?!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I put in my notice and grievance right before I left, interestingly they didn’t conduct a thorough and fair investigation (actually talk with the black women who were bullied and harassed), so frustrating because they make a point in their ads to stand up against racial discrimination, but not against their own employee.

      That sounds like it must have been really difficult and petrifying to go through, having female colleagues would have helped a lot in such a situation.

      Yes, I watched the finale! Loved it! Amber and her glow up, she looks more like Nicole Scherzinger now… Mark still has puppy eyes for Jessica, dear Lord. What did you think of it?

      Like

  5. Anyone who have worked in a corporate setting can relate to what you went through, and the protection of HR is absent in a lot of cases which is disheartening.

    I’m happy you chose to move on from it all, you don’t need that type of stress weighing heavy on you every time you go into the place where you have to make a living.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. HR is there to protect the company after all, but if there’s anything I’ve learnt is to document more, but how do I record the offensive things that were said written up & confessed by them in an email, that’s the difficulty… but I’m moving on from it. I’m just worried about Muslim and black women who will come into the role after me, there were 4 of us who left that department in a year, who knows how many departures this year will hold.

      Mental health comes first. Thank you for your kind words. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

        1. It’ll begin by naming these places and sharing our stories – that’s our hoping in action that Meghan Markle told us about, otherwise we may end up in a cycle of continuously leaving jobs we’ve dreamed of, it can’t be like that. But thank you for your support and encouragement.

          Like

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