Toxic workplace fucking with your trauma?

Updated: 4 days ago

Do you ever wake up feeling immediately upset, angry, or resentful? Maybe the feelings aren’t obvious… but something is wrong. You’re tense. You’re having angry conversations in your head. You’re already hating the day and you haven’t even started yet. You’re weirdly exhausted and fed up with everything. You try to have a good morning but can’t shake the dread and anxiety that’s overtaken your body.


When you’re getting ready for work, making your commute (when that was a thing), or answering early emails, you’re fucking livid for every second of it. You haven’t even interacted with your shittiest coworker yet, and you’re not sure you can muster the personal restraint needed when they start slamming doors and making rude comments. This might be the day you finally let loose on that asshole and quit your job.


During work you’re overcome with annoyance and frustration. You grit your teeth, clench your jaw, and feel crippling tension in your ribcage. Every task is punctuated by quick resentment breaks or distracting yourself with texts to supportive friends. You do your best to smile (either looking like a deranged psychopath or a beaten dog) and tell everyone their ineptitudes are okay, you’ll make up for it, like the good worker bee you were hired to be.


When you get off, you’re beyond exhausted and furious. The tension has overtaken your body and you’re cramping in all the wrong places. Your shoulders are tight, your stomach aches, you breath shallowly. Your head is spinning, and you’re barely present as you sit in traffic. Your commute is spent screaming at other drivers and speeding as quickly as you can away from your hellish workplace.


When you get home your mind is still filled with ramblings of injustice and disbelief. You can’t seem to redirect your energy away from the pain and anger. When you talk to your loved ones, you’re distracted and short. You don’t want to take up another conversation with your endless complaints - they know all about your chaotic work already, but it inevitably bubbles over and pours out. If you keep it to yourself, they comment on your aggressive energy and you feel ashamed for letting things bleed over.


You find yourself filling your evening with habits to appease your brain; furiously smoking cigarettes, downing wine, gettin’ high, eventually staring off at the television until your brain is numbed. You don’t have the energy to get around to your own to-do list; the thought of going out to a grocery store or pharmacy right now is unbearable. You phone it in on dinner and mindlessly snack for hours. When you lay down to sleep, you try to stave off the same looping thoughts and emotions that you endured all day to get a few hours of unrestful sleep.


Wake, and repeat.

Toxic jobs and trauma retriggerings are no joke.

The work environment and social setting of your position is critically important to your mental health, especially for us Traumatized Motherfuckers. The feeling of being trapped in a job where you’re exposed to unending chaos, harassment, and over-accountability is way too similar to abusive experiences you’ve already had. You’re triggered on a regular basis; whether or not you dive into flashbacks or respond with your learned MO for appeasing past abusers. Your perfectionism kicks into overdrive and you find yourself sucked into the job, certain you can make this aggression stop if you just go above and beyond to do what you're told. And it makes sense. With the gaslighting, favoritism, and tribalism that almost always accompany bad management systems, you essentially are in another abusive relationship.


In a toxic job, your life is quite literally out of your control.


You can’t compartmentalize your stress to 8 hours a day because you’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it will. Everything is an emergency all the time. There are no boundaries because you’re easily accessible by phone and expected to read every message – whether it’s 8am or 8pm. You can’t seem to get ahead of your work because other people’s mistakes cause you to redo it anyways. You can’t get straight answers from anyone because they aren’t held to any communication standards. Everything is ambiguous because there’s no planning. You’re waiting for punishment all the time because random tasks will be considered “your responsibility” after someone else drops the ball. Even when you get time off or manage to work remotely your coworkers make it as miserable as possible by refusing to communicate in a timely or effective manner, so you actually end up working more.


If you speak up, somehow, all of this is considered your fault. Why can’t you adapt to the way things are? You’re gaslighted and labeled as difficult, emotional, or my favorite “crazy.” When you try to stand up for yourself, set boundaries, or state simple facts like “no one ever trained me to do that,” you’re considered “defensive,” chided by superiors, and cast even further from the tribe of coworkers.


And the worst part is, just like an abusive relationship, no matter how miserable you are there are limited steps you can take without destroying your life entirely.


You’re tied to this abuser necessarily for survival – selling your soul for a paycheck because you can’t find another way out. You have bills and responsibilities, and they know you can’t quit. You can talk to HR, but they’re either in on the plot or equally affected by the toxic situation. You can contact your local government and try to open a workplace discrimination case, but the office is barely staffed and it’s difficult to give them the evidence they want to proceed with the case. You can try to get a lawyer, but if you had money for that, you wouldn’t be stuck in this fucked up situation in the first place.


So, what the fuck do you do?


Well, I wish I had great answers. But I never found a solution.


Trying to power through it.

I can say with confidence that I tried my best for 2 years in the situation I just described. I thought I could eventually prove myself and escape from some of the finger pointing if I just kept working harder and took on ultra-responsibility. I tried to separate myself by getting some remote workdays, but the strain and anger only doubled during my absence from the office when no one would talk to me. I did my best to have open and honest conversations with my employer about the insidious behavior of coworkers (really just one who influenced the rest) and my mental health, but he chose ignorance and inaction every time – just as he did for everyone who voiced their opinions about this particular person for the past 5 years. I gave it my all. I did everything I could. But it was never going to work out.

And earlier this week I fucking quit.**


To do what? I have no idea. But I’m still completely fucking overjoyed with relief.

If you know me at all, you know that’s a completely wild thought. I’ve never up and left a job without a plan for where I’m headed next. I grew up in poverty and I’ve always been ultra-money responsible; thanks to my scarcity mindset and student loans, I have literally never walked away from a single job without a plan. Since earning my first “real” paycheck at 15, I generally get in a job and I stay there for 4-6 years until I figure something else out, get promoted, or relocate. In my mind, anyone who leaves a steady salary and benefits was an idiot, period.


Welp. I guess I’m an idiot. But at least I’m not miserable.


  • ** As I say later in the post, I didn’t actually quit. I explained my mental health difficulties in response to one pervasively toxic coworker and reported that I couldn’t currently return to work from furlough with the way things were being operated. This was not new information to him from me or others - and the aforementioned problematic coworker tortures everyone there - but he took my email “as a letter of resignation” anyways. Further proof of the environment his management has been fostering; I can only laugh and count my blessings while walking away.

The immediate relief of walking away.

I have to say, for all my mental blocks around constantly earning money and being a “good worker,” I’m not super worried. I can’t be. My brain and body feel so much better, I can’t even imagine a scenario in which I don’t wind up in a better place. I actually have the focus to think about my options. Immediately, the relief of waking up every morning without the furious conversations in my head and sense of unjust victimization gives me so much energy and attention to figure things out.


For the first time in two years, I feel happy and confident. I’m not perpetually tethered to the computer and phone, checking my email and WhatsApp, and waiting for imminent fires to put out. I’m not worried about these aggressively mentally ill fuckers at my job talking shit about things they’ve assumed about me or passing the buck when they fuck up their own duties. I’m not wasting my mental energy on figuring out how to ninja my way around coworkers’ toxic delusions to avoid getting doors slammed in my face or folders thrown at me.


In short, I actually have control over my time and my mental space. Which means I have control of my life.


I’ve been able to write without panicking. I’ve been freely creating art without feeling heavy and resistant. I’ve even enjoyed my “second” job (now first, I guess), because it doesn’t feel like the putrid cherry on top of my already shitty and overworked day.


Since I stopped working a month ago when I went on furlough, I’ve started jogging every day. I’ve stopped drinking and smoking. I’ve been eating fresh, healthy foods and keeping my snacky binges at bay. I’ve been off my phone for days at a time. I’ve been sleeping like a baby.


And since I 'quit' earlier this week, those positive behaviors have only doubled down.


Building the circumstances to get out

I don’t mean to sound callous or to brag about my situation. If you aren’t able to get out of your abusive workplace right now, I understand and I’m truly sympathetic. Like I said, this had been ongoing for about two years before I finally caught a break and felt like I could get out – or had to get out, more appropriately.


If you’re certain that talking honestly with your employer won’t lead to any lasting change – if you’ve tried already and been shocked at their reactions – it’s time to start thinking seriously about the ways to lessen the risks of leaving.

Here’s how I feel okay walking away from my financial security, and what I would recommend to other people stuck in the same boat:


1) Second job

For over three years I’ve worked the same second job. It has been my saving grace so many times and I can’t recommend it enough. Want to feel more financially independent and in control of your life? Figure out another income stream. Find something that works for you – for me, that means working remotely and writing, of course. I work independently and I’m 100% in charge of my own schedule, so I can do my work whenever it fits. Other times, I’ve earned extra money online selling art, writing resumes, rating search engine results, taking surveys, and even being a strictly platonic sugar baby (yes, that happened).


Some months, I would take on just enough work to make a few hundred bucks and call it spending money. Some months, I would go ham and make $1000-1200. My workload has generally depended on how I was doing and what expenses I saw coming up. So, when I left my ex and lost everything, I worked my ass off. When I suddenly needed a new car because he made mine inoperable, I worked even harder. When I thought I was going to buy a house last year (THANK FUCKING GOD I DID NOT), I steadily upped my game to put more cash into savings without changing my lifestyle.


Right now, knowing I have another way to make money is saving me. And all that cash I saved up for a house? Hey, that’s still sitting in my bank account. Looks like all my slave driving was not a fruitless effort. If nothing majorly went wrong, I could probably stop working entirely and live off it for 6-8 months without changing my life very much. It’s not what I want to do as a chronic money hoarder, but it’s time to recognize that all my efforts were for something. If I don’t use this stockpile to improve my life and escape shit situations, what was ever the point of my hard work? I should be proud and happy spending every dollar.


2) Student loan deferral

The bane of our generation’s existence – student loans. Yep, I got ‘em, and they’re the number one reason why I’ve sold myself out for the past 7 years. When you immediately say goodbye to $400-500 a month and get nothing in return… fuck, it’s a heavy weight to carry. I pay as much for rent as I pay for my education loans, and I’m one of those “smart” (generationally poor) people who went to community college for 2 years before I started accruing my debt at a university. So, fuck me.


Then, this pandemic happened. I was able to defer my student loans without consequences for a few months and my life got so much easier. At this point, my first payment will be due again in October. So, we’re talking at least $2000 I’m able to keep in my pocket. That’s huge. I’ve never been unaccountable for my loans before in my professional life. I saw this as my window of opportunity and I pounced.


If you’re really in a pinch (and there isn’t a global pandemic happening anymore), I think it might be worthwhile to just defer that shit. Your credit might take a hit… but dude, these days I’m thinking that’s better than your mental health getting dragged through the mud. Maybe it’s worth dropping your perfectionist tendencies and accepting a slower repayment rate. Hey, with any luck, student loans will be forgiven one day, anyways.


3) Insurance games

Health insurance is the other major stressor in my life. Thank god, my health is so much better than it used to be. I could get by without my prescriptions and survive, I don’t have any mysterious illnesses ravaging my body anymore, and I’m generally in better health than I was in my 20’s. Still, I’m not happy about the possibility of going for an extended period without healthcare backup. I’ll admit, I don’t have a great plan… but I was lucky enough to get a little extra time on my insurance coverage to get shit done.


My work agreed to cover my insurance through June, which means I’m stacking doctor’s appointments this coming month. It’s definitely not the best time, but if I can get this cavity filled and my yearly checkup accomplished, I’ll be set for a while until a new job comes up.

Is there an option using the government insurance marketplace? Yes, but in my experience, the plans cost too much to be viable. Looked into it many times before, tried to appeal their decision, and got nowhere. I can’t afford $300 a month for basic, terrible insurance. Next option.


In my experience, I’ve found it beneficial to visit the same doctor for a few years and establish a relationship with them. Then, if you’re honest about your upcoming life changes, they can sometimes help you out with longer prescriptions or cash discounts for services. I still go see my gynecologist in Illinois, even years after moving to Atlanta. Since then, they’ve seen me without insurance for a reasonable rate and written new prescriptions without unnecessary checkups a couple of times before. It’s a big help when basic healthcare seems out of reach.


4) Viable (though unideal) backup plan

Where can you go if shit really hits the fan? If you aren’t able to get a new job in time, if you have a disaster wipe out your savings, if your health necessitates keeping your insurance… then what?


For me, like I said, the backup plan is to rely on my cash savings. Then, I have a car payment I can unload. If everything fails, I have a 401k I can cash out (although the taxes would really suck).


Realistically, I just need to be able to cover my rent and portion of the bills through February, so my roomies don’t get fucked. Everything else is inconsequential. If I can keep enough money set aside to uphold my end of the lease agreement, I’ll be fine. I’m kindof lucky that I can go back to Illinois and live with my mom (albeit, as a depressed 30 years old living in her basement) and avoid additional expenses. That is my last-ditch plan, and lord, I hope it doesn’t get that bad. But I’m strangely open to whatever happens. At least I still won’t be as fucking miserable as I was for the last many years.


5) Unemployment, if it’s possible

My boss chose to take my report of workplace abuse / mental health debilitation as a letter of resignation (it wasn’t), so I’m not going to be getting any government money. I want to make that clear. It’s okay because I was prepared for it; unfortunately, everyone at work told me this is what would happen after seeing it themselves many times, and they were correct.


But, if you can figure out a way to fare better than I did, I recommend you take some free help until you can get back on your feet. I guess I could have agreed to come back to work and then simply neglected my job until they fired me so I could rake in those government bucks, but I’m incapable of deceit or work failure. I would have wound up guilting myself into working just as hard and gotten sucked right back into it. But hey, don’t let that stop you. My attempt to be honest about working conditions and respectful by discussing it like an adult backfired, so don’t follow in my footsteps if you need that cash.


Whether or not they want to, I’m guessing our government will have to shell out some more money to support the economy at some point, as well. I know $1200 doesn’t go a super long way, but if you can prepare now and expertly manage your money later, and you’d be surprised how far it’ll take you. (Again, I’m still waiting for my check, so don’t think I’m rolling in free dollars.)

Final thoughts

I seriously didn’t mean to write this; it’s been stewing under the surface for so long that I think I just blacked out while it wrote itself. I’ve wanted to discuss the continuation of trauma in toxic workplaces for a long time, because it is critically important to me the older I get, but I always felt like it was passing the trauma buck to talk about my ridiculous workplace situation and circumstances of entrapment. Together, we could commiserate, but that was the best I had to offer. I didn’t have answers, only observations, anger and hopelessness.

I guess I still don’t really have answers – just the perfect storm of unpredictable world events and newfound mental health from my recovery time during furlough to take the first step – but I can tell you, I don’t feel helpless anymore.


Even more so, I don’t feel like a fraud or an imposter recommending that anyone leaves their brutalizing job to spare their own brains (and lives) now, since I finally did it. This mental illness tradeoff was always clear to me, but I didn’t have the self-confidence or window of opportunity to get’er done until now… I certainly didn’t want anyone to beat themselves up for my ideals that I couldn’t follow through with.


I don’t know what your circumstances are, but if you’re regularly living days like the one I described at the top of this rant, I hope you can find a way to leave. It isn’t worth sacrificing your health, relationships, and ultimately your life.


Maybe it’ll take a while. Maybe you have to protect yourself with remote days and sacrificing your therapy appointments to bitch about work, first. Maybe take some time to build that savings account and come up with a backup plan. But if you know, deep down, that you’re sacrificing your own health (and life) for a stupid fucking job… please start working towards the end game.


I’ll be sure to let you know how it pans out for me!

Time to go work that second (now only) job where no one tries to personally ruin me, sexually harasses me, or throws shit at me.


It’s the simple things.





Hit me up anytime at traumatizedmotherfxckers.com if you have a terrible work story!

(or know of a non-abusive job opening for a responsible over-worker)

Traumatized Motherfxckers

Not doomed. Not damaged.

Not dead yet.

  • YouTube
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram

Atlanta, GA, USA

© 2023 by Woman PWR. Proudly created with Wix.comTerms of Use  |   Privacy Policy