June 6, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

I Am 56 Years Old and Have Been Bullied for the Past Five Years

Behind every strong person is a story that gave them no choice. This is my story of struggling with anxiety and my path to becoming a strong person.

I am a 56-year-old man who had worked in the same company for 15 years, making a nice living in a senior level position. I am happily married with three adult children and a growing number of grandchildren. Most people would look at me and say I have it all. And I do. Except what no one knew about until now is the endless bullying I was subjected to at work. For five years.

I saw the following description of a bully online: They disguise insults as jokes. They never take accountability for their actions, but will have no problem blaming others. They will say they want the best for you but will then work against you. Their words do not match their actions. They will put seeds of doubt in you disguised as concern. They will try to sabotage you, but then always have an excuse for everything.

This describes the treatment I received at my job, day in and day out, over a five-year period.

We had been working together for several years before the bullying started. I don’t know why I was his target but it also doesn’t matter. At first he was simply nasty and unhelpful. That happened several times a year, just enough to make it unpleasant but not enough that I thought it would continue. But over the next few years it happened more frequently. I was left anxious, shaken and not sure what I was doing wrong. I believed I must have been the problem. He capitalized on that self-doubt.

A couple of years ago my anxiety reached the point where it caused me to become short-tempered and unable to focus; it impacted my problem-solving skills. I began to have night sweats and body rashes and sought medical attention for both. The rashes went away with medication but the night sweats confused my doctor. He ran a number of tests, including a CT scan, and everything came back negative. He did not yet understand that my anxiety was the cause.

Things reached a point where I felt myself breaking down, so I requested a leave of absence from work, hoping that would solve the problem. Unfortunately, my bully also oversaw human resources; he said if the company found they could do without me during my leave they might end up firing me. More bullying, stress and anxiety. I did not take the leave of absence.

There were many other instances similar to this. It was all about control, disrespect and creating self-doubt.

About seven months ago, there was a turning point. My anxiety had reached a level at which it simply could not continue. At that time I had a terrible case of acne that needed to be treated with antibiotics and lotions. Over the next six weeks, I went through my work day and spent time with my family, with anxiety as a constant. I no longer found any pleasure in life the way I used to. Even spending time with my grandchildren did not change my mood. While I knew how I felt, I did not yet believe I needed to see a doctor or a therapist, or share this with anyone including my wife.

I had a friend at work who had recently gone through her own mental health struggles. After seeing me suffer in silence for two months, she asked me when I was going to speak to someone about what I was going through. I asked how she knew and she said it was obvious to her and that I needed to get help. I finally arranged to speak with my doctor, who put me on medication and recommended therapy. Over the next couple of months my medication dosage was increased four times, and the medication itself was switched several times as well. I was also prescribed a second medication to be taken as needed. It turned out that I needed to take it every day. Around that time I also started therapy.

I was now diagnosed with general anxiety disorder, on two medications and in therapy. Sadly, the bullying I had been subjected to was simply too much for me to handle. The things in life that I always enjoyed the most, or had been routine, I now found very difficult if not impossible to do. I now froze and shut down in extremely stressful situations. I lost the ability to think and problem-solve. That part of my brain simply stopped working.

I felt trapped, and believed I could not get another job and would continue to be triggered by my bully every time I saw him or we interacted.

While I was going through this journey I promised myself that I would do at least one thing every day to make myself better. I did not allow myself to give up. My one escape has always been going to the gym. Little did I know that the gym was about to save me.

I started working out a few days a week with someone new. Someone who worked hard and was having fun. Someone with the right attitude who would help distract me. I soon found out this person had also struggled with anxiety and ended up being an excellent support system for me.

Between the support I was getting from my friend at work and now my friend in the gym I had people who understood what I was going through. Both of them were there for me to learn from and lean on.

I became serious about finding a solution to being trapped at work. It wasn’t easy, but I decided to make a shift in my career. Not a complete change, but enough of one that would allow me to leave my job and remove myself from that toxic environment. There was another member at my gym who had his own company doing exactly what I was interested in. He is a very inspiring person, having overcome challenges in his life while always smiling and having a positive attitude. I spoke with him about changing my career, and without any hesitation he immediately mentored me on the steps I needed to take. While going through that process he then offered me a new job.

I had my way out. I had my path forward.

I left my old company and bully behind two months ago.

As I write this I am still on medication but I am now anxiety-free.

Anxiety is more common than people think. It doesn’t matter your age, gender or profession; it can attack you at any time. There are tools available to assist you. For those who are struggling and have received help, believe in yourself. You are stronger than you think, and you can overcome this. For those who are struggling and have not yet received help, I urge you to do so. It will change your life for the better. I guarantee it.

Anxiety is a wake-up call. It is a sign that your body is telling you it’s time for a change. I left my bully behind and changed careers. I am the happiest and strongest I have ever been. Behind every strong person there is a story that gave them no choice.

* At the author’s request, the byline is a pseudonym.

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