“DO NOT TRUST UPPER MANAGEMENT-“
Is what everyone in my workplace (a school) tells me because they’re focused on the business side, the keeping-up-appearances side, the please-give-us-money side. Be friendly with them. Don’t hide things. But do NOT go into extreme detail.
So I don’t. I play by the rules set out. I talk to my colleagues who can be trusted, like my line manager, about all of the horrendous mess bouncing about in my brain. About how I’ve started self-harming again but I am trying so hard to stop. About how I fantasise about suicide but I am throwing myself into CBT to keep those thoughts at bay. About how bitterly low I am, numb from the inside out, but my job is the only thing that distracts me from the razor-sharp thought swarm waiting on the edge of my grey matter.
And they listen. They advise. They hug. They offer whatever support I need.
Then they filter what they have heard. Self-harming again becomes struggling with stress and negativity but working hard still. Suicidal thoughts become very low moods but she is maintaining therapy with a proactive approach. The numbness becomes a depressive relapse, but her job is still the most important thing to her and she can still do her job competently.
This is the way you have to present it. They do not need to know the gory details. But they need to know that I’m struggling just as much as they need to know that I’m receiving help. I divulged my depression in my job application. I attended occupational health assessments. But the reports only summarised how I feel because even they know that you only divulged what is necessary for a formal setting.
Then some complete dumbass (or two) had a great idea:
Let’s go tell the senior team all the things this girl has ever told us. In extreme detail.
These two guys were good friends of mine – or so I thought. When I told them about my depression, I expressly asked (before I explained anything) that they do not repeat it to upper management. I told them all about the support systems I have in the workplace already. I told them that they do not need to take that responsibility on themselves. I asked them nicely, then explained why.
However, after one of them and I fell out (this post just happened to be about them, surprise surprise: Don’t Perpetuate Bull), they decided to go to the highest of the high management (or upperest of the upper management). They told them everything. Everything I had ever said about how I felt, leaving out the promises that I would never do anything. Everything that had happened between myself and the one who hates me. Everything.
That thing you think surely they didn’t share? No, they shared that too.
And they didn’t even tell me. I found out a week later after being probed by human resources and upper management incessantly. My boss told me, when a little tipsy, and used a long line of expletives to describe the two lads.
The guys are my age, early 20s. They do not have much life experience. I understand that. It might have, I hope, come from a place of concern. A place of good intentions just poorly executed. It just as likely though may have come from a place of malice, happy to put my career at risk. Because one of them hates me and the other didn’t tell me anything, I actually don’t know. Instead I had spent a week so confused. Why was I being probed left, right and centre? Why had HR told me specifically that I’m not allowed to be friends with these guys and their friends? Why had I been told not to speak to any of them about my depression and instead pushed towards spilling my guts to HR with their notepad and cause for concern forms in hand?
It hurt. A lot.
My career is at risk now. They’re not sure how good I am for the prized business.
My contract is up for renewal. They seem far less enthused about my place here than they did last month.
But the worst part? My trust is broken. I’m retreating away from everyone. I’m taking what two people did and applying it to everyone. I’m so lonely and isolated, but I can’t bear to risk trusting someone. I finally did yesterday and they told me exactly who I can trust and talk to and exactly where I can shove whatever upper management say. But unfortunately, they also told me I can’t trust that those guys won’t share more. Or that the friend group they’re in, won’t pass things on to them. I have to guard myself, and my career.
I have to be all alone.