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Forums / Suicidal thoughts and self-harm / Toxic work environment and anxiety moving on.

Topic: Toxic work environment and anxiety moving on.

14 posts, 0 answered
  1. BeeKay
    BeeKay avatar
    9 posts
    13 January 2021


    Can toxic workplaces cause PTSD? What about grief?. I have been to see my GP and she thinks I'm Severely Stressed and have Anxiety, she's referred me to a psychologist for counselling.

    I've recently left a toxic workplace,- which was a tough decision during a pandemic- but my mental and physical health were deteriorating. I experienced multiple long episodes of burnout. The work environment would get better and I thought maybe I was just over thinking it or being too dramatic, but then I watched as colleague after colleague resigned before me.

    I'd applied for a few jobs whilst I was still employed, each interview went well up until I was asked the dreaded questions of 'why do you want to leave your current workplace?' and 'can we contact your current employer?'.

    So I resigned without a job lined up- scary- the last time i was unemployed and not studying was a long time ago.

    I've been applying for jobs, and I have interviews coming up (yay), however I've been experiencing self doubt, and thinking 'what if I do something wrong, what if I'm just walking into another bad situation'.

    Couple this with the 'why did you leave your last workplace' question and 'can we contact your previous employer?, and I'm reduced to an emotional mess. I've been crying on and off like a tap, sometimes I don't even notice I'm crying.

    This resigning thing was supposed to make me feel relieved that I don't have be there. I left lots of work for the few remaining employees to follow up, which makes me feel guilty, however I was not given the adequate time to wrap things up neatly, I was paid out for my notice period, and told not to come into work during this time.

    Friends have told me I need to stop letting it consume me and move on, and that I can't be picky about the next job, and just apply for everything, even if I don't want that particular role/job.

    But how do I do that when this organisation was my first job (my dream job) out of Uni and I have no other references? I've also been looking at a complete career change but find I need more qualifications which are expensive and I'm too highly qualified for govt fee assistance. I feel I'm still trapped in the toxicity even though I've left.

    I know there's not much anyone can do, it's just tough being in this situation, and I want to let anyone else experiencing a similar situation know that they are not alone.

    Beekay. x

  2. romantic_thi3f
    Community Champion
    • Outstanding members who have volunteered their time to support others here on the forums
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    romantic_thi3f avatar
    3151 posts
    14 January 2021 in reply to BeeKay

    Hi BeeKay,

    Thank you for your post and sharing what's been happening with you. It sounds like it's really tough and yet I believe that you did exactly what you needed to do for your own mental health.

    Although those questions may be awkward, I encourage you to try and reframe things a bit differently - emphasising all of the things you've learned, all the things you've achieved, and why this workplace is different and suits you (key:and them) better. When you're asked if they can contact your employer, you can reframe in a way of these other people know you/worked with you/managed you in a way your employer didn't.

    While it's totally not ideal finance-wise, you could also consider volunteering. This can be an excellent way to get the foot in the door going from no references to building up excellent references.

    Good luck and I hope things turn around for you.


  3. BeeKay
    BeeKay avatar
    9 posts
    14 January 2021 in reply to romantic_thi3f

    Hi romantic_thi3f,

    Thank you for your reply, and kind words.

    I have put an application in to become a crisis telephone counsellor, however, I need training before this and the dates for this years intake of training have not been organised yet. I love volunteering, in the past I've volunteered in Emergency Support Services- I'm thinking of volunteering there again.

    I have a job interview today, i'm nervous and not sure I'm a good fit for the role, but I'm going to give it my best. Even if I don't get the role, it's interview experience, the more I have the better I'll become at answering those tough questions.

    Fortunately, I am in a good place financially, so I don't have the stress of that, however, I am feeling uneasy being at home all day every day. It's only been two weeks since i resigned from my job, but it feels like its been two months!. I want to enjoy this time where I have all this extra time to do things I didn't have time for when I was working full-time, 5 days a week and spending my weekends cleaning my house. However I can't seem to relax, i keep thinking about the 'next thing' what I could or should be doing, and feeling guilty if I'm sitting in front the TV binge watching the Office (US).

    I thought I'd get back into reading and drawing, or get creative somehow because that's what i used to love doing, it's just that I can't relax enough to do it, thinking instead that I should be job hunting or cleaning, or exercising or looking at study options.

    I feel a little lost, like I'm not sure who I am outside of my work life.. and when I look at other jobs within my field of expertise I'm not really that interested anymore. I'm finding myself thinking more and more that maybe I should have stayed at my previous job and just pushed through, I just can't help thinking that maybe things would have got better. And then think why do i want to be back in a place that was harmful to me?, that doesn't make sense.

    I know it's going to take a bit to find my new path.. and things will work out. My current mantra is 'my current situation is not my permanent destination', which has been helping.

    it's my 30th birthday next week, and ive got a few coffee dates lined up with friends, so i'm trying to keep positive, and focus on the good things, and who knows my interview today might go well.

    Anyway, thank you for the ideas,

    BeeKay :)


  4. sunnyl20
    Valued Contributor
    • A special award for members who go above and beyond to support others here on the forums
    sunnyl20 avatar
    208 posts
    14 January 2021 in reply to BeeKay

    Hi Beekay,

    Thank you for sharing what has been happening for you and being so honest. I am really sorry to hear you are in a tough situation and that things are feeling difficult right now, it sounds like you have got a lot on your mind. While I can only imagine how difficult it would have been to leave your job during Covid, it sounds like the job was really taking a toll on you and that leaving was the best decision. Good on you for having the insight and courage to do what you needed to to look after yourself. It is easier said than done to "move on" and not let it consume you, especially when things did not end how you had hoped and when you were not given much opportunity to wrap up and handover to the remaining employees. But please know that you do not need to feel guilty.

    I would encourage you to think about and maybe write down the thoughts and worries that you are having around the upcoming interviews, writing them down can help organise your thoughts and also help you to challenge them and see them from a different perspective. E.g. "What if I'm just walking into another bad situation" - what is the worst that could happen? how likely are these things to occur? could it really be as bad as my previous workplace? is it not likely that it could be better (if not significantly better) than my previous workplace? maybe even writing up a list of why you are seeking new work opportunities and what you value.

    It may be helpful to remind yourself why prospective employers ask why you left your last workplace - they are not trying to catch you out or upset you, they usually just want to understand whether you decided to leave or were let go and the reasons behind this. Is it possible to reframe the reasons you left so as to only briefly mention any problem then shift the focus on to what you value and why you are interested in the company you are applying for?

    I hope that you find your sessions with the psychologist helpful and that they are able to provide you with the support that you need.

    Please do not hesitate to reach out on these forums as and when you feel up to it. We are here to listen. Take care.

    1 person found this helpful
  5. GregtheEgg
    GregtheEgg avatar
    7 posts
    16 January 2021 in reply to BeeKay

    Hi BeeKay,

    I firstly want to say congratulations for having the courage to leave a work environment that was unhealthy. It's very difficult to have that strength and I am really proud of you.

    I left a toxic workplace in January 2020. I was in a very similar position to you, my first proper job out of uni in an area that I really enjoyed but the environment was horrific. I would wake up every morning filled with dread. It's been a year and honestly and I still figuring it out. And after a lot of work I am actually ok with that.

    I used 2020 as a year to figure out what I want out of a job, and I would urge you to use the time you have now to do so. It is really helpful and will also assist you in looking for jobs. I also realised that finding the right work environment was crucial, more so than the actual job. I could then navigate through the workplace to find a job that I enjoy. That's my plan anyway.

    You will have moments of self-doubt and fear and that's normal, but remember you are so much better off away from a workplace that took such a significant toll on your health. Your mantra is fantastic and I hope that after a while you start to believe it, because, as cliche as it sounds, life is a journey.


    1 person found this helpful
  6. BeeKay
    BeeKay avatar
    9 posts
    16 January 2021 in reply to GregtheEgg

    Hi GregtheEgg,

    It's comforting to know I'm not the only one who has been through this.

    I had similar experiences to you, but it was really only during in 2020 that I woke up each morning and cried.

    I love a good brainstorming workshop, getting ideas and hearing everyone's perspective, I think I would make a great team leader, supervisor or manager one day.

    I think, reflecting on that, I realised my role became more and more restrictive to what I was able to have control over, I was feeling a sense of powerlessness in the amount of flexibility and autonomy. I couldn't be the forward thinking, team driven, collaborative, people focused person I know I am.

    Like you, I loved the overall objectives of my role, there were definitely parts of it that made me stay in it for so long. I also loved what the company stood for, it was an area of passion for me.

    What I've come to realise is that even if I did stay, and tried to push through, that it wouldn't have stopped there, there would always be something else.

    Perhaps I'm grieving the difference between what kind of support I wanted/needed and the reality of what support I received. I caught myself thinking 'if I just stayed, maybe it would have got better' or 'maybe if I did that thing differently x, y, z wouldn't have happened', but I don't actually know this to be 100% true.

    I had an interview this week that I think went well. There's another job I've applied for that I really hope I get an interview for!.

    I have my good and bad days, and I know it's going to take some time to process through it, especially as I still have colleagues from the company that I have remained friends with. They have been distant lately, I'm not sure if I want to know how things are going since I left, (If I'm honest, good or bad, it's not actually doing me any good to know).

    I think my friends from there will eventually drift apart, I don't hold any grudges against them for doing so, I do hope that things get better at the company for them. Not everyone has the option to leave and some people might enjoy the job, and that's ok too.

    I know I did the right thing for myself in the end, this might of been the push I needed to find something better.

    Thanks again,

    Beekay xx

    Ps. I now ask at interviews when they say "do you have any questions for us?" I say "can you please describe the team culture in three words"- I agree that company culture is everything.

  7. sunnyl20
    Valued Contributor
    • A special award for members who go above and beyond to support others here on the forums
    sunnyl20 avatar
    208 posts
    17 January 2021 in reply to BeeKay

    Hi Beekay,

    I am really glad to hear that you have been able to do some reflecting and by the sounds of it are doing a little better. It is really difficult to not think about what should and could have happened if things had been different, but I feel like you have been able to see that this is not helpful to dwell on for too long. I think having the ability to know what you value and want in a job is really useful and important. I really hope everything goes well with the applications and interviews and that you are able to find a better work environment that suits you.

    Take care, and please know you can chat on the forum if and when you feel like it. All the best BeeKay.

  8. romantic_thi3f
    Community Champion
    • Outstanding members who have volunteered their time to support others here on the forums
    • Life membership is awarded by beyondblue for providing outstanding peer support to the online community over a period of 3+ years.
    • A member of beyondblue's blueVoices community
    romantic_thi3f avatar
    3151 posts
    18 January 2021 in reply to BeeKay

    Hi BeeKay,

    Sorry that I missed this, I didn’t realise that you’d replied!
    Congratulations on the job interview! That’s wonderful news  I hope that you get it! You’ll have to let us know how you get on.
    I completely hear you with the uneasiness, and I’ve been out of work for a long time. For me it’s the total push of you ‘should’ and being productive, even though there’s nothing wrong at all if something gets done tomorrow or not today. What matters though is that you are job hunting and looking at your future- and even if that’s 5-10 minutes on seek that’s still enough. Also very important that you clarified The Office was the US version and not the UK version! hah
    With everything that you’re going through, you deserve to have those moments, even creativity can be good therapy – what creative things did you enjoy doing?
    What you’ve said does actually make sense- I think maybe there could be apart of you that liked the certainty – at least when you had your previous job you knew what you were up against? Where as now, it’s all a little unknown.
    I like your mantra! Do you have that displayed anywhere to remind you?
    If I haven’t missed it yet, happy 30th birthday! Sending you virtual cake or hugs or whichever you like – it’s virtual so you get to pick and choose!

  9. BeeKay
    BeeKay avatar
    9 posts
    18 January 2021 in reply to romantic_thi3f

    Hi rt,

    That's ok, people get busy and sometimes we miss things, I won't take it personally lol.

    The interview went well, although I'm not sure I will be successful, they were talking to me about other upcoming roles, which is still positive. Best thing is they didn't ask me any of the dreaded questions!, so I was able to avoid that awkwardness.

    I've applied for another job that closes at the end of this month, I got a notification that the employer has viewed my application, so here's hoping I get an interview.

    I've been looking on job sites almost every day. Today I saw a job advertised at my previous toxic workplace, and it instantly got me down. I've also had conversations with my colleagues from there today who have said that the workplace continues to be unjust and toxic. I feel for my friends who are still there going through all of that. And angers be that one or two individuals can potentially destroy a person's career, and don't mind stepping on other people to get ahead, even long after they have left the organisation themselves. So today I have been seething with anger at the injustice of that place.

    I have been trying to distract by cleaning, or organising, but I feel unproductive. I feel very tired also, so I've found myself zoning out several times today. I feel like my sleep routine is getting bad as well, I'm staying up late and waking up late, because I have nothing to get up for. I keep telling myself it's my body needing this sleep, and I'm understandably stressed, that I shouldn't be too hard on myself because hopefully I will have work again soon, and I will miss being able to stay up late and sleep into whenever I want.

    I used to sketch pictures of anything that inspired me, I loved that. I went shopping yesterday and looked at getting some new pencils, but I noticed having the thought "why? people do so much amazing stuff on the computer now days- why bother?". I know that's not helpful thinking, and I will try drawing again soon.

    I don't have that mantra hanging up anywhere, maybe that's what I can draw!. :)

    Thanks for the birthday wishes!. I choose both virtual hugs and cake (as long as it's chocolate and not sponge cake) lol.

    Thanks for your reply and support rt!.

    BeeKay x

  10. BeeKay
    BeeKay avatar
    9 posts
    18 January 2021 in reply to BeeKay
    Hi again,

    I didn't know how to add to my post so I'm replying to myself.

    So I haven't actually been honest with how I'm coping with all of this.

    I've been yo-yo-ing with my mood a lot. Trying to stay positive but I feel like I've completely messed up.

    I'm literally sitting on my bathroom floor crying. I've been having intrusive thoughts about suicide.. thinking about how.. but then feeling guilty..bc there are people who care.

    I'm so nervous that my previous work place will come at me with allegations considering everything that's happening there. I freak everytime I see an email notification or a call from a number I don't recognise.

    And how all this can impact my future. I just want it all to go away.

    I don't self harm because my threshold for physical pain is low, so I drink instead.

    I have a referral to see a counsellor but she hasnt returned my calls to book an appointment or anything. My GP has offered a low dose antidepressant if I want it, but warned me about all the side effects.

    All I want to do is move on and I can't. I'm going to forever be paying for the things that work place put me through.

  11. Sophie_M
    Community Moderator
    • Works for beyondblue moderating these forums
    Sophie_M avatar
    6623 posts
    18 January 2021 in reply to BeeKay
    Hi BeeKay,

    It sounds like you're in a dark place tonight. We're sorry to hear that you're having intrusive thoughts tonight. We can hear that you're wanting to move on from what has happened - we hope that you can be gentle with yourself in this process, as recovery from trauma can be a process that isn't always linear.

    It might be worth calling the counsellor again to get an appointment booked in, because it sounds like you need some support. Unfortunately it can take some chasing up sometimes. Alternatively, you can ask your GP for a referral to a different counsellor to see if that is more fruitful.

    However, please don't feel like you're alone in the meantime. There is always support available to you. It sounds like you're feeling really overwhelmed tonight and you're having some unhelpful thoughts as a result. It can help to talk it through with someone. In overwhelming moments you get in touch with our friends at Lifeline (13 11 14) or the Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467).

    If at any time you feel unable to stop yourself from acting on thoughts of suicide, this is an emergency and you need to contact 000 (triple zero).

    Thanks for opening up here BeeKay. Please remember that this is a safe space to share what you're really feeling.
  12. BeeKay
    BeeKay avatar
    9 posts
    18 January 2021 in reply to Sophie_M
    Hi Sophie,

    Sorry I'm still getting used to forum categories.

    I'm feeling a bit better now. I don't feel as heightened. Im about to make a cup of camomile tea and heat up my heat bag (as warmth comforts me) and then try to get some sleep.

    This keeps happening.. I'm not sure if they are anxiety attacks.

    I'm going to give the counsellor my GP referred me to another call tomorrow and if she doesn't contact me by Thursday I think I'll book back in with my GP.

    Thanks again.

  13. romantic_thi3f
    Community Champion
    • Outstanding members who have volunteered their time to support others here on the forums
    • Life membership is awarded by beyondblue for providing outstanding peer support to the online community over a period of 3+ years.
    • A member of beyondblue's blueVoices community
    romantic_thi3f avatar
    3151 posts
    19 January 2021 in reply to BeeKay

    Hi BeeKay,

    Thank you for your reply- and then for reaching out again and being honest with us. I really appreciate you coming forward with what's happening. When I'd been chatting with you I kinda had an inkling you might have been struggling more that you let on, so it's really good that you reached out to talk about it.

    I hear you with the job hunt. It is defeating. I hope that you know though that you are doing all of the right things, and you did do the right thing by leaving that workplace. They can advertise day after day and it won't make any of it right or okay. You will find a job. It's so hard but you will find one.

    I was thinking about your mantra, why did you end up choosing that one? Why does it resonate with you? Maybe the final destination could be worth thinking about more, to help with those thoughts of suicide but also to give you a reason to wake up. Pulling some of those good things together- the people who care about you, your ideal job or even artwork can help.

    You can get through this, I believe in you. Plus chocolate cake over sponge cake is also the best choice :)


    1 person found this helpful
  14. BeeKay
    BeeKay avatar
    9 posts
    21 January 2021 in reply to romantic_thi3f

    Hi rt,

    Thank you for your validating words.

    I got a call the other day to attend a third round interview. I'm still scared that something will occur which will mess it all up for me. Yesterday was the last day of my notice period for work. It was a bitter sweet day, just about everything made me want to cry and I felt very heavy like being wrapped in a weighted blanket all day. I spent the day with family members ,which was nice and distracted me. But it was hard.

    One of the people i used to work with texted me saying that the office felt weird with everyone gone (as most had resigned), and they wished things could just go back to normal- I felt that on a deep emotional level. I know if I had of stayed there I would have been caught up in all the allegations going on at the moment too, and it would have been 10x more stressful than the stress I'm feeling now about being unemployed. I certainly did the right thing getting out when I did, and I'm also sad that things cant go "back to normal".

    I've been listening to a book by Brene Brown called Rising Strong (she is so calming to listen to), which has helped me to develop some perspective about my current situation (I recommend reading/listening to it if you haven't already).

    I'm having some doubts about my ability to undertake the job I've been interviewing for. And today I took my cat to the cattery because I'm going on a trip soon, I don't like leaving her, so it was emotional. Then I get home to multiple messages from my ex-colleagues expressing their stress over the work situation, and their warnings that I might be called in for questioning. All I want to do is move on, I haven't been contacted yet, so I'm trying not to worry.

    .. and I can't stop thinking. I'm meant to be packing to go away, but I can't, I feel so on edge, to the point where I'll probably do nothing- because it all feels too overwhelming and draining, i feel like I'm doing an aerobic workout in my mind. The suicidal thoughts still pop up but not as intensely, tbh i've always had them for as long as I can remember, dating back to primary school, I've never spoken about it, and never acted on the thoughts.

    I haven't contacted my counsellor again yet, I feel like I've called too many times and I don't want to seem too pushy, and then it be awkward when I get sessions. I think I'm going to book back in with my GP when I get back from my trip, I'm thinking of giving medication a try as well as therapy.

    Beekay x

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