Sunday, September 11, 2011

Living with depression. What workplace bullying did to me.

I am not a clinical expert on depression. I am a sufferer.

For decades, I operated my own I.T. Company, and I was successful. Remember the Keating recession and his banana republic comment?

Interest rates up around 20 percent, businesses going bust, families destroyed.

When that recession hit me, my monthly turnover plummeted to depths further down than my breakeven point. Those were terrible times.

Yet, I managed to get through that period. Words such as depression, stress, and anxiety never really meant anything to me.

And despite the fact I single-handedly lost our family home, as a family we all popped out the other end fit and healthy.

In 1999, I was asked to sort out some I.T. issues at the Office of the Public Trustee. A one-month assignment evolved into an 18-month stay when eventually I was offered a full-time position.

Having already been in the public service back in the 70s, I was a bit hesitant at accepting, but after decades of self-employment thought, what the hell. No more business to worry about.

Besides, things were getting tough in the I.T. industry, with younger folk popping up offering their services for bugger all. Writing on the wall? Possibly.

I took the job. The beginning of my woes.

During my years of whistleblowing, I was certainly subjected to intense victimisation, both direct and indirect.

I will never forget the day that something came over me, something I had never felt before. Unknown to me then, it marked the beginning of years of depression.

I was losing sleep and enduring night sweats. Slowly I became reclusive and cowered away from the company of others. Other strange symptoms added themselves to an ever-lengthening list.

Every morning as I approached the bus to go to work in town, I would vomit. Every, bloody morning.

I would have to get off quickly and walk around the bus station until the feeling passed.

Talking with people, close up, proved very difficult. The longer the conversation persisted, the more nauseous I felt. Then the dry retching would start.


Eventually I did go to the doctor, and he spoke about serotonin. Told me I had some chemical cock-up in my brain and that medication would restore the balance.

The first lot of meds turned me into a zombie. The second lot had me detached from reality. Bizarre is the only word I can use.

I told my doctor to forget the meds. I intended to battle my depression by attacking the stressors. Logic was trout slapping me in the face telling me that to remove the effect I had to remove the cause. Sounded good to me anyway.

Having said that, evidence overwhelmingly confirms that medication does work. You just got to find the one that is right for you. I  didn't bother. Maybe I should have.

It took years of fighting to get rid of those stressors, and I did. But, they were only replaced by others.

One of those stressors was myself.

Some people find it easy to forgive and forget. Unfortunately, not me. Despite the work of psychiatrists and psychologists, the hatred I have built-up over the years, toward my former employer, the state government and its public service, slowly eats away at me.

When many investigations and a Parliamentary Inquiry showered me with vindication, and with the high-ranking bully out of the service, I waited to return to my job as a Systems Administrator at Public Trustee. I even had a letter from the CEO guaranteeing my position would be protected whilst I was away on special leave.

Pages 65 and 66 address my issues.

Parliamentary Inquiry Findings PDF file

But no. Despite all the accolades and the vindications, the Attorney-General’s department declared my position null and void. I was not wanted. How can I put it...they shoved it up me!

If you had nearly 30 years experience in I.T. and was told they could not find any work for you within the entire public service, would you trust them? Feel angry? By another whistleblower, I was told the department could not find anyone game to take me on. I was also told they wanted rid of me.

All I did was stand up for the rights of others and me. We do not need workplace bullies, or sexual harassers, or those that gratuitously use the money of others as though it was their own.

I had never done anything like that before. Whistleblowing.

Premier Rann did not want to know. Attorney-General Atkinson did not want to know. The CEO of the Public Trustee, who decided to suddenly 'leave', couldn't stand the sight of me.

I was pissing in the wind for years. I was a pain in in all the wrong places.

Taking Public Trustee to court had to happen. I hung the dirty clothes out in public. But later, after another few years of trying to get them to take action against corruption, my appearance on Today Tonight gave them all they needed to push me out.

McKibbin V South Australia (Public Trustee)

I had dobbed them in. Shamed them.

I have now been suffering from forms of depression on and off for 9 years.

It did go away for a while when I found myself as the Acting I.T. Manager at Consumer Affairs for a couple of years. But, it returned with a vengenace when that assignment ended and they sent me home again.

Oh. And the government had no part in that assignment. I stumbled across it myself when calling around looking for opportunity amongst my contacts.

By mid-2007 I was back in the pit patting the black dog.

I joined the ranks of the unemployed in September of 2008. Had no choice. Had I stayed in my employer's playground, I am certain my years on this earth would have been numbered.

I took a Workcover payout. And believe me, it doesn't go far!

Unemployment for the past 3 years has been beyond terrible. You want to try attending an interview only to find yourself throwing-up as you enter the room?

If I could go back in time, and be told I would one day suffer from depression, I would not believe it.

It just took me over. I had no say in it.

I now live in a vicious cycle. Still looking for work to support my family. The closer I get to one, the more ugly the symptoms become. Even popping an anti-nausea pill does jack squat!

Recently on 5AA, in response to an interview with politician Andrew Robb about his depression, a subsequent caller spoke of the day she entertained ending it all.

I had that day too. It was bizarre. I remember the feeling. It was as though a huge weight had been taken off my shoulders as I contemplated how to do it, not should I do it.

Thank god it was a one-off and I came to my senses. But, I do understand why others consider it, and do it.

Yes, this is a morbid post. Unfortunately, these are facts.

I do my best from day to day. I look for work. I worry like hell if I score an interview.

How do I explain away my three-year absence from the workforce? How do I answer questions whilst battling waves of nausea that get more intense with time.

I definitely keep away from crowds. I worry if I am asked to go to someone’s house for dinner. I am embarrassed by my symptoms.

I remember that fateful day at Public Trustee when I complained about my Manager for constantly rubbing his groin in the office. That is when my nightmare began. March of 2001. All management had to do was...well, do something, anything. But, they did not.

I do not know why I am sharing this story so publically. No doubt, there will be derisive thoughts and comments. However, I do not care. Would swap that for this damn illness any day of the week.

Unless you have suffered yourself, you will not pick it. We do hide it well. But, rest assured, there are many like me out there.

I would be remiss not to plug Beyondblue. This organisation, and the people behind it, has been doing amazing work in our communities to address illnesses such as depression. To let us know that we are not alone, that there is hope and help.

The site is a goldmine of information, particularly for inspiring stories of recovery.

Check out the web site. You can access videos, books, etc. All gratis. This is a place I get inspiration from, besides help.

You are not alone.


Janet said...

Rob. I so relate to your story. I know because I suffer as well. I dont tell people I have depression I am afraid to. I am bullied in my department and nothing gets done. I am afraid to make it an issue. He is the boss. I am getting sicker each day that passes. I read your court decision where the judge says you should never have to leave your job. But that is what they did here with another victim of his bullying. I like my job, I dont want to lose it. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Regards Janet.

Anonymous said...

Great courage rob. Im not very sick but the bullying here is just out of control and nobody in management gives a shit. Im in the public service in town. How can you go to management to complain when he is management. good luck rob.


\\\ John says:
I wish you well Rob; I wish you well ...

I too know full-well myself the dreaded DARKNESS that was often my companion also, over many long long years.

I admire people like yourself who have a voice & have the bravery to raise your voice when all others are silenced by timidity.

I wish you well. ///

Christine said...

Hello Rob. I agree with John. It is very difficult to open up and share the story. I have followed you for years now and you inspire me. You stood up for not only yourself but also for your workmates. Though they were nowhere to be seen when you were hung out to dry. That's life unfortunately. What goes around comes around. At least you are out there and I am amazed how you continue to help others with their workplace problems. Hang in there Rob something good will come to you one day. xx

Anonymous said...

Another example of management that does not give a shit. They might have all the fancy policies but actions speak louder than words. Great blog mate. Keep up the great work.

Anonymous said...

Im still in PT Rob. Majority here have nothing but admiration for what you achieved. You got rid of him. Life here is so much better thanks to your efforts and obviously your very personal sacrifice. There are some who still despise you. But they are the bullies mate and still ply their trade. But at least the king of bullying is gone. Thank you.

NOVA_Sue said...

Rob, you are not alone, and you are very much loved. You are so incredibly brave, and look at how much you sacrificed for WHAT IS RIGHT. That is what kills me.

hugs and blessings dearest,


Anonymous said...

It sounds like you are in a holding pattern with your mental state and that you can't make the triggers budge. Have a look into a person called Reg Chapman (Life Coach, NLP Consultant and NLP Trainer). There's nothing flakey - he's very professional and seems to make a difference.

streesed out in SAGovt said...

Hello Robert. I also suffer from depression and anxiety. Mine came about after being bullied at work for many months. I think like you nothing was done because the man is an executive. Our union the PSA has been useless. Few of us went to human resources but they report to him. The woman told us she would have to go outside of the department and that would be really difficult to do. I saw your letter in a paper recently. you are right, nothing has changed even after the publicity of your Public trustee dramas that were easily noticed from where we sit. Good luk Robert and look after yourself. They threw you out to dry. I cant afford for that to happen to me.

close to the crap said...

Robbo. Keep peddling mate. I know some in here that are sick of your rants. A few amongst many. You keep going Rob and glad to hear you have kept your court action alive. B.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this, Rob, my thoughts are with you. Reading parts of your narrative felt like you wrote about mine ... what happened to you happens so often ... it is a social disease maintained by injustice, closed management systems, and power plays that are aimed at sustaining and hiding incompetence (all this in an 'open society' lol!). The harm done to you is a direct consequence of injustice; from your narrative, it is obvious that you are an ethical person, a courageous person, and a conscientuous person. You ARE a better person, despite the depression and anxiety. Those that have harmed you through their actions and inactions are a sorry example of quasi-humanity, that is, they are incapable of moral and just thought.
A little while back someone pointed me to this statement by Elie Wiesel from his Nobel Prize acceptance lecture: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest”
I found Wiesel's lecture about his life narrative and journey, and his philosophy of justice, very moving and somehow soothing - and I often return to it:

Take care Rob, and thanks once again for sharing...

adelcomp said...

ANON. 11.17am
Thank you for your kind remarks.
I have had many direct emails saying much the same. A sad indictment, as all of those people are citing workplace bullying as the cause of their woes.
I do thank you for including the Wiesel quote. I have added it to my Email signature, and to my FB profile.

Sally said...

Hello Robert. As I read your story I was amazed at how much it is like mine for the depression. I hate going to work. as you did I get sick the closer I get to the building. But what do you do. You did what you thought was right and you ended up unemployed after years of heartache. That so scares me. as a single mum I cant take the chance. God bless you.

Anonymous said...

Rob you are admired as the not so silent Knight and feared by those who know what they did Changing of the Guard imposed by the AGD seems to have brought in "sons and daughters" of the one you got rid of I have been told. real problem is the one in charge in Pirie Street that keeps on choosing these same types of bullies.And for those monitoring the blog do you honestly think any of us past and presnet would ever use our own names? Never. For goodness sake if you are going to use one of your colleagues names think again and choose something more obscure? Or it intentional to try put blame to those that have not posted here? I find it malicious and mischief making to choose a name when there is only one or a couple officers called that name, except its known that name would never post here Even worse when they photo shop part of someone else's face. Seeing as it is well known that person would never post here. It borders on maliciously trying to get someone people into trouble. Its not your problem Rob but it tells you that the ones that want to hurt are still making mischeif I dont bother to go to the retired party and I bet you dont either? my invitation to last years retired officers must still be in the post no loss as I have better things to do than talk to the usual retired bullies that always get invited to that bash

Anonymous said...

the post by Anonymous October 3, 2011 at 1:50 PM is accurate in every way, especially the malicious behaviour, probably by the usual known bullies, to try to cause harm to those who do not post here, but have just cause to post here. They know they still try to bully. And Mr Rau staggered me with his comments recently about trying to bring in legislation to give support to whistle blowers. Hypocrite is Rau. Too little too late Rau. Robbie you are still admired Robbie, only the bullies don't want you ever mentioned.