Me and The Lady

I’ve been watching Rebecca Zung lately again as I found her videos really informative. Rebecca Zung is an US divorce attorney and ‘narcissists negotiator’ as she calls herself. She seems to know a lot about narcissists, definitely much more than me, however, she’s focused on divorces and not on working with one so it’s hard to say what her advice would be.

I did say, when I just started blogging, if you are autistic and find yourself being targeted by narcissist at work, get out of there as soon as possible. I am wondering now, whether that is a good advice, as it only allows narcissists to get away, one more time, with their malicious practices. But then, after I found out what they are capable of, I would not feel comfortable to advice to anyone to stay and fight. We’re just not equipped to win this fight, unfortunately, and we need to remember that neurotypical people also loose in the fight against narcissists.

I never discussed the situation in Home Group in more details here (and I will not be emailing CEO or their customer service after I post this, as they’re clearly not bothered) so I’ll do that now.

The person who was giving me troubles was senior to me but she wasn’t a manager. I called her The Lady in my story and I’ll keep this nick name for her, as she indeed was a real lady, when she wanted to. She could, however, also play ‘the girl next door’ if she decided that would suit the situation better. That’s why, I think, it could be so difficult for people to pick up on her issues, as one just don’t expect someone who is so friendly and familiar to have nasty intentions.

As you may, or may not know, after a long period of feeling that I was being bullied but had no evidence, I left my job in Home Group and took them to employment tribunal. In the response to my claim Home Group stated that my autism diagnosis was delivered through AXA occupational health and it was them who organised it while in fact it was on NHS and they never got involved. How come that lie got as far as into official document for employment tribunal?

Nice, isn’t it?

NHS waiting time is normally really long but my appointment was brought forward when I made the diagnostic centre aware of my work situation and as a result I only waited three months. Bringing the appointment date forward was really not a good thing: not only it made me believe that diagnosis would protect me from bulling but also it made it easy to believe for other staff that my diagnosis must have been private, that’s why it was so quick.

When me and my diagnostician discussed my employment support plan she at some point emailed me almost ready version as a word document and I then forwarded it to my manager, just to give her something as she seemed really eager to solve the issues between me and The Lady. It was in May, as far as I remember, or possibly beginning of June. I now believe that word document was used to make it look like it was provided by AXA and The Lady made the manager do it. The manager was going to retire in September the same year so she was probably hoping to get away with it. And why she agreed for it in the first place? Believe me, The Lady could turn anyone’s life into hell, she could get tenants to give other staff trouble (that’s what Rebecca Zung calls flying monkeys) and those two knew each other outside of work too.

Obviously at the time I had no idea what was happening, I was just getting disappointed that the diagnosis was not a solution I was hoping it would be.

At some point I actually wanted to leave, but then a combination of factors made me decide to stay and fight for my rights. One, very important factor was the fact that I started feeling terribly sorry for my dad. He had mental health breakdown in his 50’s and never recovered. I believe the breakdown was caused by sensory issues – he was undiagnosed autistic and worked as a welder. Going on disability, however, didn’t bring him peace. I think it was because he never understood why he couldn’t do the things that were coming easily to others. I believe he’d be much better off if he was supported to find himself a job that he could actually do. I was getting angry with all those psychiatrists who saw him over the years and no one would ever suggest he was autistic, but then, psychiatrists at the time weren’t trained to look for it, and the thing was my dad was atypical autistic, a lot like me: cravig for social interactions, telling jokes and driving loads of attention to himself while in bigger group of people and yet not having even a single friend.

So my dad was just one of the factors, but there were other too. Around that time The Lady started talking about people who are unhappy at work and yet, they do not leave. They should leave, she woud say, and I knew she meant me. So I thought, I won’t leave. I’ll stay and I show her she shoud have not been starting that silly game with me.

Well…

To make myself looking like a desirable person in the team I contacted a couple of people within the company and as a result I wrote a short article about Asperger’s syndrome (that’s how I used to call it at the time) to the company magazine and I also gave a speech about it during our away day, in front like 100 people – all when I felt badly bullied and when I had to take antidepressants to survive.

The speech went well, however, and I had people congratulating me. The result? A few days later another manager that I used to get on well with and trusted her started being nasty to me. What caused it, I really don’t know. I can only imagine that it was The Lady who got it organised but what it was she said, I really don’t know.

As that was our area manager I doubt she was told my diagnosis was private, as she would have to authorise the payment for it, so I guess The Lady must have come up with something different for that particular occasion. It was all too much for me and I went off sick for a couple of weeks.

Rebecca Zung says in her videos that to make the narcissist stop doing nasty things to you, you need to hint that you’re ready to expose some uncomfortable truth about them. I didn’t watch her videos at the time, possibly they were not available yet as it was 2016, but the problem would still be, I didn’t have anything that I could expose about The Lady. We worked together for a few months only and, despite the fact she was very chatty and craving social interaction all the time, she was actually very private person, only telling you what she wanted you to know about her. There was no way I had anything to expose.

So that is my question for this post: to leave or to stay and fight? I’d advocate leaving and yet, I know it’s unfair.

Being off work – a little sum up

From what I remember, the last time I was actually at work was around the end of April, so it’s approximately 6 months now. Therefore I’d like to sum up this time here, not from the perspective of someone who can’t find a job (I did only start looking recently and received some job offers immediately) or someone who can’t pay the bills or put food on the table (most of my bills are paid by direct debit so that’s not an effort at all and I usually eat on the sofa) but from the perspective of an autistic person who managed to take time off and reflect on herself.

Initially, after I was suspended, but still employed, I took a bit of time to just rest. The year before I was suspended was a difficult one: in December 2019 I was sectioned while having a psychotic episode (a second one) and I spent a month in the hospital and then a few more weeks at home, first off sick, then working part time as a phased return. At the beginning of March 2020 I went to Poland to spend time with my family and that’s when Polish government introduced lockdown. It was all very stressful, while it was meant as a holiday before going back to work full time.

I managed to come back to the UK on one of the rescue flights a few days before I was initially planning to as staying there I was worried too much. I remember than when I was packing I got obsessed with taking all my belongings with me, like some acrylic paint that I was using to do art after recovering from my first psychosis, pijamas that was always there waiting for me to come over, some books I used to read in secondary school or even some not very elegant underwear. I ended up going back with two suitcases, not just one. I remember having that thought while packing that I’d never go back there… and that kind of turned out to be true. I went back there but things were never the same any more.

I came back to the UK, went to work, did like two or 3 shifts and my dad suddenly died. And I couldn’t go to the funeral.

I didn’t have good relationship with my dad at all but I was always telling myself that it’s due to his mental health problems and I really needed to see him that last time to say that I understand and forgive him and love him anyway and that was taken away from me, the same like his entire life.

In the meantime the UK introduced lockdown and all the services that I was intending to use to feel better, that finally were being available to me due to having history of two psychotic episodes (they were not available when I was just autistic) were starting to operate online instead of face to face and it didn’t agree with me. I also was unable to see The Boyfriend for several weeks.

In May I found out mum was taken to the hospital and from there to the care home, without asking her if that’s what she wanted or me what I thought about that. The care home staff was terrible and she was complaining of suicidal thoughts so when government in Poland suspended quarantine for people coming from abroad I went back and took mum out. I then quickly found out that there’s loads of money missing from her bank account. That was in the middle of August 2020.

Then mum and me decided she can’t stay in Poland so she’d come with me. My brother was drinking more severely than before and mum would be at risk of being hurt if she stayed there.

So at the beginning of September mum came with me and almost immediately wanted to go back. She would come into my bedroom on loads of mornings when I was meant to go to work to talk about how she’s worried about my brother and then I had to really rush in order not to be late. While my brother would call us and scream at her. Ten minutes after the phone call finished she’d say that she had a feeling that he changed. She was trying to control my spending and comment on clothes I was wearing and how I arranged my flat.

Rather plain reality

At the same time her bank completely ignored our complaints. At some point they actually changed the subject of complaint from ‘missing money’ into ‘poor customer service’. It wasn’t until I got the police involved that we finally felt someone is listening. Still, things were taking loads of time and we were asked to go there to give witness statement and, pandemic aside, when I was seeing how bank ignored us and our evidence for months, I started thinking that they’re all part of organised crime and when we go there, they’ll find us, kidnap and kill us to keep us quiet forever. It was reminding me the situation with Home Group – that was exactly subject of my delusions during my first psychotic episode (although it’s quite obvious that Home Group would like to keep me quiet, isn’t that right Mr Henderson?) and I started getting somehow paranoid.

Around the same time pharmacy (or maybe it was meds prescription service?) messed up my meds two months in a row so I’d decide to get off them as it was too stressful worrying if I’m going to get them on time…

I was off sick for three weeks around the time, certainly not enough, but then I had mum around the house moaning the entire time (well, I can’t really blame her for being stressed, it’s just that I didn’t know how to deal with that any more) so I just ended up going back to work. And that’s what happened… I ended up suspended and then fired. I’d never expected that’s what would happen to me, but it did.

So, first of all, I took some time to just do nothing and recuperate. Then, I wrote My Story. I’m glad I was off work when I did it as it needed a lot of focus to decide what details need to go into it, what needs to be left out. It took me two weeks to write it. If I was working at the same time I’d need probably like 6 months for that as my thinking process would be affected if I wouldn’t be able to fully focus on it.

Then I had this idea to start a website. At first it was meant to be very informative one and my personal experiences were meant to be left out. I wanted the website to be the a start of my own business – one where I’d be giving speeches to companies about my experience of employment with Home Group (at the time I still called them The Company) and it was meant to draw attention to workplace discrimination in relation to autism.

If you only just started reading now, I was employed by Home Group, harrased by a colleague, asked GP for autism diagnosis referral (that I earlier thought won’t be needed), got prioritised by the diagnostic centre due to my work situation but the diagnosis didn’t stop the harassment so I handed in my notice and took Home Group to employment tribunal where they claimed my diagnosis was private and they organised it through AXA occupational health! Seriously! That’s how bad workplace harassment can be if you’re on the spectrum.

A little bit of optimism.

So, as I was thinking, that was very important story for people to hear but knew that Home Group would likely try to stop me if I try to talk about it just like that so I was spending loads of time planning what to do about that. I was even trying to arrange for a legal advice but at the end decided not to proceed with it. Legal advice felt like I was going for a fight and that wasn’t my intention at all. My intention was to raise awareness.

So anyway, as I was thinking how to secure my right to talking openly about what happened to me in Home Group I realised I missed an important factor: if I approach businesses with my story, they may possibly want to pay for me to talk to their staff, at least initially, and I may be able to get my business going for a while but the end result won’t be what I was aiming for, it won’t be better understanding and inclusion for an autistic staff.

The end result will be that people in charge get that message accross: if you have an autistic employee taking you to employment tribunal you’d better check all the paper work five times!

That wasn’t what I was aiming for. What I was aiming for was understanding and inclusion and therefore possibly from this place in this post I should express that I’m ready to forgive (well, at least I’m trying) and that Mr Henderson can contact me through my psychiatric nurse (he was given her contact details once) if he wants to apologise.

However, I need to make it clear here, this is not something I can keep quiet about. As I already stated million times my aim is to raise the awareness. Being quiet won’t achieve that.

My social needs (plus a little digression about Home Group)

Believe me or not, the fact that I’m autistic doesn’t mean I have no social needs. I still want to be loved, appreciated, taken care of and have friends. My social needs may be lower than other people but I still have them. What is surprising though, is the fact that even though my social needs are lower than other people, I still have trouble meeting them.

I spent the weekend by myself again as on Saturday morning I got the text message regarding my coronavirus test from last week: there were some issues with how the tests were being handled and some people received false negative results. So I asked The Boyfriend if he wants to come and he said no. I mean, fair enough, better to be on the safe side especially as he has asthma but I don’t even remember the last time I saw him. Probably beginning of August, since that time I spent most of the time on my own. I even started missing my last job, I’d happily go there again, even if that meant dealing with all the politics that I used to hate so much.

I received the text about issues with covid tests as I was just queuing to the checkout in Polish shop, some of the food was meant for me and The Boyfriend date, yet, I did not panic at all, instantly deciding I’ll eat it during the next two days or so, that’s not a problem. So I could again confirm with myself that in fact I am quite flexible for an autistic person.

However, the next day, on Sunday, I had a situation where, once again, I had to admit to myself that I focus on obstacles a lot instead of on where I want to be. I had to repressurise my boiler and, honestly, it needed to be done a year ago. Well… it’s this type that needs a key to do that and for some reason the previous owners didn’t leave it for me.

More patterns. Patterns always calm me down.

So, last year, after I noticed that the pressure fell to zero I ordered the key online. When it arrived I watched a video of how to use it and panic completely. So I’d need to get on my knees to see what I’m doing as the mechanism I needed to use was at the very bottom of the boiler. And one of the bits needed to be turned ‘anticlockwise’. And what does anticlockwise actually mean if the part is placed horizontally?

I’m not doing it, I quickly decided. I found out online that boilers are not going to get broken if being used while pressure is low, they’re just ‘less efficient’. I wasn’t sure what that actually mean but I quickly decided I’d rather pay more for gas than deal with the issue.

This year, however, when I tried to use heating (and thank God, it’s still fairly warm outside) the radiators were barely warm on the same settings I always use. So I dug the key out of the kitchen cupboard and watched the video again.

It was all a bit stressful but I managed to do it on the second attempt. Together with watching the video it didn’t take me more than 10 minutes, and yet, I was still stressed an hour later, wondering why reputable boiler company came up with something like that instead of making it easy for the user.

I actually got stressed again now, while writing about it. That’s because I’m more focused on obstacles than on where I want to be.

But then, I’m thinking, I’m not always like that. Let’s take Home Group example: first I stayed in a job where I was being bullied, then I took them to tribunal and finally now, I write about them, and email The CEO, Mr Henderson, every time I mention Home Group on my blog. The Boyfriend was really worried they’ll take me to court for slander so I stopped discussing the issue with him (I hope he doesn’t read my blog) but I didn’t stop doing what I’m doing.

For some reason this image seems to really fit in here. I’m not quite sure why.

And I’m doing what I’m doing because I don’t want the same thing to happen to other people again. I’m not even quite sure how I’m going to achieve that but I keep putting myself through this stress: I’m really frightened of Home Group response. I’m frightened that one day they may in fact send me a letter and I’ll never open it. I keep remember how, at some point, every time I’ve got an email from the tribunal I had a panic attack (and actually why, it should be them who ought to be scared).

But I keep on keeping on. The obstacles don’t put me off at all. So sometimes I’m focused on obstacles more than on where I want to be but not every time. I’m not quite getting it.

So what is it that I want to achieve? I guess authorities to notice that the current approach to support for autistics is not really working. Telling us that harassment cannot be tolerated and that we should be making lists of every events that happened is not going to help us.

Who would believe that The Lady used to mention ‘slimy fish’ out of nowhere while looking straight into my eyes? But only when no one was around of course. With other people she was the perfect example of a professional. People like that can’t be fought with procedures, it’s never going to work.

Researching neurotypicals (me vs Home Group)

(For those of you who don’t already know Home Group is a large housing association with head office in Newcastle, UK, that I used to work for. They claimed in an official document that my autism diagnosis was private and they paid for it, while it was on NHS and they were never asked to get involved.)

I contacted an ex colleague from Home Group today. I’m not in touch with anybody from there except of him as I also know him from a different setting. He is a lovely chap and very fair, that’s why I was at some point very scared that he will be avoiding me due to whatever he heard about me, and I’m sure he heard something at the time, what must have been mostly made up.

And the thing is, why would I be scared? And why I kept quiet about it for, well… since 2017? Should we not talk about things like that openly so that they never happened to anybody else? I’m sure Mr Henderson, Home Group CEO, would agree with me on that.

Every time I mention Home Group on my blog I email Mr Henderson and he never replies. So I’m wondering, what is going to happen now? Would Home Group just keep quiet forever, possibly saying, if someone from outside ever asks, that they can’t comment on individual circumstances? But that wasn’t just my circumstance.

I had problem with a female colleague (I call her The Lady for the purpose of my story) and, as I started complaining, the things were getting worse and worse. I was asked on two occasions by managers from outside of my team, how I got the autism diagnosis and I said it was on NHS and on both of those occasions those managers pulled faces at me.

I have a feeling that Home Group doesn’t deserve this beautiful pink kitchen but well…

Later on I understood why: there were fabricated documents in my file stating that the diagnosis was done through AXA occupational health. But neither of them ever said anything so I had no chance to explain and protect myself.

So, if Home Group conduct couldn’t protect me from those type of practice, how can they protect their tenants? What guarantees we have that similar treatment will never happen to them? It may, because that’s how narcissists work. They don’t stop.

But does that mean I should now be scared? No, we should talk about those things openly, so that they will never happen again to anybody else, wouldn’t you agree Mr Henderson?

I’m wondering, again, what is going to happen. What if I allocated a day in a week when I write about Home Group and even give them a category on my blog, so that the posts were easy to find? How long is Mr Henderson going to keep quiet for?

The Boyfriend is really scared they will take me to court, but what for? They’d only make idiots out of themselves for that.

So what is going to happen if I continue? Let’s check. As a project, to research neurotypicals. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

‘The Company’

My post in Status quo about Home Group (aka The Company) is still up and I’m not psychotic. I only posted about it as I was under enormous stress, on one side I had my mum, the fraud, power of attorney and me trying to work out whether I should tell my mum that she will be paying for her care home from her own savings, on the other there were my emails to various organisations that didn’t get any response. And can I actually use the expression ‘on one side… on the other’ here? I think I’m translating directly from Polish, but never mind, I’m sure you know what I mean.

Mr Henderson (aka The CEO) didn’t contact me or my psychiatric nurse (I gave him the details several weeks ago). I guess he’s hoping no one reads my blog and quite frankly, he’s probably right.

That’s why I wanted to tell you once again, if you’re up against narcissistic colleague focus on looking for the way out.

Adventure park is full of kids today and their parents walk just outside my window! Good that I have the net curtain, it would be difficult without it.

It’s a really nice place in general.

Narcissist at work part 2

One of the first problems I realised having with The Lady was her desire to share everything, she even had a problem with the fact that I used to bring my own lactose free milk. She and the other lady in the office were sharing milk, and I should have joined them. It seemed that even the fact that I was lactose intolerant was seen by her as rejection.

If you ever see a similar reaction in someone, be very careful, it may be another narcissist.

Narcissist at work – part 1

I believe The Lady from my story was a narcissist. I also believe that narcissists are responsible for most of the bulling that autistic people experience, if not all of it. Narcissists need to feel they influence people around them and they use their social skills to do that, but because we don’t understand their cues, they can’t influence us.

I will be coming back to that but for now I will share one technique the lady started using at me when nothing else worked: she was making unusual statements that didn’t fit the conversation like for example ‘I know a lot of people’. I didn’t know what it meant at the time but I know now: she was warning me.

If you find yourself in similar situation don’t make the mistake I made and don’t fight the narcissist. You’re only going to lose even if it doesn’t make sense to you how that could happen. They’re extremely skillful manipulators and they do things you’d never come up with.

If you need someone to talk about your situation please email me and I’ll tell you what I really think. I’m independent so don’t need to be politically correct.

Workplace bullying

Not so long after I was diagnosed I set up a blog. I had loads of courage and commitment but was confused about what to write. I couldn’t talk about The Company as my case was in Employment Tribunal, and anyway, I didn’t know at the time they were going to claim my diagnosis was private so whatever I would say wouldn’t be anything interesting.

Now I can say with confidence this is what sometimes happens to autistic employees. Possibly most people wouldn’t be strong enough (and silly, let’s admit it) to go through all of those troubles to prove it. And I would not advise anyone to do that.

My honest advice is that if you find yourself in a similar situation you look for a way out.

Sometimes you really need to look for a way out

Diagnosis has no use to protect us from bullying. And with some people you just cannot win. That’s what the world needs to understand, and only then we can have some progress.

That’s what I want to tell you now: sometimes you need to step away and come back with a new perspective.

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