"Career suicide is not so bad when you consider the alternative is suicide by career"

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I have a strange relationship with the London underground stations between Baker Street and Moorgate ~ I'm perfectly fine when I exit the stations though, with the exception of Barbican. Barbican is now a reminder, and a trigger, of a very dark time in my life, as it represents a time when I worked at a corporate events planning company as a project coordinator; I worked there for approximately five years on either a freelance or full-time basis.

It is the worst job experience I have ever had, and even 4 years after leaving that company, I still struggle with the complex trauma that happened for me during that time.


The "Good"

It was an incredible opportunity and a pretty decent beginning to a career in the events industry; I was well paid, I got to travel to beautiful new places and to work on special projects such as international football tournaments, summer concerts in beautiful parks, and private parties at venues like Christ the Redeemer.

By society's standards, I'd hit the jackpot; I was made. I was lucky, and I should love and embrace this opportunity. In reality, my intuition was telling me to "run" and to "do it soon", but another voice in my head was saying something very different:"Who leaves a well paid job in their chosen field, where you also get to travel and to work on international events such as the FIFA World Cup?! Nobody does that."


Setting up a private party on top of the Christ the Redeemer mountain (Corcovado) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil  



The Bad

The events industry is a stressful one. It has actually been referred to as "the fifth most stressful job". However, it wasn't the stress that made this job experience a traumatic one. What destroyed this experience was the people that I worked with and how they treated me and others who were more junior. Some of these colleagues really created quite a toxic environment.

They were mostly quite rude and blunt, but at other times what they were doing was clearly bullying. Some of the things I experienced included being regularly referred to as "eyebrows", it was explained to me that this was my nickname as I often raised my eyebrows when I was stressed. It was also often suggested that I go on strict diets and exercise more, in order to lose weight, which, as someone who struggles with disordered eating, made me feel very self-conscious. On various occasions, I was also told that I wasn't brazilian enough because I wasn't "flamboyant like other brazilians" and this really knocked my confidence as I have struggled with my identity my whole adult life; I was born in Brazil and moved to London, England, when I was eleven, and I have often felt like I don't belong here (England), nor there (Brazil), so it was difficult to hear suggestions that I wasn't "brazilian enough".

Certain colleagues would often get angry and become quite rude, which could be intimidating. In addition to these colleagues, our main client was a misogynist who would often hit on and flirt with the younger female staff, and referred to some of us as "babe". It was all getting to me; I felt irritable and exhausted, but I just told myself that I was being dramatic and that this behaviour was normal. It was very much an environment where questions and honesty were not welcome, so I didn't feel that I could bring up these concerns and emotions.

Working at the FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil  


The bullying and the stress only became more intense, and as I didn't talk about it, my struggles only worsened, like a disease left untreated. I ended up having panic attacks daily, and often hid in the office bathroom so I could cry and throw up from the anxiety. It got to a point where my depression and anxiety were so severe that I was dissociating; at times my mind would completely detach from my body. One day, as I left the office, at the end of a very long day, I walked straight into a busy main road and was struck by a motorcycle. I was so stressed that I dissociated and didn't even realise that I was walking towards oncoming traffic.

Eventually, I decided that I was going to leave the company when my contract came to an end. I mentioned this to my manager and was honest about how I wasn't feeling well mentally; "I need a break". I was told that others would frown upon my decision to quit, and that one of the directors had actually called me "flaky" already. I was then asked: "do you really want to leave like that?" and was advised to ask for more money and to stay on the job. The thought of being seen as flaky was too much for my people-pleasing self to live with, so I agreed to stay on. And I actually ended up with less money compared to my previous contract.


The Ugly

A few more months went by, and my anxiety only deteriorated, leaving my house to go to work filled me with such dread that I was contemplating suicide every single day. It got to a point where I wasn't sleeping anymore, and it became almost impossible to even just open my front door to leave the house. The thought of just standing outside was so petrifying that I just wanted something to kill me and end this torture. On weekdays, on my way to work, I'd get off the train at different stations as the train got closer to Barbican, where the office was; I didn't need to get off the train, I just felt this sudden urge to get off and to jump in front of another train. It's not that I wanted to kill myself, I just needed to end this torment, and I believed that the only way out was to die. Some mornings, I would find myself getting off the train at Baker Street and I'd simply stand on the platform, staring at the tracks and watching the trains go by (much like the photo at the top of this post). I'd slowly, step by step, walk closer and closer to the edge of the platform, and stare, urging myself to "JUMP" and saying things like: "When the next train approaches, you just need to jump in front of it; just a hop and it's all over. That's it."

Some mornings, I would get off at Great Portland Street station, other mornings I would get off at Euston Square, or at King's Cross or Farringdon; each day was a different station, and repeat. However, I always made it to Barbican, where that damned office was. Getting off the train at Barbican felt like I was walking myself to my own slaughter. I'd feel faint when my feet touched the Barbican platform. Everything would start to fade as I walked up the stairs towards the station exit, the world around me would fade some more as I touched the card reader on the barrier with my travel card, and the world would fade even further away as I walked out of the station and up the road towards the office. I'd walk up the stairs to the office door holding in the tears, and would often go straight into the bathroom to vomit and criticise myself for surviving yet again:"You can't even kill yourself! What are you good for?!"


One day, after my usual morning routine where I forced myself to get up and to go back to that office yet again, I ended up having a full on breakdown; a panic attack took over my whole body. I suddenly couldn't breathe and had no energy to move, and it lasted so long; I collapsed during the walk between my house and the local train station. After what felt like years of no air, I managed to reach for my mobile and speed dial my mum. Luckily, my house was only a short walk to the station and my mum came to pick me up and take me home. When I got back home, I collapsed on the sofa, curled up, held myself, and didn't move for hours.

My family contacted my work, and explained that I wouldn't be going in. After two weeks of hiding from the world ~ not even checking my phone ~ I managed to write an email to the directors and my manager explaining that I needed to resign as I needed to take care of my mental health. I actually thought I'd return eventually, but little did I know that, that was only the tip of the enormous iceberg that would sink my life as I knew it. This is where my journey with severe mental ill health really took off, and I was eventually diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). After a few more breakdowns, my life was forced to a halt and I immersed myself fully into therapy and recovery.


Me on another work trip. At the time this photo was taken, I was suicidal and had just had a panic attack. I was in Brazil working on the FIFA Confederations Cup - a dream job for many - and I fucking hated it 


The GENUINELY GOOD

I left that job 4 years ago, but the anxiety and sickness can still take over me whenever I approach any of the stations leading up to that office. As a result, I have done my best to avoid these stations.

But!

A few weeks ago, I was faced with that same route that I made almost every day to that office. And I was surprised that instead of panicking or feeling suicidal as I have done in the past, something was actually guiding me towards Barbican; it's like my inner goddess was saying "you are now strong enough to give this a try." I listened to it, and I went for it. Even though I hadn't been back there in years, I still felt quite emotional. It was difficult, I had flashbacks of the despair of going to that office and wanting to die so badly, it was if I was there the day before.

However!

This time, there was space between all those emotions and my reality. I was able to acknowledge those difficult emotions that were coming up for me and to calmly sit with them. I apologised to my past self for letting her go through that pain and torment. I reminded myself that I have a choice over what I do, and I will never have to go to that office again; I will never have to live like that again. Yes, the flashbacks and the intense emotions are difficult, but I have some control over how I deal with and cope now; I'm aware, I can self-soothe and carry on without the pain, and the distress and the torturous feelings. Now, I am able to feel and process, rather than suppress or internalise, or self-harm. And now I know that I have a choice; I don't have to put myself through that torture ever again.

I was even able to take pictures!

I am now, thanks to therapy, slowly separating Barbican, and all other stations leading up that office, from the trauma that was that job. I've decided to slowly return to visiting Barbican; I've always loved the Barbican Centre, but avoid it since I left that job. My plan is to return to Barbican to enjoy it and appreciate all it has to offer, with the hope that eventually the memory of that job will fade more and more, and that time of my life won't feel so traumatic.

I would love to go to Barbican one day and have no flashbacks and no fear, but I'm trying to manage my expecations as that may never happen; I'm certain that with time and distance it'll get easier to visit that area of London, but I doubt the trauma will completely fade.

I won't give up though, I'll continue the good fight, one step at a time. And I'll do it by being kind to myself.

I used to beat myself up for getting so emotional around Barbican, but now I understand that we can only process traumatic experiences once they no longer overwhelm us. So, please don't force yourself to face a place or someone or situation until you feel calmer and better prepated to do so. I'm only returning to Barbican, and its' neighbouring stations, now as I am more stable at the moment, and I feel ready to deal with the difficult intense emotions that come up for me. Be kind to yourself, always.


Barbican station, London


For a long time, I felt stupid for giving up the "amazing" job, but now I hug my dear self and apologise for not walking away from such a toxic situation sooner.

I watched a movie called Miss Sloane, a while back ~ it's a great watch, I highly recommend it ~ where a woman loses her "incredible" career by doing something drastic, on purpose. It's an awful situation, but by making the choise she makes, she frees herself of the torment of living a life that is killing her. Towards the end of the film, an ex colleague questions her decision, and she responds with these words:

"Career suicide is not so bad when you consider the alternative is suicide by career"
(Miss Sloane)

And that, my friends, is exactly how I feel. Whatever happens from now on, my health comes first; I'd rather kill the career than let the career kill me.


Barbican station, London

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