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Date published

5 December 2018

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How it all started

I have never thought of myself as having a disability let alone being discriminated. However, the words 'well i know you've got a lot of shit going on in your life, but....' stopped me in my tracks and as usual with fight or flight I freeze. Outwardly I'm frozen 'I'm fine it's all good', inside I'm in turmoil, purgatory, telling myself I'm in the wrong heaping on shame and guilt. From therein someone had spotted a weakness, used it to their advantage and honestly years of very clever bullying occurred which still has an effect on me today. So bullying is that discrimination? I believe so yes, I was made to feel abnormal, unworthy, mentally unfit and so much more. Mainly that it was my fault.

What I did to try to overcome it

I was unwell. Going through this, living through this and surviving took me to the equality act and description of disability. I am 46 and since a child have suffered with anxiety and depression. With the third ingredient stress added to the mix especially in situations like this. I have been on medication, CBT and other therapies for decades. For me without medication I cannot function at all, which was evident when I had to be weaned off one drug to begin another and one I do not wish to repeat. So yes I have a disability and I now check the box when asked do you consider yourself to have a disability? I went to senior management and discussed informally what was happening and eventually went through the formal grievance procedure siting bullying.

How it made me feel

I felt ashamed and terrified although I knew for my survival I had to do something. At my lowest points I did have suicidal thoughts. If nothing changes, nothing changes.

The outcome

The process I went through for the formal grievance was humiliating and so stressful. The times I said I wish I had never started it were many. Although guilt was admitted they were allowed back to work after a suspension with a note on their record that would be removed after 12 months of good behaviour. They were instructed not to approach me. On their first day back the door to the office swung open and they said 'I'm back!' with a smug look. I knew this wasn't over. Surely enough after a few months this person was back as my line manager even though I was promised this would not happen. I challenged HR for alternatives for my well-being and was given the ultimatum to work for them or resign. I could not afford to leave and why should I, I hadn't done anything wrong. So I persevered. To the detriment of my health. I was a wreck. My sickness level had grown so much that I was put on capability and occupational health were asked if I was up to the job. I was being put under pressure to leave. I stood up to a bully and they didn't like it. I was now being put through a formal capability procedure for my sickness absence. I tried to get support from OH and the Union for having a disability and was unsuccessful as they didn't think I did have a disability as I was not disabled. At the end of the procedure I wrote and read out a statement for the record that I felt I was being discriminated for having a disability. Also that in their own policy they stated that the formal procedure was not appropriate for individuals with a disability as it could be detrimental to their health. It was. It is. I was so broken the instigator offered me comfort at one point saying that I had done nothing wrong it was all them they were in the wrong, I shouldn't feel guilty. No apology mind. The damage had been done. A few months passed and a restructuring occurred where I jumped at the opportunity to remove myself from the environment within the same company. The day I moved was a day of pure joy, elation and freedom.

Final thoughts

I was persecuted for suffering with anxiety and depression. Some people may not agree that this is a disability or discrimination. I know how I feel, my own limitations and that each and every day is a struggle. I get comments now when I have a relapse about being off work ill just for being in a bad mood. Or why have I passed my years appraisal when I have been off for so long. Why do you get that or don't have to do that. I have had to go through hell and fight for reasonable adjustments to enable me to be able to remain in work and carry out my duties. People see them as perks. I say you can have them take them but you have to also take my ailments too so I can function like you do. It's bloody hard work. It's a fight even though it's a right. Where has human compassion gone? If I couldn't walk I'd be given a wheelchair? I know there are those much much worse off and that has got me through so many days when I have wanted to give in as a verbal slap. However, do not belittle yourself or your battles to get through the day as there are plenty out there to do that for you. So if you have reached this point after reading my words. Thank you. Thank you for sticking with it. We have to change the way we behave and in order to do that we have to talk and we have to listen. Be kind and considerate. No-one knows what someone has to go through unless you have stepped into their shoes. Lastly, be kind to you 💛

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Linda 10 December 2018

What a brilliant story. I so admire Victoria's strength and determination to carry on. People can lack understanding and be cruel - it does make you doubt yourself. Well done.

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