About a year ago I quit my job. I quit because I had to. I found working for the company that employed me extremely stressful, and it was not only affecting my ability to do my job but also ruining my personal life too. I was with the company 7 years before I finally quit. Not all of those years were stressful, I had some amazing times and I learnt so much, but on the whole it was a bad experience for me.
After I left I wrote a blog post about my time at the company (on a now deleted blog). In no part did i mention where the company was located, the name of the company or the names of anyone who worked there. I made sure it was unidentifiable (the only way you would know where it was was if you know me and you also worked there). I wrote, in an informal style, about my experience. Why did I do it? It was part of the healing process for me. I also wanted to share my experience of working within an Anthroposophical company with the world, as I felt at the time it was important for the outside world to know a little of the truth. Nothing I wrote was a lie, and it was all about MY experience and MY feelings.
To be honest, I never expected anyone to see it, I did not have many followers on that blog and not many visitors. Then, one day I see that the one post about about my previous work place has had over 100 views in 3 hours! Over the course of the day and the next few days the number went up and up. I wondered what the hell had happened, why so many people would be so interested in a tiny blog post about a place they couldn’t identify. Then I got to the truth. A friend of mine who still worked with the company had found the post and shared it with others who worked there, and they shared it and then more people shared it. To say they were not happy is a huge understatement! I spoke that day with the friend who had found the post and shared it. I later spoke with other people who still worked at the company about it. The general idea was that they thought I was wrong to post, even though no one could be identified, that I was a liar, that I was trying to ruin the company, that I couldn’t be trusted.
That one short blog post has ruined the majority of my relationships with my ex colleagues. Some stayed mad for just a few days, some still wont talk to me a year later, some I am back on normal terms with but I can tell something has changed and they do not trust me anymore.
The funniest thing about it was that the majority of the people who were mad or upset were actually the biggest gossips I have ever know, and would say pretty much what I was saying in my blog post but include names, spreading gossip to anyone who would listen. How can you be mad at me for writing an anonymous post when you tell the whole world everyone elses business?
After a while I deleted the blog. I knew what I had done could affect my future job prospects (and it may just be a coincidence but I haven’t been able to get a job since, and I am more than qualified for the jobs I have been applying for. But as I say, could just be coincidence). I also hated to see my friends upset. I could no longer visit the place I had previously worked, if I did I was met with hostility. You may wonder why I would want to visit, but I had some strong emotional connections with some of the people there which I wanted to keep.
So, a year on, do I still think I was right to post the blog post? Yes, 100% yes. It is my right to express my views freely, in any way I choose. I could of chosen to name names etc but I did not. Yes I have lost some connections and some good friends (or what I thought were good friends), but if they want to be so petty then I am better off without them. I spoke to a former colleague a few months ago and they said they thought it was brilliant I had done the post, and it was shame I had taken it down. They said it was stupid for people to have made a fuss because it was all true and they knew it!
I have to admit that the style I wrote the original blog post in could be described as over emotional or sensational. It was not my intention to write it that way, it was just how it came out. I was in a very bad place emotionally at the time, and maybe the way I wrote the post reflected that in some ways. Yes, at the time I was angry, I was bitter, I felt I had wasted 7 years of my life and had lost my sanity. I felt guilty that I had not done more to protect people. Do I still feel that way a year on? No. I still feel guilty that I didn’t do all I maybe could of done, but less guilty than I did before because I realise that I was not in a fir state of mind myself. I am not bitter or angry, I do not feel I wasted 7 years of my life. A lot has changed and my life is so much better. I still suffer with Depression and Anxiety, but its only been a year since I left and I am happy with how much I have improved.
So, I have decided to repost the offending post from a year ago, the post that ruined friendships forever because sometimes people are unable (or unwilling) to forgive, or to try and understand another persons point of view or why they hold that view.
So here it is, in all its glory.
Working in an alternate reality
Would you work for a company that believed that the best way to help someone was to “think of them surrounded in a ball of light before you go to bed”, that to choose a style of non-medical therapy for a vulnerable adult you must consider their facial features, bowel movement frequency and the coarseness of their hair, that epileptic seizures were bought about by being close to a Wi-Fi router or were the result of a person’s soul “incarnating”? I bet most of you would say I was talking rubbish, or that such companies do not exist, but I can assure you that they do because I worked for one for many years. And there is more, so much more, to this story then you would ever imagine.
When I first started working for this company I had no idea that I was stepping into what I now think of as an alternate reality. A reality where nothing makes sense and the normal rules do not apply. I have worked for various companies throughout my life, from big well known ones to small family owned businesses, and nothing has even taken over my life or transported me to a different world as much as this one.
The company provided both day side and residential care for adults with learning disabilities, and was funded by the government. Somehow, until very recently, they had managed to escape being properly regulated and inspected, and so could pretty much do whatever they liked with very minimal checks by social services. All staff were required to attend a weekly meeting, which is where I first discovered how far away from reality I had drifted. In these weekly meetings many things were discussed, some being quite normal for a staff meeting (such as covering shifts for people who were sick, informing us of new clients who would be joining us etc.)But the majority of the meetings were taken up with bizarre and, at times, unsettling discussions. Each meeting was started with either a religious verse about community or a form of what was termed “movement therapy”. Various topics discussed included way of working “spiritually”, how the government and social services were bad because they didn’t understand the “holistic” work we did, how non organic food was dangerous, how little money we had and that we, as a group, had to somehow fix this, as well as constant arguments that invoked personal issues people had with each other (that were never addressed properly because the management thought it was not their duty to try and resolve staff problems or stop workplace bullying ). But the strangest meetings were when we had “reviews” of our client’s progress. For my first “review” I turned up with 4 A4 pages of information that I had recorded about the client in question, made from the records I kept on each client’s progress and abilities ( which I did of my own accord as there was no record keeping procedure in place at that time ). It turned out I need not have bothered spending hours writing my review because it was not what was required. The client “review” consisted of all the staff (whether they worked with the client or not) sitting in a circle, at first with their eyes shut imagining the client. We would then all speak about the client in terms of their physical features, such as hair, size of chin and forehead, bowel movement frequency, how they walked, what their toes looked like etc. Then we would imagine them in a ball of light. Sometimes there was a brief discussion about what we all did with the client, and any problems we were having working with them (to which the solution was again to think of the client in a ball of light). That’s it. No written reviews, no plans of action, no sharing of factual information. Nothing. That first review was when I realised I had fallen down the rabbit hole and I was going to be stuck down there for a very long time.
How would you asses what task to give someone in a craft making workshop? Would you look at their face and make a judgment on what task was most beneficial to them based on the size of their chin? Would you decide they needed to sand down a piece of wood because they had a “weakness in the feeling realm”? Would you give them a rod and make them roll it up and down their arms in order to help bring their “3 higher bodies” back into alignment? No, neither would I, but that’s just a small selection of the ways this company assessed suitability for a task. They did, however, have a perfectly reasonable explanation for outsiders for all the unusual things they did, as they knew that their methods were not accepted in wider society. One example is that before every meal there had to be a “blessing”, where everyone would join hands around the table and “bless the meal”. This in itself isn’t that unusual, many people say a blessing before a meal. The unusual part was that when an outsider asked why people were forced to join in with a religious blessing (and yes, you had to take part, if not you were made to feel like you had done something worse than murder, and were generally seen as a troublemaker), they were told that it wasn’t a religious blessing, that it was “impulse control” designed to help our clients who had problems with impulsivity. This is not why a blessing was done, but it made it seem more acceptable to outsiders somehow. I just question why they had to lie, why not just do the blessing if you wish, and if people do not wish to take part then don’t force them. I do not bless meals, but if someone came to my house for dinner and wanted to bless their own food well then they are welcome to.
As if all the above isn’t strange enough, there was also the training days, which took place a few times a year. In these training days we were told more and more about the companies beliefs, which included such information that there are only 7 planets, that the moon makes people go crazy ( although it was put more eloquently than that of course ), that each day you should eat a set grain, that babies chose their parents, that non-believers could not be good people and that disability and illness were caused by either the soul not “incarnating” fully into the body or by acts committed in previous lives, amongst other information. Disagreement was frowned upon and scientific ideas dismissed. Sometimes we would spend an hour drawing random not linear shapes on pieces of paper, or humming and clapping. I did however receive some regular training that is mandatory in many organisation, such as first aid (provided by the Red Cross) and Food Hygiene (provided at a local college). I also received some Epilepsy training by an outside training provider on a day course, but what I was told about epilepsy by people in my organisation was very different. What to do in the event of a seizure was the same, but the causes were different, and included such causes as “watching too much TV”, “using a computer or mobile phone” and being near a Wi-Fi signal.
Ideas that are not generally accepted in wider society were widely accepted by people within my organisation. It was widely agreed that Wi-Fi and mobile phones caused many illnesses, that the government and GM food companies were trying to kill us with “chem trails”, fluoride and GM foods, that homeopathy was the best way to treat illness of any type, that doctors lied, that the pharmaceutical industry was universally bad, that materialism killed the soul and was the root of all the problems in society, that the only food you should eat is biodynamic ( basically grown by the cycles of the moon and using special preparations such as cow dung stuffed in a cows horn and buried for 6 months to infuse the dung with the cows life force). Pseudoscience was king and anyone who didn’t agree with them was made to look and feel like an idiot. Clients were taken to alternative medical practitioners, who by the way charge the earth for their time and products ( one client paid over £100 for a consolation and a pot of homeopathic pills, which contain no active ingredients and are just sugar, because she had a cold, and this was considered ok ).
There was also generalised fear and distrust of the “outside” world, and a general feeling of “keeping everything within the organisation”, that we were doing the right thing and everyone else was wrong or misguided. Of course, there were many good things that I experienced with the company. I learnt a lot about myself, I made a few very close friends (most of who have also left the organisation), and I enjoyed working with the clients and meeting new people. But after many years of being stuck down the rabbit hole in a crazy alternative universe I finally had to say goodbye. My mental health suffered greatly, not only due to the pressures of my job but also because of the lack of real training, lack of support, the constant bullying and mistreatment by other members of staff who did not like me because I did not believe as they did, the corruption at the very heart of the organisation and the general lack of openness to the outside world. My physical heath also suffered due to constant stress of working under such conditions and after 7 years of this my partner finally got through to me and convinced me to quit my job. I have never been happier now that I am free.
So, you are no doubt wondering why I stayed so long in a company that caused me so much trouble, a company that I didn’t agree with and that made me feel like I was in a different world (and not in a good way!). The answer is simple. Responsibility. I felt responsible for the vulnerable clients I worked with. I felt that if I quit that there would be no one there to monitor the situation, to help them and stand up for them. We were subtly encouraged to build close relationships with the clients, and like a fool I did build up relationships, I cared very deeply about each and every client I worked with, I still do. Whenever the topic of quitting came up I was manipulated into staying by the management, who would use my relationships with the clients against me to make me feel like I was abandoning them. I just couldn’t let go. But finally I have managed to let go, I realised that no matter what I do I can’t change anything, so there is no good in suffering anymore. It is very difficult to really express the utter despair of working within such an organisation when you don’t fit in and do not believe as they do. It would also be impossible to recount all the reasons I felt I was in an alternate reality, there are just too many and without going into detail about the company I cannot really put across just how insane it really was to work there. Of course, I might be wrong, and they might be right, but all the scientific evidence points to their beliefs being wrong. I guess the difference between the people who work within that company and myself is that I will change my views on something when presented with well researched and repeated evidence, they will not. The way they have come to believe what they do makes logical sense to them, even if it is illogical, but that is a topic for a different discussion.
I have finally climbed out the rabbit hole and planted my feet firmly on the ground of reality, and boy does it feel good!