Being Stress Aware
Online with Jamie McAnsh
21st April 2020
Being Stress Aware
Stress, the word we seem to use so often in daily life but that has many different outcomes and meanings. I am stressed. You are stressing me out. Work is stressful. Life is stressful. All very common statements and all reasons for showing signs of stress. However, what is the difference between short term stress and long term stress?
With short term stress you may feel butterflies in your stomach, pain, or nausea, or might even vomit. Your appetite can change and you can have diarrhoea, constipation or heartburn. These are all signs of short term stress caused normally by a single event or an upcoming event.
Long term stress can lead to a full blown change in life. Normally caused by several things or it may be caused by one main event. There are often signs to this. And in fact Beverley Jones of Awaken Coaching wrote an eBook all about this very subject called “7 signs your not coping” you can find out more here.
It is true that stress is a powerful thing and can lead to so many other health issues.
My Struggle with Stress
My name is Jamie McAnsh, and, you would think that waking up one day paralysed would have caused me a fair amount of stress! Well, you would be right but in fact it was mainly short term stress. Not being able to shower the same way, not having the freedom I usually enjoyed and having to find a new way of living my life that had over night changed so dramatically. However, with each step of learning I found new ways of doing things and actually rather than stress for me it was frustration as well as learning to cope with the pain caused by CRPS.
The real stress came in a working environment, something that is all too common. I was working for a very large company that I can’t mention. However, my story is real and I can see no reason not to share it. I was bullied because I was a male member of staff for one, and secondly the individual had taken a disliking to me so used the system and company processes against me. Yes, this is harassment and it can be so damaging.
I have not spoken about this in great detail before in any of my blogs or in my talks but after nearly 2 years of leaving the job it feels like a good time to open up about what happened and how it made me feel. One day I was in work and I was called into the office. I knew almost everyone in my department and had great working relationships with my colleagues and would say that I was probably a fairly popular guy in the company. I was often asked for my advise on work related issues as I was also a qualified Union Representative. So, to be called into an office was not that uncommon. However, this day was very different.
I was told I was under investigation for sexual harassment against a female member of staff. My stomach hit the floor. I felt like I wanted to faint or be sick. I felt my body starting to shake as the accusations was read out to me and I could not believe my ears. This was in July of that year and the investigation continued through until a formal disciplinary hearing on December the 21st of that same year. During that time I was still in the working environment and still sat very close to the person who had made the accusation against me. In fact we were on the same team. I had requested to be moved several times but this had been denied.
Around September time I was in work and had taken to just keeping my head down. I had by this point stopped speaking to other members of staff and I simply went into work and did what I had to do and left. Well, on this day in September the young lady that had accused me of sexual harassment decided to sit next to me. I, of course chose the action to not speak to her and carry on with my daily tasks. The next day I was called back into an office and accused of harassing a witness.
This was dismissed and at that time I had requested to be put on suspension for my own safety. This request was refused and I was told to continue as normal. At this point I made the decision to go and see a doctor who without hesitation signed me off on the sick.
The 6 Main Signs I Was showing Of Stress
- Depression or anxiety. Lets start with anxiety. I felt like everyone was talking about me, like I was some kind of dirty person. I was being watched and forced out. I used to lock myself in the disabled toilet on my breaks so I felt safe and in fact I used to go in there to eat my lunch. The depression was a mixture of things for me and I honestly couldn’t see a way out. I knew I was innocent but I just couldn’t find a way to prove it. Over the time I just found myself sinking further and further into a black hole.
- Anger, irritability, or restlessness. I found I was lashing out on those around me, my family and mainly my wife. Even the slightest of things would irritate me and I think that I was working so hard during the day to keep hidden and out the way, bottling everything up that when I could I was just exploding.
- Feeling overwhelmed, unmotivated, or unfocused. During working hours I was so focused on the task ahead of keep a low profile that my own life literally went down hill. My relationship started to suffer and so did my own health. I would leave the office and burst into tears, I would then have to pull over in a quiet place to get a grip of myself before getting home.
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much. Constant worry would keep me awake all night and to be honest I was simply exhausted.
- Racing thoughts or constant worry. My mind never stopped. My heart rate was constantly high and every time I see a manager walk towards me or HR I felt like they were coming for me and my heart would feel like it was going to explode out of my chest.
- Problems with your memory or concentration. This was an area that actually effected me more than I realised. I was so busy concentrating on what was going on and what I was trying to deal with that my head space had no room for anything else. I simply lost sight.
The day I was Disciplined
Before I went into my hearing I had received my investigation report. The file was massive. 23 accusations of harassment. There was in fact only two actual accounts of what I was supposed to have done and 21 3rd part statements. The investigation was a witch hunt. The union knew it and so did I. But, that is what the company went with and during a 5 hour hearing we went through every page.
I supplied evidence that contradicted the statements and then was accused of other things like using emails for personal use. The case went on and I sat there. I was asked question after question and when I answered I was then accused of being to aggressive or being agitated or uncooperative. My union rep called an adjournment and we went outside for some fresh air. He said the statement I will never forget.
“Jamie you are going to loose you job today, there is no doubt about it. So my advice is go in there and kiss arse and hope you leave with some pride.”
I went back in and done exactly that. The hardest and most degrading thing I have ever done. I never lost my job that day. I was advised that I would receive a 18 month final written warning, my bonus would be stopped for 3 years, I was to have no contact with the members involved and I was to take the equality training.
I was then advised that I could return to work immediately. Of course I was still on the sick so that was not going to happen. I left the meeting and went outside and vomited. I swore that day that I would never be made to feel like that again.
Back To Work
Going back was hard. I had been put on a new team and I was instantly worried as the team was made up of mainly female members of staff. I continued to keep my head down and spoke very little to those around me. There was a few colleagues that knew the situation and supported me through that time and honestly I owe them so much.
A few months later the same person had accused me again and I had been put back through an investigation. It had been dismissed but for me the stress and pressure was still on. I went through a period of time where I would have an accusation of one thing or another most weeks. I was pushing my wheelchair too aggressively. I was too loud and distracting whilst on the phone and I was doing it to irritate others. The best one was the comments made about parking in disabled car park spaces.
As you can see it was relentless, my manager in the end started keeping a log and made sure it stopped. But I was feeling hounded everyday. I stopped getting involved with work activities and just went about what I was paid to do. I had bonded with my new team and so simply kept close to them and did not speak to anyone outside of that group.
As time went on things got better. Every time my manager put me forward for something though I was soon put back down in my place. Every job I applied for was blocked and basically I stayed where I was and lost all interest in the company. Then I got divorced, the strain of everything had been too much and from that I soon lost my home and pretty much everything I had worked for. Oh and then there was the Cancer.
The Story Came To A Head
Just as my time had come to an end and my 18 months was up I was feeling much happier without that dark cloud sat over me. I felt like I had been freed. I knew all along I was innocent but I had also lost the will to fight it. Now I was going to put it all behind me and get on with my life. And then, four days after I was taken into an office. I had been accused of sexual harassment. The same person.
This time I was calm and collected. I knew two things. Firstly, I was innocent and secondly I was not going through another investigation. I made that very clear and with it I walked out.
The investigation continued and I had been put on sick absence. Fair enough but I knew I would never go back. There was no way I was going through what I had gone through before.
I was asked back in for an interview, I accepted. Lets have my day in court as they say. I did not hold back. Last time I had everything to loose. This time I had nothing to loose and everything to gain. I had found my strength. I was better than this and I knew it.
The secret behind this crazy story is that I was not the first victim for this individual. I was the fifth. Probably not the last either. I had my moment, I left the manager lost for words. I had shown my strengths and put up the fight I wished I had done last time . He then said the best thing anyone had ever said to me to give me my perfect winning moment.
“Jamie we need to put our cards on the table”
I told him he was absolutely right. I took my ID cards off from around my neck and said; ‘here are my cards, here is the table. I quit!
The best feeling in the world and the best choice I have ever made.
I was left with this phobia of working alone with women that I held onto for well over a year. That was recently dealt with whilst on my NLP Practitioners course. I never want to work in that environment again . I never want to be made to feel like I had been made and there is no way that will ever happen. I am stronger now than I have ever been. I aim to talk openly about how these events effected me and I want other men to know they are not alone. I also want women to understand the effect of making accusations of this nature has on those around them.
I knew the signs of hitting high level depression. I am a survivor of suicide to prove that. If I had been a more vulnerable person through all of this I may not have got to the other side.
I am in a very happy place now. See No Bounds is jumping from strength to strength. As a motivational speaker I now help others going through tough times and I get to do a job I love. What more could I ask for.
- Never let anyone control your life. You are worth more than that.
- Be the person you are capable of being and show the world what you are made of.
- And as always if you fall remember to Get Back Up