When I was a kid and up into my twenties I always had a reoccurring dream at night, once or twice a year, and then later every two to three years I had this one dream, that for my birthday or Christmas I got a type writer. Even when I had a computer already, I kept dreaming about getting a type writer. I always wrote with pen and paper since my early teenage years until I had a computer.
Then I fulfilled a dream I didn’t even have when I published a book of poetry a few years ago. And writing bi-lingual poems, lyrics, short monologues/dialogues, I interpret that dream as meaning that I would be writing. Even if I am not an established or professional writer and am not good enough for it, my passion has always been writing.
Little did I know that with certain circumstances this passion would turn into a mentally ill “obsession” that has harmed me and others unintentionally. I keep repeating myself in this blog and website, but not everyone has the time to sieve through all my posts on this site.
But a catalyst for this ill behaviour has been one email that has ripped my life apart. Other email incidences followed a few months after. Pretty much from the start of my trauma my workplace (Pret A Manger) was difficult. I was put on about 5 months of late shifts with few exceptions. My line manager would not give me rotating shifts after I requested. I could not be with friends for vital support as they were working in the mornings when I was off, and I was working in the evenings when they were off. I was under immense shock and on autopilot. I just functioned, my body was moving normally but my mind was frozen in a cloud of shock and grief. I realized only later after friends would comment on me working all the time, the amount of evening work I couldn’t handle anymore.
I requested to be transferred to another branch, but there my turmoil really started. I was communicated via email about small mistakes I made. I was repeatedly told off by a line manager in group emails, telling me off in front of others. I also found emails about me on the office computer blaming me for other people’s mistakes. Months later I applied for my file doing a full access request according to the Data Protection Act 1998. I applied for my file because I tried to understand why the bullying happened to me, and if a former manager may have written something negative in my file. I didn’t realize what volume my file had accumulated to and received probably around 1000-1500 pages of emails and different papers from my file. A lot of the papers were repeats which I sieved out leaving approx. 500 pages to read through.
I remember when I came back from a 4 week extended holiday having been with my family after a stressful grievance against my former line manager and still coming to terms about my brother I entered a new time of trauma. I went through 2 stressful grievances after being bullied by one line manager and his boss, but the hearing manager never acknowledged this as being bullying, as the company did not want this to count as bullying! I was emailed by a people business partner of HR who knew about my turmoil from the beginning, but was part of it later on, he informed me that my file was ready and if I want to come by HQ to pick it up or if I want them to send it.
I thought it weird that he asked me if I wanted to pick it up, but later I had a hunch why. I requested for it to be send. When the “file” arrived, it was a box with over 1000 pages. I later did write an email back to the PBP with my hunch that I understand he may have a laugh wanting me to carry a box full of papers across town! He had a laugh throughout as some of his conduct later showed. I was very vulnerable, constantly being irrational and nervous in anxiety. Some knew how to take advantage of it, especially this PBP from HR.
But I guess him having a laugh about the sheer size of my file would overwhelm me to give up not realizing that I am very detailed, a fast reader and spot small detail very easily. He must have thought that I’d give up, being too overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed alright, but the result of this is my speaking out in the open now.
It took a while to slowly go through all the papers, emails, files which took me a few months, as I interrupted and left it unattended in-between. But I entered into another traumatic period, reading some of the correspondence that confirmed to me the bullying situation. This was also the time where I started to drink increasingly, as I could not handle what I was reading and what was happening to me, and why.
I have a big couch in my living room and I spread the pages and emails all over my couch, table, floor, chairs trying to get rid of repeats, organizing chronologically and by name of sender/receiver, highlighting, taking notes… I became obsessed with putting a “story-line” together of what has happened to me. I remember talking about this with a therapist I had at that time and us trying to figure out how not to get consumed with this, as I was frantic about getting to the bottom of my ordeal. I did feel for the person who had the task to put all this together in HQ, but that person was not alone. I was.
In hindsight I can only describe the beginning, or rather already the progress, of mental illness in a similar way I saw in a movie once, but of course not to that extreme. The true story of John Nash, a mathematician from Princeton University, who wrote codes and all that brainy stuff. He became severely mentally ill, paranoid schizophrenic and would imagine things that he was employed by the U.S. government and secret service to crack codes of the Soviets. In his delusion he was convinced to have been employed to report back to the secret service. He would see codes in magazines, newspaper articles, cut them out seeing connections in them. He linked them together as if there were secret messages and codes in them to conspire against the U.S.
Russell Crow played the role of John Nash in “A Beautiful Mind”. Of course some things were a little dramatized for Hollywood, but there is a scene that I remember, that struck me when I look back in hindsight about my own “codes” and “connections”. The thousand or so papers of emails and files spread all across my living room for days and weeks going back and forth, I was going from shock to shock with messages and emails of backbiting and false accusations about me, scattered everywhere. But unlike Nash, the emails were real, the “conspiracy” and scheming in their communication was real and the emails became the basis for later grievances that I raised which were only partially substantiated to appease me to be quiet and stop my outcry and to “Pret-end” for a later potential Tribunal case that they supposedly cared. In reality I was being placed constantly under poor and controlling management. But the emails spread all over my living room later reminded me of a scene from “A Beautiful Mind”.
Once I organized and got a good overview, I meticulously scanned and catalogued it all and shredded everything, as I felt I would not survive this and didn’t want any hard-copies left behind. But since then I have passed the data on to several people in case I don’t survive this. Some of the emails led me to raise grievances against leaders, including the PBP, who worked together against me where I was labeled a “drama queen” by one manager when I told her about my brother’s death. Or I could see HR’s involvement in my turmoil etc.
But I am beyond fear now and am talking about my ordeal. And this was a huge shift and push towards very ill emailing conduct I entered into. I was already emailing, but not like the amount I would get into later when it became so out of hand, that even when I tried to stop it later I couldn’t. It gotten worse of course when I drank, but even when I didn’t I emailed, not as inappropriate when having drunk something, but I couldn’t stop. I would write to Pret, to friends, counselors, online bereavement groups, even British Gas got a load after a problem with the gas payment getting through…
I tried to have measures in place to stop, would unplug my wifi and take the cables off, dismantle my phones, even locked it away in my living room and threw they key into a cluttered cupboard, hard to find in a drunken stupor… And towards the end even write on my wall just to avoid emailing! I used to be so ashamed of it, and I still am, but I never ever imagined I would become so ill and “crazy”.
This is why I am so appalled that the CEO of Pret called me his “late night girl” just two months before I got dismissed for it, because of emails late at night to everybody’s work email. Him making light of something I tried so hard to stop and him knowing that I had received a disciplinary for it. Or receiving this disciplinary from a development manager from HQ for my emailing but then her entering into (un-allowed) contact with me due to her similar loss. That contact was solely electronic (text & email) which I wanted to get away from and which was part of my dismissal. Being gaslighted by HR through her I write about extensively in other blog entries.
I still look at this and cannot believe it, if I won’t have all this in writing how they have taken me for a ride. I filed a Tribunal claim but withdrew as I cannot cope mentally with the complex and long case not having a lawyer. I decided to write about it, even if this means legal consequences. I suffered too long and too much.
What is so beautiful about John Nash’s story is, that his wife stuck with him throughout all these terrible years of his illness, even while they were divorced and later remarried again. After many years of illness and being out of a job, Nash improved and later in life even received a Nobel Prize in Science. He and his wife died together in a car crash in old age in 2015! Life writes a script sometimes that is beyond inspirational.
I won’t receive a Nobel Prize in Literature for my emailing, but I have the hope that I can recuperate from my ill behaviour, trauma and grief, and maybe fulfill that dream I had throughout the years of a typewriter, and write in a normal and constructive way again.
I was gobsmacked to learn just recently that another person has sent inappropriate emails to her employers, got dismissed, went to court, and won. But I have no mental strength to go through with my court claim. And if Pret want to sue me for writing publicly, I won’t stop them.
Thank you for reading.
Late Night Girl
I worked at Pret A Manger and survived systemic workplace bullying during bereavement that involved HR, the top leadership, HQ and even the now “retired” former CEO Clive Schlee. I declined 4 settlement offers if I am silent about my ordeal. But I rather starve and speak out to help others. For an overview of important blog entries of my experience with Pret, please visit “My Ordeal with Pret A Manger”. The little arrow to the right next to each heading will lead directly to the post.
I tell my story for the first time verbally in below audio player interview on a podcast by The Adam Paradox, and wrote an article in the Scottish Left Review.
Thank you for reading/listening.
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