When I was 28 years old I worked in one of the most toxic environments you can imagine. I was a prison guard at an all male pc (protective custody) institution. (I started at age 22 in an all male maximum security prison…yup just a kid).
I was surrounded by misogynistic assholes who thought they knew better, could do better, and of course by default…were better. Those were my co-workers.
The cons, as we called them in those days (now they say inmates), were simply a necessary evil for the job. It was some of the male staff that made the job not only difficult at times, but also uncomfortable and definitely unprofessional.
So take that environment, couple it with a toxic relationship where I was not getting what I required from the other person, and you end up with an unhappy Faye. Yup. That was me.
What I had on my side was smarts!
You see many people get trapped into a job to a point of no return–or so they think.
When I worked in the correctional system there was no “Me Too” or even an acknowledgement of inequality. You were there to do a job and if you couldn’t take the harassment, teasing, and innuendo, then you best get the hell out because there was no support coming from management or anyone else.
So here’s the thing. Old guys, stuck in their ways were what we called Lifers. They’d be there forever.
Well, not me.
I think it was my personal relationship that broke me actually. I knew it was unhealthy and I needed out but it was difficult to break away. Knowing and acknowledging are the first steps in making a change.
Because I had my degree from university, I had the advantage of a lot of open doors and I chose to actually walk through one.
I had no problem working amongst rapists, murderers, and the prison population low-lifes, but quitting and moving on was probably one of the most difficult decisions I made. The security of the pay cheque was gone and the future was unknown.
Now, being smart like I am, I did have a plan. I applied and interviewed several times for a teaching position in Japan.
No, I didn’t have a “teaching” degree but I had the gift of gab and enough flair to take on the job. Smarts, I tell ya.
Yes!! My “out” saw me take a leap of faith and move myself away from all the negativity to start fresh.
Long story short–the prison toxicity clung for a bit but eventually fell off and became history and life-lessons learned. I never looked back…or not too often anyways.
So what’s holding you back?
Do you want to make a change? Ask yourself these questions:
Am I currently immersed in negativity and toxicity?
If I made a change what would it look like?
Does this mean quitting a job? ending a relationship? moving? –(wow I did all three at once–lol)
Maybe it means redefining the position.
Perhaps it means stop self-medicating and seeking professional help.
It will be different for all.
The thing is that you need to be honest with yourself. Making a change isn’t easy. There will be challenges and failures. It’s not all going to be peachy. You need to weigh the pros and the cons.
What is the impact of my current situation on my family, my health, my mental health, my life in general?
Unless you’re single, there are others to consider.
Again, you need to be honest with yourself and those around you.
They’re not stupid, believe me. They see the demons even when you don’t.
Write down the pros and the cons of making a change. Be honest. No one is keeping score. If it means having to be a full time parent and the idea makes you cringe at the thought–then place it under the con.
There’s no use lying to yourself, you’ll go from one toxic yuk to another.
Are there small changes I can make, to lessen the current stress?
Are the boundaries clear to all? This could be that you tell your boss that Monday afternoons you can not work because of a standing appointment with your therapist or whatever?
It could mean that you tell a coworker that you can no longer listen to their tales of woe.
Perhaps you need to physically change your environment–put in a window? move to new office space? work standing up? treadmill desk?
Whatever “small changes” looks like to you.
If I don’t change something now, will it be better or worse in one year? five years?
Perhaps it’ll be easier in a year or two when your kids are in school full-time or perhaps your partner, who’s been working out of town, will be around more.
Each situation is unique.
But you’re not alone in the trap of fear.
Before you know it, the year will have passed and nothing has changed. The toxic energy that is absorbed into your very being changes you and how you interact with others.
I know it certainly changed me being in such a heavy unhealthy environment for five years. I consider myself one of the lucky ones who broke out of prison–literally.
These are all really scary and loaded questions that take a lot of thinking and retrospect. The thing is that if you’re in a toxic place you probably already know what you need to do.
I can’t tell you to make the change –only you can do that. It takes planning and a lot of thought.
I was fortunate because I was still single and only had to think about myself. I didn’t have children or a mortgage to worry about.
But, that being said, I had determination to plan and exit the situation that had swallowed me for over four years. Yeah, many saw the move as sudden but I’d thought about it for a long time.
The years fly by quickly and some things never change. If I’d stayed I’d hate to think about what my life would look like now. Ugh…not a pretty thought for sure. I seriously believe the change saved my life.
I wasn’t missed at my job for long and I’m ok with that. Every one is replaceable–even you.
Do yourself a favor, go answer the questions and start making a health plan for yourself. It may be about saving X amount of money, or joining AA, or waiting until the kids are in school….whatever it is, write it down–draw it out with arrows and lines and boxes–take back a semblance of control.
See if you can abandon the fear of letting go to make a change.
I believe in you but you need to believe in you.
Often we’re paralyzed by fear and stay longer at places and/or behaviors than we know is healthy. Look at where you are and ask yourself the questions posed. The clock ticks forward whether you make a change or not–it’s all up to you. Maybe today isn’t the day to do it but it’s the day when serious consideration and planning begin… You have to start somewhere. Hugs to all. xoxo
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