I have suffered with depression for 16 years now, I sometimes wonder if it were always there, just waiting for an incident to happen so it could rear it ugly head. That is what they say, its an imbalance in your brain, but I still sit and think back to the days when I did not feel depressed or sad or anxious and I know the exact moment that things changed.
I was confident in my teens, had loads of friends, always had a boyfriend and once I got a job at the age of 16 my confidence grew even more. I worked as a travel agent from the age of 16 but I knew it was never going to be enough for me. I was a thrill seeker and I loved that feeling of being scared, strange I know, but I have always been this way.
I needed a job that would give me that, and at the age of 23 I joined Greater Manchester Police. The application process was brutal and so hard and when I finally passed all the rounds, I was so proud of myself. I am a people pleaser and knowing that my family were like ‘wow, Sarah that’s amazing’ just made me fill up with pride. I knew that this job was meant for me. The training was hard, but I loved every second. I remember finding out where I was going to be placed and I got an area called Moss Side. This area of Manchester was nicknamed ‘Gunchester’ but I couldn’t wait to get started. My mum was terrified!!!
To say I saw some sights and was involved in some scary moments would be underestimating my experience. But I never once thought that I could not do the job and I thrived in my working environment. But that all changed one night. We had a new sergeant running my team and we were all on a night out, something that did not happen often. This Sergeant was different, he was quite chauvinistic and I did not particularly gel with him. Anyway. On this night out, whilst drunk he tried to come onto me, and I turned him down. Little did I know that this one incident would change my life forever.
Over the course of the next 3 months that sergeant made my life hell. There is physical bullying and then there is mental bullying and that is what happened to me. It started with little snipes at things I had done or said, he would embarrass me in front of the team by telling me off rather than doing it in private and criticised the way I looked. He gave me extra jobs to deal with when I already had loads and then when I was behind, he again would discipline me for this. It was constant and I started to crumble. When you are constantly being told you are not good enough you start to believe it and being a police officer is not a job you can do without confidence. It all came to a head one day after another confrontation with him. I remember I went to the toilet and just collapsed in a sobbing heap. I could not take it any longer. I called my boyfriend at the time in hysterics, I could not even talk. No one knew what was going on, I had just tried to deal with it myself. In the end my boyfriend talked me out of the toilets, and I got in my car and drove home without even telling anyone.
I went off with ‘stress’. I do not think I spoke a word at home for about a week. I was a shell of the person I once was. After being off work for 4 weeks I was told by the Force to go and see one of their counsellors. And I opened up to this counsellor about what had been going on. Great I thought, I am going to get some help, and this is going to be dealt with but how wrong I was. After later meeting with my inspector who had a report from the counsellor it was explained to me that I hadn’t been bullied and the sergeant
said all I said was false, they all put it down to me being a girl, saying I was being emotional and overly sensitive. I was devastated. I tried my hardest to go back to my job, but I couldn’t do it. I was no longer me and I had no belief in myself. And 16 years later I still don’t. He changed me. I am now always critical of myself, I don’t ever believe in myself and my confidence is all an act.
I have taken anti-depressants since then, and tbh I can’t see myself not ever taking them. When I think back to who I use to be I feel sad. I had to give up my dreams because some man decided to pick on me for not giving in to his urges. It makes me sick. No one should ever be treated unfairly but it happens, and I just want to say that if it happens to you, please tell someone. I wish I had been stronger and had taken it further, instead I let him win. I’d never do that again.
You can find Sarah on Instagram here @sarahrobinsshops
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