The Antidote Within Me

A wise friend once said to me:

“Please don’t dismiss this opportunity, it feels like you’re leaning toward the comfort of the evil you know, rather than stepping into something that could bring you great satisfaction. Don’t do that.”

She was right- on so many levels.

Looking back now, I realize how much I wrestled with the evil. It is a long and complicated story that unfolded over the years and progressively became more and more detrimental to my total well-being.

It is a time in my life where I spent too many years beating myself up. But the most glaring realization was that I didn’t believe in myself and that I did lean toward the comfort of that evil I knew – afraid of believing in myself and stepping into something new.

I own those chapters and every ugly, beautiful, chaotic, sad, happy, confusing, enlightened, excited, hopeless, fearful, vulnerable, and hopeful moment that filled them. Parts of those chapters are known only by those closest to me, and up until now, I’ve only spoken about it publicly in general terms.

Those years, regardless of how much of an ill effect they had on me, still managed to provide me with valuable lessons and insight; which was the silver lining and the light in the darkness. It was my epiphany that life existed beyond the constraints of my mind and the metaphorical prison that boxed me inside of it. I’m talking about a period in my life where I held myself hostage in a toxic work environment because I had lost faith in myself. Not being able to see past the surface, I didn’t believe that I was worthy of anything better or that I could, for that matter, be something other than a piece of furniture. Or, at least that is how it felt.

Labeling it as toxic seems harsh; however, there was ongoing destructive and dysfunctional behavior at all levels. Morale remained consistently low; people disliked their jobs and had little respect for management. The workplace was hostile and, at times, unsafe.

Leadership was non-existent. The glass ceiling was high and impenetrable, and the good old boys liked it – and wanted it – that way. It was a breeding ground for bad behavior, big egos, and incompetence; and ultimately, it was poisonous.

However, it took several infections before I finally acknowledged it.

I have shaved down many of the details. There were so many layers, some more delicate than others; and others so stinking ridiculous and outrageous that I can’t believe I bore witness to some of it. I’ve often thought about writing a book about my experience there and the lessons learned. How does the title “Persistent noxiousness, its effects on the inhabitants, and the will to survive sound?

There were multiple reasons that I stayed, the biggest one being entrapment in my mindset – no doubt in part caused by emotional trauma, followed by the comfort of the evil that I knew. I wanted a magic pill to fix it. But there wasn’t one.

There was only one antidote, and it resided within me.


Laura Mikolaitis
Laura Mikolaitis
Laura credits her writing, which laid dormant for years, to her late mom, who always believed in her. Writing unabashedly from the heart and inspired by millions of moments, three tenets of evergreen advice that her mom always shared with her are her guiding principles. Whether it is poetry, fiction, or a personal essay, her love for the written word feeds her mind, body, and spirit. Laura’s creativity also comes to life in her passion for photography. Her ongoing love affair with the moon, her joy for family and friends, her connection to nature, and being a loving canine mom often become some of her best subjects. Laura has held many roles throughout her professional career, including Brand Manager, Project Manager, and Director of Global Business Development and Sales Operations. In addition, she has a background in consumer-packaged goods, manufacturing, and textiles. Laura currently works in biotechnology for Berkshire Corporation as their Product Marketing Manager. She holds a Master of Science degree in Communications and Information Management from Bay Path University and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from SUNY Oswego. Originally from Northern NY, Laura resides with her husband and canine child in a small town in Massachusetts that captured her heart years ago.

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    • Thank you, Jamie. Your kind words mean a great deal to me. It is hard to believe we swam in that sea, but we both found resuscitation – and I’m thankful each day. I wasn’t sure I should share part of my story, but I think I’ve always known in my heart that it is meant to be shared. But I needed to heal first so I could share with insight and not with anger.

  1. Laura, I am so grateful that Dennis shared your work on the Women of Facebook Weekend Blog because it was so important to read. I want to read more and YES! You should write a book. Let me know if I can help. Thank you for sharing your insights with others.

    • Kat, thank you for your thoughtful and kind sentiments. It means a lot to me, and I appreciate that you took the time to read my article and contribute to the conversation.

      Thank you for the encouragement. I do hope to share more of my story. I always used to joke that I could write a book about my experience there, but the reality is that it’s no joke. I may have to give it more thought seriously.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Laura. I’ve known bits and pieces, but reading it all at once shows the depth of what you were facing. Wow. Your journey to pull yourself out of it truly inspires me. “Don’t let the turkeys get you down,” indeed.

    • Thank you, Mary. This piece only touches on some of the things I experienced there. Baby steps, right? It’s a story I need to tell, however. I didn’t always feel like it needed to be shared, but something keeps nudging me. So, here I am. It’s funny, this morning I was reflecting on submitting this essay, and all I kept hearing in my head were two songs: “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John and “Fight Song” by Rachael Platten.

      As for not letting the turkey’s get you down, my mom always said that to me. Although it’s hard sometimes, I still hear her voice in my head urging me to keep going. I wish she were here to see how far I’ve come.

    • Laura, you’ve done a great job of sharing the parts of the story you are ready to reveal. Yes, baby steps. I know exactly what you mean. You are a survivor and a fighter and I suspect your mother knows exactly where you are today.

    • Thank you, L. Aruna Dhir for reading it! I appreciate you taking the time to do so, and I am glad that it resonated with you. Keeping our heads above water can be challenging, but we can do it. Mindset is a significant part of the recipe in achieving it.

  3. When you need to look for a reason to stay. That’s when it is time to go. I was so unhappy even though I had reached a very high and powerful place. It truly made me unhappy and empty. It wasn’t the bosses they were great. It was the fact that I wasn’t living life. What I did for Work became my life. Once I made the decision to retire everything seem to fall into place just like it should. Which makes me wonder why I waited so long.

    • Exactly, Larry. I’ve made peace with the fact that it took me so long to acknowledge the situation and address my internal conflicts. What matters is that I finally did and I was able to do it with integrity, resilience, and confidence.

      It’s important to live life, as you mention, and sometimes that means walking toward something completely different. Things do fall into place; you are right. I see it more and more each day.

      Thank you for taking the time to read my story, Larry and for sharing a part of yours.

  4. What a powerful essay, Laura! Thank you so much for sharing your story of enduring the difficult/noxious workplace for a really long time. What courage to breakthrough and remove yourself from that toxic environment that kept you feeling small. I totally feel your story as I have my versions of this in my life. I celebrate your freedom, resilience, and ability to rise strong. And the willingness to see that the answer lived inside of you-YES!!

    • Thank you, Laura! I appreciate you taking the time to read this piece for your thoughtful and encouraging sentiments. I am overwhelmed by the response that this piece is receiving and I know now that beginning to share this story is the right thing to do.

      It took a long time for me to rise strong, but I’m grateful for the support of my tribe who helped me along the way. Too many times I didn’t think I could do it, until that moment that I realized that I could. That moment was truly empowering.

      Here’s to both of us rising strong!