The Antidote Within Me

Most days, it is hard to believe I was ever in that space. Now, I can smile because I made it out, and my well-being is in check. I’m still me, but I am not the same person I was back then.

So, why do I tell you all this? Because I need you to know that being in that kind of environment is never okay, but also, I won’t tell you what to do because I’m not you and you are not me. I can only share a slice of my life’s lyrics in the hopes that perhaps something will resonate – and maybe even help you.

A few years into my turmoil, I found myself on the receiving of a scathing and bullying email – from my boss, who was an EVP. Honestly, it shouldn’t have shocked me. He was a hot head and unprofessional most of the time. But, I had come to figure out how to navigate in his flooded waters. Or, so I thought.

For years, I’d been on the receiving end of his antics, but this particular incident took it to a new extreme. It was around the time that I was beginning to find my voice again, albeit slowly and with some trepidation. So, I mustered my courage (with some help from my tribe), and I marched myself to Human Resources. I use that term lightly because technically, we had no subject matter expert. Still, I remained hopeful that maybe this time it would be different.

I also hoped that perhaps it would be an impetus to change the internal climate and help prevent this from happening to anyone else.

Imagine how I felt when HR told me that while the email I received was in poor taste, I was overreacting and should address it on my own. I remember leaving that office with the wind knocked out of me. I felt defeated and even hopeless. When I got back to my office, I closed my door and cried. I was angry and sad and disheartened with the whole thing. It was a strong network of old school thinking at the upper level, so I knew to break through the barrier was next to impossible.

But you have to try, don’t you?

I wrestled with what to do next and eventually found a few more ounces of courage to address it with my boss. I did my best maintain my composure. Regardless of anything that transpired during my years there, I always kept my professionalism. Immediately upon bringing up the subject, my boss’s face turned red and went on the defense; quickly escalating. This person felt justified in their actions because “I am an EVP for (insert expletive) sake.”

And so I had my answer. Again, my efforts fell on deaf ears, but I had to try.

There were a lot of things I could have or should have done differently, but timing and circumstance are funny things. Toss in a person (me) who was already feeling low self-worth and voila! Ultimately, by me confronting the situation, it only fueled ongoing retaliation, and the damage was devastating: I had a soured reputation, a big target on my back, and I was intentionally passed over for promotions. That confrontation and incident, however, taught me something about myself. I was stronger than I thought and my voice, misplaced for so long, was slowly finding its way out again. It continued to be an arduous road, but with work and dedication on many levels, I made continual progress in my pursuit to escape my constraints.

  • It took introspection and acknowledging my demons.
  • I started to embrace my vulnerabilities instead of being ashamed of them.
  • I enrolled in graduate school and excelled.
  • I learned that the silly boat and sea of ridiculousness wasn’t for me. So, I swam to a better place.

None of it was easy. And I thought that my happiness had to be defined by things other than me. I was never more wrong. It’s up to me to choose it, after all. So each day, I make a choice. But until I pulled myself out of the quicksand, I couldn’t quite see. It has taken me a long time to reframe my thinking. Fortunately, much has changed for the better. But, from time to time, old patterns and fears have tried to surface, and I work hard each day to focus on my well-being.

So, in case you need some encouragement, remember these three things, shared with me by another wise person who may have left this earth, but whose wisdom continues to carry on:

You are made of good stuff.

Don’t let the turkeys get you down.

What are you going to do?


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!