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Anonymous 28 Feb 2024 CYP - Acute Care Forum CYP - Continuing and Community Care Forum CYP - Staying Healthy Forum District Nursing Forum Mental Health Forum Nursing in Justice and Forensic Health Care Research Society

This blog has been submitted by a member who wishes to remain anonymous, for reasons that will become clear as you read it. Bullying is a common phenomenon for nurses, with around a quarter of the nursing family experiencing bullying in the past year. This blog highlights my personal experience of “gaslighting” - a specific type of bullying, and how I am gradually recovering from this.

The plot of the 1944 film Gaslight centres on the seemingly caring husband who lies and manipulates to isolate his wife, persuading her that she is mentally ill. in the last decade, the phrase has been adopted to describe deliberate psychological manipulation, making someone question their perception of reality. In my case, the perpetrator was my line manager, whose persistent dispute of facts destroyed my confidence and impacted on every aspect of my life.

As a senior leader in nursing, I had considered that I had the professional competence and resilience to avoid or at least respond to workplace bullying. What I had underestimated is how quickly my self-belief was eroded, leaving me with poor confidence in formal routes of addressing this. This resulted in a period of sickness, and I felt I had no option but to leave my job.

RCN online has resources to support people experiencing bullying, and I wish I had seen this behaviour for what it was much earlier. By the time I had recognised the actions aimed at me were not a sign of stress in my manager, or due to failure on my behalf, I had started to view it as normal. I would advise members to become familiar with RCN resources before they experience bullying.

The most important learning for me was about caring for myself. As I became more distressed and tried even harder to make my line manager happy, my self-care suffered. I was embarrassed, I stopped caring for my personal hygiene, I stopped eating properly, I stopped engaging in things I enjoyed. Self-neglect added to feelings of failure and depression. These became my priority once I removed myself from the situation.

Even though I escaped the situation, I’m not recovered. Feelings of inadequacy and anxiety still plague me. I need to make an effort to cherish myself, without needing external approval. My family, friends and new manager have been huge sources of support. Ultimately, I’m glad I found the courage to talk about my experience, and I hope as a manager I will notice and tackle bullying in my teams.

If you are or a colleague are struggling with challenges at work or at home, please remember you are not alone. Please access our wellbeing resources and guidance page for help and support.

Page last updated - 15/04/2024