I worked at this one place 15 years ago and it was so bad I ended up eventually leaving. I started taking anti-depressants.

Since then, and currently, I have someone that knows I take this medication from that office telling people at my current workplace about my use of it. I assume she does this to put herself above me. I know she is messed up but this hurts my reputation. I am not sure how to handle this.

I am on contract and I think one higher up knows this backstabber and what she's doing. I feel like breaking down because the harassment I have been through in IT has been so bad.

  • 6
    I'm sorry, but I can't really work out what you're asking. We can't really tell you what to do as we just can't understand your situation fully.
    – Jane S
    Nov 23 '15 at 7:46
  • 4
    Unfortunately we still can't answer this for you. Only she can tell you what her motivation is for her actions. As far as what to do, all I can suggest is either confronting the person to ask her, or to talk to HR about her actions. Given you are on contract, it may well be worth looking for another contract just to keep your options open.
    – Jane S
    Nov 23 '15 at 7:55
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    How is the person from your prior workplace communicating with the colleagues from your current workspace? What is the relationship between the two locations?
    – Brandin
    Nov 23 '15 at 10:06
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    Many people take medication. If someone told me X is on medication I would think poorly of person giving the information not poorly of X. I know it is easier said then done especially given you are depressed but ignore it. In the future only discuss medication or medical treatment with your closets trusted friends.
    – paparazzo
    Nov 23 '15 at 10:42
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    What country are you in? Nov 23 '15 at 12:08

Worrying about someone who knew you 15 years ago bad mouthing you to people at work is not a good idea. The best way to deal with anything of this sort, is concentrate on your work and prove them wrong. 15 year old rumours are not usually taken seriously. And the only way they can affect you is if you let them.

Realistically it sounds like:-

  1. this person is out to get you


  1. you are being paranoid

Either way, biting at the bait is the worst thing you could do, be prepared to explain yourself if need be, but I doubt you will ever have to. Many people have enemies who will attempt to drag them down. Best policy is to ignore them if you're working in the First World, in other countries you have other recourses. I'm assuming you're in a country where legally you can do nothing to retaliate because there is no reasonable libel case, so don't let it bother you.

It would be a rare workplace that would go out of it's way to harass someone they knew was on anti-depressants, so if I were you I would also try and find other reasons why I feel I am being harassed and why I'm unhappy instead of assuming it is all the fault of one person. This may be more constructive in the long run.

  • Good answer, wanted to add: Doesn't seem reasonable someone that you're on bad terms with can track you down 15 years later. Consider ways to maintain your professional branding without broadcasting your exact identity. There's no need to put a picture or full name places like LinkedIn and no reason to share social media about your workplace unless it's private and you fully trust all consumers.
    – Dave
    Nov 23 '15 at 20:23
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    @Dave not sure I agree, people shouldn't feel like they need to hide. You don't need a photo to identify someone. The only thing that's not reasonable is someone from 15 years ago holding a grude. Nov 23 '15 at 22:22
  • @user568458 I agree - I should have phrased that differently: Since this person does have a 15 year stalker it may be worth their time to minimize their digital footprint and confound their harasser. Assuming they use such services this is one way to take control. Is it right or fair? No, but then life isn't and a full name on LinkedIn, for anyone frankly, is not necessary to build a career.
    – Dave
    Nov 23 '15 at 23:13

Ignore it. Or to quote Alison Green:

This is going to sound counterintuitive, but do nothing. Ignore it.

The fact that this person seems to be on a public crusade against you is such an unreasonable way to behave that it will reflect much more on her than it will on you, if at all. If a random stranger contacted me at work to inform me that one of my colleagues is on anti-depressants, the only thing I would think is how unstable and crazy that stranger is. In most cases I also would tend not to believe anything that person says.

Assume that your current colleagues are reasonable adults who will have the same reaction and won't think badly of you because you have an unhinged former colleague with an insane vendetta against you. As Alison puts it:

Imagine, after all, if you were on the receiving end of these letters about someone else. Would you think, “Wow, Jane sounds like she really treated him horribly; she must be a bad person,” or would you think, “This guy has some serious problems and he’s annoying me”? You’d think the latter.

If this person's behaviour ends up being discussed in the company rumour mill or you're still uncomfortable about that and want to do something about it, you can speak up when you hear it mentioned or explain to people directly. If it's common to send emails to the company or department at your workplace, you can do it that way as well. Your explanation should be something along the line of:

For some reason that I can't fathom, this person has been on a public vendetta to discredit me or harm my reputation. I'm sorry that this person is disrupting things at work and I hope you can ignore her crazy behaviour. I've been trying to sort things out with her but as you might imagine she doesn't seem willing to listen to reason.

If you're comfortable talking about your medication, just explain that you're on a prescription but that there's no reason to worry about your health. But there's really no need to even address this.

How you should handle this person outside work is a bit off-topic here. You might also be able to make a case for a defamation suit depending on the relevant laws for your location but you should consult a lawyer about that. A sternly-written legal letter might get her to stop, or it might escalate things. Your best bet might be to just ignore her entirely.


It sounds to me like this person is only harming her own reputation by spreading gossip, not yours. Living with depression is hard but it is not something to be ashamed of. Taking antidepressants is hardly a rare thing nowadays.

I don't know about your work colleagues but in most offices I have known, mental illness is met with sympathy. If you let it be known, without drama, that you don't appreciate people discussing your medical history but that you are not ashamed of it, you may find your colleagues are supportive.

You might consider raising the matter with HR. Even though you are not a permanent employee, the company still has a duty of care to protect you from harassment and unfair treatment.

  • +1 for "hardly a rare thing nowadays"; -1 for the HR involvement, though. The problem person is at some other workplace.
    – donjuedo
    Nov 23 '15 at 16:09
  • Acknowledged, but wherever the gossip originates, HR should be made aware. If a member of staff (permanent or contract) is made to feel worried about their standing in the company, for totally unfair reasons, they deserve the support of the company. HR have a pastoral role to play, and an HR manager worth their salt will ensure that such a negative view of depression is not allowed to take root in the company culture.
    – mikeagg
    Nov 23 '15 at 16:19
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    @donjuedo Harassment can still take place between two different companies. If there are harassment laws for the workplace, it is not constrained to just the people in your immediate company. If you were to contact HR with this issue, they should contact the HR department of the other company and let them know the harassment will not be tolerated further. The other company can ignore at their own peril. Nov 23 '15 at 18:37

I'm going to go with an assumption here that seems missing from the original post: It would appear that the malevolent co-worker from the past is now employed at the same workplace as the OP? If that's the case, then a friendly visit with the HR director, explaining the problem and asking for guidance in how to make it stop, would be in order.

If the person is NOT currently employed in the same workplace, You could go down to Superior Court (assuming USA here) and file a defamation suit, along with a restraining order. Having a sheriff's deputy knock on your door, and tap your chest with a big sheaf of court papers, is often enough "motivation" to make the malicious behavior stop. I will also echo the other post's point too...this is not something you need to worry about too much. It shows a big amount of crazy, and that's often ignored.


The last I heard, roughly one third of American adults take some form of anti-depressant medication. Telling people you take an anti-depressant would only lower peoples opinions of you in very slight cases. Taking medication for a medical problem is only looked down upon by a small proportion of people. It concerns me that you might be one of those people yourself. If you learned a coworker was being treated for depression or an anxiety disorder, would you see them as inferior to someone who does not? If you do, that position, aside from not being rational, is likely responsible for a large portion of the stress you feel as a result of this odious persons actions.

As for what to do about this other person, I would recommend doing nothing. Presuming that they do not escalate their actions, any action you could take would almost certainly make the situation worse. You cannot control other people, and trying will harm you just as much as it harms them.

  • One third?! Wow... +1 for the statistic (however valid it is)
    – Kilisi
    Nov 24 '15 at 3:27

It sounds like this is a rather toxic person. After dealing myself with a very toxic coworker, I found this article that helps explain a lot when it comes to what a toxic person is and how to deal with them.

Just note that it does not specifically explain "what to do with this person in this case", as of course each case is unique. In your case, I recommend reading that article as it will hopefully help you understand why others are saying to basically ignore it. What follow's is everything but the stuff about effects of stress:

Toxic people defy logic. Some are blissfully unaware of the negative impact that they have on those around them, and others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos and pushing other people’s buttons. Either way, they create unnecessary complexity, strife, and worst of all stress. Whether it’s negativity, cruelty, the victim syndrome, or just plain craziness, toxic people drive your brain into a stressed-out state that should be avoided at all costs.

While I’ve run across numerous effective strategies that successful people employ when dealing with toxic people, what follows are twelve of the best. To deal with toxic people effectively, you need an approach that enables you, across the board, to control what you can and eliminate what you can’t. The important thing to remember is that you are in control of far more than you realize.

  1. They Set Limits (Especially with Complainers)

Complainers and negative people are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. People often feel pressure to listen to complainers because they don’t want to be seen as callous or rude, but there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spiral.

You can avoid this only by setting limits and distancing yourself when necessary. Think of it this way: if the complainer were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke? You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with complainers. A great way to set limits is to ask complainers how they intend to fix the problem. They will either quiet down or redirect the conversation in a productive direction.

  1. They Don’t Die in the Fight

Successful people know how important it is to live to fight another day, especially when your foe is a toxic individual. In conflict, unchecked emotion makes you dig your heels in and fight the kind of battle that can leave you severely damaged. When you read and respond to your emotions, you’re able to choose your battles wisely and only stand your ground when the time is right.

  1. They Rise Above

Toxic people drive you crazy because their behavior is so irrational. Make no mistake about it; their behavior truly goes against reason. So why do you allow yourself to respond to them emotionally and get sucked into the mix?

The more irrational and off-base someone is, the easier it should be for you to remove yourself from their traps. Quit trying to beat them at their own game. Distance yourself from them emotionally and approach your interactions like they’re a science project (or you’re their shrink, if you prefer the analogy). You don’t need to respond to the emotional chaos—only the facts.

  1. They Stay Aware of Their Emotions

Maintaining an emotional distance requires awareness. You can’t stop someone from pushing your buttons if you don’t recognize when it’s happening. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in situations where you’ll need to regroup and choose the best way forward. This is fine and you shouldn’t be afraid to buy yourself some time to do so.

Think of it this way—if a mentally unstable person approaches you on the street and tells you he’s John F. Kennedy, you’re unlikely to set him straight. When you find yourself with a coworker who is engaged in similarly derailed thinking, sometimes it’s best to just smile and nod. If you’re going to have to straighten them out, it’s better to give yourself some time to plan the best way to go about it.

  1. They Establish Boundaries

This is the area where most people tend to sell themselves short. They feel like because they work or live with someone, they have no way to control the chaos. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Once you’ve found your way to Rise Above a person, you’ll begin to find their behavior more predictable and easier to understand. This will equip you to think rationally about when and where you have to put up with them and when you don’t. For example, even if you work with someone closely on a project team, that doesn’t mean that you need to have the same level of one-on-one interaction with them that you have with other team members.

You can establish a boundary, but you’ll have to do so consciously and proactively. If you let things happen naturally, you are bound to find yourself constantly embroiled in difficult conversations. If you set boundaries and decide when and where you’ll engage a difficult person, you can control much of the chaos. The only trick is to stick to your guns and keep boundaries in place when the person tries to encroach upon them, which they will.

  1. They Won’t Let Anyone Limit Their Joy

When your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from the opinions of other people, you are no longer the master of your own happiness. When emotionally intelligent people feel good about something that they’ve done, they won’t let anyone’s opinions or snide remarks take that away from them.

While it’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, you don’t have to compare yourself to others, and you can always take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what toxic people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within. Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain—you’re never as good or bad as they say you are.

  1. They Don’t Focus on Problems—Only Solutions

Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress. When you focus on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and reduces stress.

When it comes to toxic people, fixating on how crazy and difficult they are gives them power over you. Quit thinking about how troubling your difficult person is, and focus instead on how you’re going to go about handling them. This makes you more effective by putting you in control, and it will reduce the amount of stress you experience when interacting with them.

  1. They Don’t Forget

Emotionally intelligent people are quick to forgive, but that doesn’t mean that they forget. Forgiveness requires letting go of what’s happened so that you can move on. It doesn’t mean you’ll give a wrongdoer another chance. Successful people are unwilling to be bogged down unnecessarily by others’ mistakes, so they let them go quickly and are assertive in protecting themselves from future harm.

  1. They Squash Negative Self-Talk

Sometimes you absorb the negativity of other people. There’s nothing wrong with feeling bad about how someone is treating you, but your self-talk (the thoughts you have about your feelings) can either intensify the negativity or help you move past it. Negative self-talk is unrealistic, unnecessary, and self-defeating. It sends you into a downward emotional spiral that is difficult to pull out of. You should avoid negative self-talk at all costs.

  1. They Limit Their Caffeine Intake

Drinking caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is the source of the “fight-or-flight” response, a survival mechanism that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. The fight-or-flight mechanism sidesteps rational thinking in favor of a faster response. This is great when a bear is chasing you, but not so great when you’re surprised in the hallway by an angry coworker.

  1. They Get Some Sleep

I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and managing your stress levels. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present. A good night’s sleep makes you more positive, creative, and proactive in your approach to toxic people, giving you the perspective you need to deal effectively with them.

  1. They Use Their Support System

It’s tempting, yet entirely ineffective, to attempt tackling everything by yourself. To deal with toxic people, you need to recognize the weaknesses in your approach to them. This means tapping into your support system to gain perspective on a challenging person. Everyone has someone at work and/or outside work who is on their team, rooting for them, and ready to help them get the best from a difficult situation. Identify these individuals in your life and make an effort to seek their insight and assistance when you need it. Something as simple as explaining the situation can lead to a new perspective. Most of the time, other people can see a solution that you can’t because they are not as emotionally invested in the situation.

Bringing It All Together

Before you get this system to work brilliantly, you’re going to have to pass some tests. Most of the time, you will find yourself tested by touchy interactions with problem people. Thankfully, the plasticity of the brain allows it to mold and change as you practice new behaviors, even when you fail. Implementing these healthy, stress-relieving techniques for dealing with difficult people will train your brain to handle stress more effectively and decrease the likelihood of ill effects.

  • 3
    This is a link-only answer. As this meta post will explain, those are problematic. Additionally, Stack Exchange is an effort to build a repository of knowledge for years to come, so an answer that relies completely on an external link (which could easily 404 in a year or two) is a problem. Instead, we expect people to reproduce the key points in their answer so that it can stand own two legs. Imagine that article 404s tomorrow (which it could): what does your answer need to say to still make sense and be useful? Nov 24 '15 at 0:49
  • @doppelgreener - no longer a link-only answer
    – Andy
    Nov 25 '15 at 21:47

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