The Year of Not Quite Living—Part One: Falling into the Pit

Susan Eick / CEO
Feb 5, 2019

“Today is my one-year anniversary with Central Bank*.

But, rather than getting an annual review, I got fired. Well, asked to resign, actually. How that differs from being fired, I don’t know. Perhaps tellers and personal bankers get fired, and Senior Vice Presidents of banks get politely asked to resign. The reason? Apparently, the executive team love the work I have done over the past 12 months—the changes, the programs that were implemented, the new revenue streams. But, in my boss’ words, ‘the guys on the executive team just don’t think they can work with you.’

I feel like I’ve been caught in a drive-by shooting. No warning, no signs or signals of discontent from anyone on the team, no suggestions for things I might improve upon, nothing. Just, bam—thank you for your hard work, now please go away. When my boss delivered the news to me, I tried to push down the tears. I was angry at myself for losing that battle when I realized that I had no idea what I was going to do next. I have two babies at home and a husband who isn’t working. I don’t want to go home. I don’t want to stay here. I don’t want to be anywhere.”—Journal entry, December 5, 2007.

 

This was probably one of the lowest points in my life. I was recruited away from a job I loved, with a company that I loved, working with people I loved, to a competitor that promised me more money, more span of control, and a seat at the executive team table.  And then, everything changed.  I still shake my head at the whole experience, not knowing the true story of what happened, so I could learn from it.  But, I realize now that learning why I was asked to leave isn’t as important as learning the emotional impact that this experience had on me—not just that day, but years after.

 

I had nobody to talk to.  My friends were all scattered in different places in the world, all working at their jobs.  I couldn’t just pick up the phone (or so I thought) and just unload.  I couldn’t talk to my husband, (or so I thought) because I felt like a failure.  My parents?  No way.  So, I drove around in my company car (that I was driving on borrowed time), seriously not knowing where I was going, or caring, for that matter.  I fell into “The Pit” of grey hopelessness.  Ask anyone who has been there, and they will describe it for you. I wasn’t sad, or mad– I was completely devoid of all feeling.  And, if I hadn’t found someone to talk to, I would have stayed in that condition for God knows how long.

There’s more to this story that I’ll share in my next series of blogs.  My story of crawling out of “The Pit” took several turns for the worse over the next 9 months.  I would climb up a few steps, then fall back down when something else bad happened. For now though, I guess my message is this:  Healing from a traumatic event like getting fired doesn’t happen overnight.  And, as I learned, the more you try to rush the process, the further you slip back in.  What saved me was having a person (or in my case, several people) to talk to.  And my journal to write in.   And the thin rope of belief that things that I could actually live through this.

Meanwhile, my ask of you is simple.  If you feel bad, or empty or numb or hopeless—find someone to talk to.  Now.  You can’t climb out of “The Pit” by yourself, but you can, with the help of others, find a foothold to help you with your ascent.

*The name of the bank has been changed.

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