I really did have it all. A rare top job in the City for a woman, a partner who didn't resent it, and wonderful children. Then I was suddenly sent home, caught in a boardroom battle. My life spiralled downhill.
The loss was immediate, humiliating and shocking. I was suddenly forbidden to talk to colleagues, people with whom I had worked for more than 10 years. The experience changed my life forever.
Now a number of years later I am happier for people to know that, despite my current excellent job, my biggest source of pride is volunteering for the Samaritans.
What I learned was that nothing sugarcoats the pain of rejection except the support of other people. I also know that nobody is above being rejected.
I don't think I ever really understood that truth before. In a matter of minutes I went from running the ship to being run out the door. Literally. And supervised by senior management as I packed the contents of my desk into a plastic box, which I then carried out.
Most of that day is a series of memory fragments now, although I remember going to sit on a bench overlooking the Tower of London, which was appropriate enough for someone sentenced to potentially lose their livelihood.
I rang my partner to tell him what has happened. He thought I was joking. And why not? I had been due to jet off on a business trip abroad that very day. Instead, I was coming home and unemployed.
After that it sank in with quite horrifying speed. My mental health deteriorated rapidly, concerning my family enough for my partner to follow me around the house. There were sleepless nights and I needed to see a doctor. With a lot of help, I clambered back.
I discovered during those grim months who my friends really were, and that was surprising. The people who offered the best support were often the people I thought I knew least, whilst some of those I expected to be there for me vanished like morning mist. Garden leave sounds fun, but in reality sitting at home missing the hurly-burly of corporate life and worrying about whether you will find suitable employment to pay the mortgage is terrifying.
Being a Samaritan has been shocking as well, but in different ways. I have been stunned by how challenging many lives are, regardless of age or background. I now know that anyone can get caught in a bell jar with their own personal hell driving them to the most dangerous kind of desperation, and often for want of a sympathetic ear. Indeed, sometimes people can be too proud or embarrassed to ask their family or friends for the support they need.
I still think about my own painful times, but learned from the job loss journey that you can have it all and suddenly have nothing; and also that with the right help, someone who has nothing can be given that most precious thing of all: their life.Suggest a correction