Being unemployed has so many real and palpable ramifications but there are also psychological side effects which you can only understand if you've truly lived through it.
When you walk out the door, its over. No cell phone. No email address. Nothing.
Stripped of your link to the outside world. Many "friendships" from work evaporate, quickly, for all sorts of disappointing reasons. There is denial. Fake bliss. (I am so glad I am out of there! I am, I really am, What a mess that place was!) Then reality - You can't stop asking why.
You feel left out. The days get extremely long. You are cut off from the rest of the world. It continues on without you. People are busy, but for you, it is over.
You commit yourself to jumping back in and finding a new job. Pick the phone and start dialing contacts and each conversation brings you farther away from what use to be the center of your universe. What you do. What you used to be paid to do. Now no one will call you back.
They say they will. But you wait, for hours, days, weeks. Nothing. If you are lucky, a manager will actually tell you that they are not going to hire you after all.
Financial fears set in. Money starts to run out (if it already hasn't) Pressure. Fear. Rejection turns into low self-esteem and loneliness.
Weight gain. Tension in the household. And your status in that household has changed. Once a provider, now...what? You fear your status in the eyes of your spouse and children has changed.
What is your role? What should it be? How to organize your time when the day is long ...with too much time to think about the sadness of having been fired. Why did it happen? Could I have done anything to prevent it? Job interviews. How do you dazzle them when you are down?
I write in my upcoming book, "All Things at Once", due out in January, that I wore my "fired" label on my forehead. Having been dumped by CBS at the height of my career, with a "60 Minutes" and weened anchor contract, I simply had no explanation for prospective employers.
Used, tainted commodity.
I remember an interview so terrible with CNN's Jon Klein, I nearly blurted out, "Forget it, I am a loser!" But I didn't need to say it. My face and posture did.
So my solution was to start all over again. I was terrible at interviews, lost in my own loss of identity and struggling at home as a wife and mother. It was a household that preferred me working, which threw me off completely.
So I finally, (by begging), was offered a freelance day rate newsreader update job at MSNBC, a place where I had once hosted a three hour afternoon show eight years earlier. It was far from where I had been, but absolutely heavenly compared to being unemployed.
For me, it was great to just be back in the door. It led to a chance encounter and some lucky timing that puts me on the set of "Morning Joe" every day.
But after a year of sorting through all the disparate but very real psychological effects of unemployment, I will honestly tell you, that the cut-ins were just fine for me. It was good work where I could get it. And I never appreciated a job more than that one.
Starting over, the work may not be exactly what you want but it's work. And that in itself has special value. Hard to accept at first, but if you can take that first step back in the door, any step...its worth it