She has seen me last week for her first session.
Casual in tees and jeans, she could be mistaken for a 30-year-old when she is actually now in her forties.
She was pleased when I commented that she looks at least ten years younger if not more.
However, her youthful exuberance could not hide the agony and pain of prolonged unemployment which lasted more than ten months ago when she was forced out of her IT company due to office politics and bullying.
Tears flowed freely for Jody – even in her first appointment with me a week ago and she walked away after both sessions with her eyes pretty puffed up.
She is expressive and not afriad to own up to her feelings – however rotten they are.
She was making around $7000 from her IT job then – a salary that belied her basic GCE O levels and IT certificate.
She also has a LCCI in accounts which was her initial career initiative for almost a decade.
Jody made the switch from accounts to IT thinking that it will be a better change both in monetary and long term career ambition.
She lamented that she couldn’t have the opportunity to stay on further in the job as she likes the adrenalin of the IT industry and tight dead lines are common.
“I wish I could stay on longer in the IT industry,” she said in between stripes of tissue paper when tears welled up again and she tried to stop them from running off her face.
The hurt and agony were evidential as she related the loss of a well-paying job.
“Now the IT industry is being dominated by foreigners,” she complained.
“The government asks us to retrain and I did just that but I was not given a chance at all after countless job applications in the IT sector.”
She has applied for more than a few hundred IT positions but there was a defying silence from the recruitors.
She got the hint and has now completely stop sending out any more job applications as she has reached zero tolerance level and more alarmingly sunk into a serious bout of depression.
She hardly ventured out of her home anymore - even from her own room and often slept till very late to escape the long gaping empty hours of another meaningless day.
“I am rotting inside and outside now,” she said staring blankly.
“I can’t see the light in a very dark long tunnel.”
I could empathsize with her as I too felt that way ten years ago in 2001 when I was jobless for 18 months.
Every day was like a torture as you woke up feeling lousy and depressed and you wish you don’t have to wake up anymore as there is nothing for you to live for anyway.
Jody’s condition was much better two years ago when she took up a 3-month crashed course in IT certification - paying more than $10, 000 for the cost fees entirely out of her own pocket hoping for a decent career switch to the IT industry.
Now, it appeared that the money has gone down the slippery drain of no return.
Expectations have to be lowered and maybe she even have to take on something part-time so that at least she could pay off her daily expenses and bills.
Unfortunately, for Jody, her situation was made acute by the death of her dad who contracted lung cancer in May this year and has passed away since.
She sobbed whenever she spoke of her dad – probably the only loved one she has on earth as her parents were divorced when she was very young.
Now, she stays alone by herself and needs to dig alot deeeper inside to live on purposefully and independently as there is no one to push her anymore.
Very often, we plough on in life because of someone we love so that they can be taken care of.
When that person is gone, we lost the motive and will to live on purposefully – especially when the journey is rough.
As her dad only passed away less than six months ago, she is still grieving for his loss and her prolonged unemployment only made things worse.
Its a double whammy…
Studies have shown that the death of a loved one and unemployment shared the top joint spots for the worst stressors a person can experience and Jody now face two of them within a very short period.
I have also asked Jody to plan out her day in detail so that she knows what to do with her free empty hours everyday.
She also needs to let go of the forced resignation issue as it has cripped her ability to move on smoothly to another career.
I have seen many people stucked in a rut as they are engulfed in the adverse agonising consequences of office bullying and politics.
The hurt and pain are very real for the victim and many took a while before they could move on.
Unless we forgive and try to forget, the hurts will torment us for a long time.
I asked Jody to try and draft out a daily schedule for me soon.
I remembered pasting my daily schedule on the study room when I was jobless for 18 months as I too struggled with aimless living for close to 6 months before realising that I could not bump around anymore fruitlessly.
The morning period was devoted to looking for suitable jobs followed by a 1/2-hour lunch at home and I took the afternoon reading up books and motivational websites.
I jogged at around 6pm daily and finished up with dinner by 8pm. I watched some TV with the family later on before turning in to bed by 10.30pm.
The schedule forced me to a routine so that I could find some purpose and aim in my daily living.
The greatest loss when one is unemployed is not the income though it is important but the self esteem and purpose employment brings to the person.
It is no fun waking up every day and stare at the four blank walls of one’s room as Jody has alleged.
You feel the world passes you by as you are stucked in a time warp of which there is no turning back.
I have also asked Jody to volunteer at my office helping out in small administrative tasks.
At least, it will force her to get out of the house and hopefully she will slowly integrate back into the community.
Isolation and a loss of purpose are the unemployed’s greatest enemies and self awareness is important here or else one can get stuck in a rut of senseless living.
Let us hope that Jody’s case is just one lone extreme example of a person caught out by prolonged unemployment but my fear is that there are many more Jodys out there.
If you are currently jobless and need our counselling support, do email me at email@example.com.
We have a team of volunteer counsellors and coaches who provide pro bono professional service to those who are caught out by the adverse consequences of unemployment.
Don’t suffer alone – seek help!
We are here for you.
Written by: Gilbert Goh