A trusted business partner of ours, Julian Donnelly of James Rosa Associates Limited, who provides help for people with bankruptcy issues, gives a honest and open insight to his very personal experience of bankruptcy.
“I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I have been through bankruptcy myself a few years ago. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not something I’m proud of or boast about. It happened and my life has never been the same since.
It’s not my intention for this to turn into an autobiographical piece or to put myself forward as a potential guest on a well-known daytime TV show – I just feel that a little bit of background will add perspective.
My first “proper” job was working for a major high street bank. I spent 9 years gaining a wide array of experience and skills. It was toward the end of my time there that I got my first experience of sales and I loved it. Instead of being buried under a mountain of paperwork and reports, I was TALKING to people. I was helping to identify real needs and deliver a solution, and this interaction gave me huge job satisfaction that I had never felt before. I realised that it was time to move on as I wanted more of this.
Move forward a few years and things were going well. I was hitting all my targets at work and I had met someone and it looked like it was going to be serious. We decided to buy a house together (after only having been together a few short months) and if I’m honest, that’s probably the turning point. I found myself changing jobs for all the wrong reasons – fixing up a house is an expensive business and the criteria became all about the money, not the job satisfaction. A couple of years later, I found myself in a lovely 3 bed semi in Surrey and in a job I hated. The stress and pressure during this period had a dramatic effect on the relationship as well and we completely drifted apart.
As the relationship deteriorated further, communication with my fiancée all but ceased (apart from the occasional heated argument) and I moved into the spare room. At that point, I thought I’d hit rock bottom, but I still had a way to go.
I had a well-paying job by that time and I felt that if I could make that work, then perhaps everything else may come into focus and get better. The stark reality was that I was in a very bad place emotionally and mentally and my work was really suffering. After about a year in the spare room, I decided I had to leave in order to preserve my sanity. Unfortunately, this was too late to save my career and shortly thereafter, I was “invited to resign”.
I don’t quite know how to describe the feeling. When you build a life with someone, it’s like you have an entire future planned in your mind – when I thought of the future at that time, all I could see then was darkness as if my entire future had been robbed from me.
Looking at the mountain of personal debt I had accumulated in trying to sort out the old house, I realised I needed a job and quickly. Despite my best efforts, nobody seemed interested in employing the wreck of a man I had become by that time. With my banking experience (and with a second opinion just to be sure), I only had one option – to declare myself bankrupt.
With the realisation of the gravity of my situation slowly penetrating the fog of my consciousness, I think I went through just about every emotional response you can imagine. I was angry at myself for having “failed”, I felt a tremendous sorrow at the perceived loss of my future, and shame that I had no alternative but to go through bankruptcy – I couldn’t “fix” this one. As it sunk in, something unexpected happened – I felt hope.
I began to realise that I had not deliberately put myself in this situation, so why should I spend the rest of my life punishing myself? Don’t get me wrong, bankruptcy is a very serious process and not to be entered into lightly. I realised that a lot of the successful people I had admired for so long have all either been though bankruptcy or close to it, so I wasn’t alone. Sure, there was going to be a tough road ahead, but for the first time in a very long time, that road could lead to a positive outcome. It was time to dig deep and get it done.
I have to say the day in court was one of the most terrifying of my life. I had a mental image of being sat in a dock with two burly bailiffs gripping my shoulders tightly as the judge boomed “GUILTY …. TAKE HIM DOWN!”. The truth of the matter was entirely unexpected. The bankruptcy clerk did her job efficiently and quietly, and when I eventually found myself in front of the judge, I answered a couple of questions and the judge then stated she was happy to make the Order … and then as I was leaving, she smiled and wished me luck. By this time, I was shaking so much that I could barely put two words together – I gave her a weak smile and said “thank you” and left in a bewildered daze.
To be honest, I don’t remember much about the rest of that day (I must say I didn’t end up in the pub though!). The next day, I sat at my kitchen table and picked up the phone to all my creditors to inform them of my bankruptcy. All were completely business-like and most even wished me the best of luck. All of a sudden, there was silence – my phone had been ringing a dozen or so times every day and now, nothing. I thought I’d gone deaf!
Something else happened that day. The only way I can describe it is to say it felt like an elephant getting off my chest that I didn’t know had been there. The stress I had been under for so long was finally over (I can’t help but think how close I may have been to a stress-induced heart attack, but I’ve learnt not to dwell on such things).
The next few months during my bankruptcy were a strange time as I felt in limbo (nobody was chasing me for money, but I felt I couldn’t get on with my life), but the final relief came 8 months later when I was officially discharged. I was finally free. When I looked at the future now, instead of darkness, all I could see was endless possibilities.
Today, I feel incredibly privileged to help others in financial difficulty. The despair when I arrive for the initial consultation slowly morphing into hope and expectation as solutions are discussed is something I treasure and a responsibility I feel honoured to shoulder. For me, there is no job satisfaction in the world like it.
If I have one piece of advice to anyone reading this who is experiencing debt problems is don’t procrastinate – the sooner you take action, the sooner you can get on with the rest of your life!”
22 January By Mel Loades