money_100sGood News / Bad News, Hard Choices

By Brenda Ann Eckels, aMGC, (c)2016

So, along with domestic violence and female relational abuse ruining Brian’s and my wedding, our health, and utterly destroying our comfortable life on the lake in the cabin…on top of the assaults, harassment, threats, and other crimes…it was largely responsible for wrecking both of our financial situations.

For two chronically ill, seriously disabled people living on what (together) was a manageable but fairly low income, this was even more life threatening than anything else that was done to us.

Met with financial advisers today, and got good & bad news…

Good News: The plan they presented would allow me to pay off all of my creditors and over $9,000 of Brian’s by March of 2020, when I would be in my mid 50’s.

Bad News:

  1. I have to stay exactly on a very strict budget starting now (July 2016). There is exactly $10 a month for unexpected expenses, and only $2 a month for a “treat”.
  2. Keep doing rehab. A lot. Yes, I left the rehabilitation center walking instead of in my wheelchair, but it is an ongoing battle to rebuild this broken body.
  3. Keep working at building so I am earning about $200 a month of self employment money from TodaysCatholics.com, which is my religious vocation, and earn more from my blog and freelance journalism assignments

from now until May 1, 2017.

THEN I have to keep doing all of that, but be strong enough from rehab I can handle:

  1. Working a minimum wage job 15 hours a week for another 32 very long months.

I also got several other scenarios, but that is the one that would see our very patient creditors (you know who you are) get paid the fastest.

It would also provide me (and I imagine Brian) with the ability to “start over”, perhaps even see each of us able to qualify for a car loan or a better housing situation in the future, as it would improve both our credit reports.  Brian might be able, for example, to afford a small loan to help Jamie’s college expenses.  This is my (yeah, ex-)stepson we are talking about.  Any of my kids will tell you, once I have a kid come into my life, as a step,a foster, or a forever one, my heart grows bigger, and I never, ever stop loving any of them. I would die for any of them if God asked it of me.

So, just as far as MY needs, MY wants….this backbreaking scenario…is tempting.

On the other hand, My MS specialist, the very dedicated Rehab team I have, and several other specialists in Voc Rehab feel that if I can solve my ever present problem of getting enough of the right kinds of food to help me gain weight and to fuel those punishing twice a day 60 minute workouts…yeah, I could do it.  However, the entire health care team, my family, and my friends all worry that by the time I cross the finish line, the stress of the race will kick the multiple sclerosis and/or the gastroperesis  into higher gear than they already are.

One specialist put it this way:

“Brenda, what if it works, and April 2020 you are set to “start over” with your creditors paid, your expenses manageable, and your web site and writing going along great.

However the cost to your body is that you go into end stage MS or end stage gastroperesis in 4 years?

Will it have been worth it to spend 4 years of your life on this, to only have 4 where you can just relax and be retired, and then have that last awful 12-18 months and die?”

(Note: If you google  gastroperesis, you can see more about what a truly awful kind of dying it is, especially for folks like me who don’t have working intestines along with our broken stomachs. End stage MS is no picnic either.)

Neither one of us should even have to have these conversations. Neither Brian or I did anything wrong, anything to deserve what was done to us. We could be living happily in our little rented cabin by the lake, watching our kids and grands grow, being very poor, living very simply to be able to have the experiences we wanted to have.

Instead, because of domestic violence, female relational abuse, and our inability to hear the people who tried very hard to warn us that there were others who would do anything to tear us apart, we have both been physically, emotionally, and yes, financially broken.

We now live separate lives, and I can’t speak for Brian if he has been able to find some peace or stability since. I hope that at least one of us has.

I can speak for me. It has been a descent into hells that would have made Chaucer go pale and a climb that, even with my Dear Savior Jesus’ help, has left scars you can not imagine.

Even now, I live with the permanent damage that resulted to my body from what was done to us, what was done to ME. It would take as much work for me to be strong enough by May, 2017 to work 15 hours a week slinging burgers or cashiering as it is for a gymnast to train to compete in the Olympics. It would take even more to run a web site, write articles and blog posts, manage multiple chronic conditions, keep up with all my medical appointments, AND also work 15 hours a week.

It is outrageous that I, a victim of domestic violence 3 years ago is even now still facing years of hardship, pain, toil, and suffering and the perpetrators will never be held accountable, never be arrested, never face trial.

Some of them it is because they were family to me, even if they never felt the same, I can’t bring myself to go after them while at the same time trying to forgive them.

Others, however, just plain got away – in my case – nearly with murder.

Neither one of us, none of our kids, our Pastor, our friends…none of them deserved or asked for the pain of watching Brian and I be attacked, broken, abandoned, all because Brian woke up one day, decided the promises we made in December 2011 to build a life and love together just wasn’t enough for him. He wanted to marry me.

He wanted to call me “wife.” He wanted to say essentially the same promises, but say them before God and our families and friends. When he proposed to me on Valentine’s Day, 2013 I was awestruck, humbled, surprised, and yes, so very, incredibly happy that he felt so strongly that our relationship WAS a marriage, and that we could and ought to make what we already had official.

While we certainly had experienced problems with his ex and a few of his family members, we also had dealt with some hard choices with some of my family members.

For example, the decision to not serve alcohol at our wedding was as much to support family members of mine who are in recovery as it was to save money on the event liability insurance we would have had to purchase. I have more than one ex, and while Carl Johnson and his new wife Terri had remained friends with both Brian and I, other exes of mine probably would have been distractions if we had communicated to them our wedding plans. No family is perfect, no matter what the airbrushed photos on Instagram may say.

Our battles with PTSD from past abuse, our successes in recovering from those earlier traumas, were not enough to protect us.

Survivors – especially those who come from families that struggle with honesty, openness, and communication – would do well to remember our sad tale when they attempt to build a new life, move, marry, even change little things like how they wear their hair or what hobbies they enjoy.

Now, I go to review the other possible scenarios, most of which would be easier on me, but include the risk that I might – even with a lighter burden – not live long enough to pay everyone back.

Those scenarios, because they take much longer, also mean that neither Brian or I would likely ever see our respective credit reports recover enough to be able to borrow again.Depending on Brian’s health, that could be decades, as at the time we finally parted this past winter, he was certainly disabled, but with chronic, not fatal or incurable progressive diseases like I am.

In my case, it would mean a severe restriction to the kinds of jobs or schooling I might pursue, how well I can grow my writing career and TodaysCatholics, my ability to visit my adoptive parents once a month, go food shopping, or take in a movie at a theater.

 

For someone who had no debt, a great credit score, half of a beautiful (although used) Harley Davidson, a section 8 Home Ownership Voucher, and a pre-approved Rural Development Direct mortgage (with my daughter Nicole) for $135,000 the day I got engaged, this is a very bitter pill to even think about swallowing.

IMG_3569

One engagement ring

has never in

the history of man

cost so much.

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