Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

Debt Most Physical

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Total Black: $115.56
Total Red: $228,013.71

CNN’s Jennie Brag ran a story today called “Digging Out From $80,000 in Debt” about a woman, Dawn Warfield, in Saratoga Springs, New York who has been crippled by her debt from seventeen credit cards.  And I thought four credit cards and $27,000 in debt is a lot.  Warfield observed that “when you have a lot of debt, it’s not just financial, but it’s emotional, you know, even physical . . . .  You think about it all the time.”  It’s true.  In prior posts like Positive Energy, Feelings and Finances, and An Emotional Enema I touched on the emotional and social strains caused by my debt, but for some reason I’ve been reluctant to address the physical aspects of it.  I danced around it in Getting Out of the Quicksand but didn’t really dive right in.  I guess it’s time.

I woke this morning with a headache.  My shoulders hurt as well.  It’s become fairly standard to be wincing in pain throughout the day.  For awhile I’ve attributed it to being “out of shape” or not sleeping with proper pillows.  But headaches and shoulder pains aren’t the only aches I feel.  A few years back I started grinding my teeth at night.  That I can tell, it’s since stopped.  I’m usually gulping Pepto-Bismal.  I’ve gone for an upper-GI and an endoscopy to look for evidence of acid reflux.  There isn’t any.  I take prescription medication for migraines, and when I’m not taking those pills I’m usually gobbling Advil like candy.  Four are what I typically take for neck and shoulder pain.  I’ve had blood tests done for almost everything reasonably plausible, including diabetes, thyroid disorders, liver problems, HIV and other STDs.  I’m perfectly healthy.  Yet I search for some explanation for the various pains I experience. Occasionally I catch myself and think, “I’m only thirty-three years old.  You’re not really supposed to have this many discomforts at this age.”  From time to time I’ve wondered if my doctor suspects me of being a hypochondriac.  I’m not.  It’s just that . . . I guess until starting this project and addressing my debt, I really didn’t want to believe that stress, worry, and anxiety were causing all these problems.

Back in July, I awoke one Saturday morning with a pain in my shoulder that grew so severe that by Tuesday I walked into my doctor’s office unannounced and asked to be seen.  A few days before I had been in a meeting with someone at the local district attorney’s office to discuss my efforts to procure grant money to fund a position for me.  Well, at least that’s what I was there to discuss.  She brought me in to tell me to cease what I was doing and, in effect, go away (despite the fact that her boss, the District Attorney himself, approved my idea).  I touched on my back-story a bit in A Day in the Life and how I worked for free at the DA’s office for six months and then bowed out in June 2009 to study for the Pennsylvania bar exam even though I really did not want to have to leave the city and move back in with my mother.  What I didn’t mention was that I had been riding on this nascent “out of the box” idea of finding money for the place to hire me because they claimed they couldn’t come up with any on their own.  Then this one person obliterated that idea.

Our meeting was so stressful that I locked up physically afterward, shell-shocked that this career path and financial strategy was done.  The next morning the pain began.  It got so intense that riding the subway hurt because of the jostling back and forth as the train chugged along the tracks.  Turned out I had a pinched nerve that was so bad the doctor prescribed Valium to relax the muscles and sent me straight to a chiropractor.  For days I couldn’t figure out how I could have pinched a nerve in my neck.  I hadn’t been exercising or lifting weights.  I wasn’t stretching or exerting myself with boxes or heavy lifting.  I was just studying for the bar exam.  But while talking with the chiropractor tracing when it started, I remembered that the pain began the morning after that meeting.  My emotional reaction was so severe that it caused a near-debilitating physical reaction in my body.  Insane!  And it wasn’t merely my concern about not landing a job that bothered me, it was the entire scenario I saw painted before me where my only hope for rescue from my situation was now gone, and instead I’d be forced to leave New York and return to Pennsylvania to earn so much less and struggle even longer with my debt—or worse, I’d not pass the bar exam and be forced into retail positions, dooming me to be tied to my mother’s apron strings for eons.  Perhaps my imagination enhanced my reaction a bit.  But not by much because that’s what I was facing until this blog, and now the new temp position, rescued me.  In all honesty, an angel must have whispered the idea in my ear that Saturday afternoon in August when I hit upon the idea to get out of debt in a year.

Debt is physical as Warfield noted.  It hurts.  It does feel like I’m constantly hunched over, trying to keep this weight from slipping off my shoulders.  But acknowledging and owning the situation brings it into the light.  That I’ve come across since starting this blog yet another person, TeaAddict4Life, has grabbed hold of his debt, owned it, and dragged it into the light.  At least once.  It’s difficult to do.  And doing it can itself cause physical pains because once you embrace something your body knows it intimately.  Your mind can no longer “pretend” it’s not out there.  But I believe that by talking about it, we strip it of some of its hold over us.  And you never know—someone out there may lend a hand, be it a mom, a friend, or a stranger.

I contacted CNN to inform them of my efforts with this project.  If something comes of it, I’ll be sure to post something about it.

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

September 22, 2009 at 22:20

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