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I’m Depressed, Anxious, and in Debt. – Victoria

“Dear Steve,

Currently I’m not making enough to cover my bills. I am an independent self-contractor (not by choice – just happened) & my pay varies per customer service email I answer within One Week (1 random email is chosen each week to grade and it’s either 90 cents or 62 cents) Luckily I have a partial brain and I get the 90 (I am much more concise with those. I do apologize for this novel). In addition, I do not work to my full potential thanks to a handful of labels (i.e. depression, anxiety, Adult ADD) as well as working from home. Without insurance, my meds are all paid out of pocket which has meant on a credit card. 3 years ago, my credit score was as close to perfect as possible. That is when I had to move out on my own and I spent far more than I made – no more than before, but now I was also paying rent and utilities!

I am fortunate now in that my boyfriend is OK (not jumping for joy, but I do as much as I can around the house) with me not contributing financially for now. For the 1st time since late ’04 I was just late on my truck payment which is the smallest of my debts at $2,000. The credit union I use luckily has a generous 10-day grace period so I was able to take care of that!

Meanwhile, my credit card debt is $14,700 (ya know how certain numbers just make you feel ill) making my minimum payment over $300. Prior to making my last, insufficient payment of $200 I (being clueless & never taught how to manage $) realized I should NOT have paid them that much as it left me with NO money for my student loan payment nor any OTHER money whatsoever. I was just trying to give as much as I could – or THOUGHT I could.

The student loan balance is $6,600. In December, I called them and was told I would be on a forbearance plan; which would drop my payments, but of course, ultimately I would pay more over time. I agreed. The gentleman whom I spoke with did not fully enter this plan into the system which I didn’t find out until 3 months later. Their website has always been unclear (payments shown in 3 places and never correct – plus it’s two loans that were consolidated and it’s just never made sense to me which I have asked them about with no response) so I would just pay $80, more than my min. Well, thinking I had this lower payment, I became late and later and now past due. So, I paid the initial late fee (only about 28 bucks) because at that point I was not AS up the creek as I am now. The next day they told me I was late over 300 dollars!!! This entire time (via email – as I like to have a written record), they are ignoring my pleas regarding my financial situation. They told me about the rep not putting the plan in correctly…just nonchalantly as if it were no big deal. They told me to send pay-stubs and I did TWICE. They have COMPLETELY ignored me. Now they are calling every day and I just don’t have the guts, knowledge, patience, calm nor medication needed to SPEAK with them. But I have to, I know. They will not answer my emails anymore. I do not work in any field even remotely near the pointless degree I am paying off, which is not their fault of course, but adds to my frustration. I make maybe 3-400 dollars a month. I could make more. That is another story. When I started I was told this would be full-time and how EASY it was (so many shiny promises), then after the holidays they said, “o no, this is just a side job – we NEVER said this could be FT” ….I guess I just hallucinate.

I answer emails for 20 different retail websites and I am a perfectionist to a FAULT so, it’s not the best fit for me. But it’s ALL I HAVE. So I searched and searched and searched everywhere, any job – Walmart, Walgreens, Target (they NEVER even consider interviewing me. No calls unless I know someone and then no interview… My dad says I should change my last name – it’s still my maiden name, never married – not sure about that. I would have to agree, but also I think my resume is bad?! Should I dumb it down??…. had 3 (2 were “for sure”) great (well, min wage, but shoot, that’s fine) job leads. None came through. I was going to do also do emails of course. I’m at a point now where I need to start looking again even though I have Zero confidence and have been isolated for 10 months which is not very helpful for depression and anxiety. I am so overwhelmed at everything and have been – it just gets worse and worse. Also, supposedly I have Adult ADD so that’s been fun too.

In talking about this my boyfriend has divulged his EXTREME debt due to a business he opened and had to close after 2 years. He took a 2nd mortgage out on his house. He’s starting the bankruptcy research process. He’s in retails sales now and there is a chance he could get into management which would mean moving…and would coincide with losing the house :(……Sigh.

I am grateful to have a few close friends to lean on though. I don’t know what to do regarding the Credit Card balance and the student loan. I get offers every day for balance transfers. I looked online and saw even better offers (I think?!). Would it make sense to transfer SOME of my large CC balance to a new card with a 0% APR? Some have that 0% for a year! I highly doubt anyone would give me the credit line that BOA did. I don’t WANT IT.. I still have thousands left. Now of course I can’t use the card, which is good. It means no food except on a Target card that HAD a zero balance and has a $500 limit. I know my biggest issue is the fact I am not making enough income! While I sort that out (sigh) if the transfer sounds like a good plan, do you have any recommendations regarding sites or cards? I also have an American Express with a zero balance. I had transferred from that to the BOA card as the BOA card had a 0% interest deal and it’s only 10.24% APR, the lowest I have ever seen, bit of course at this rate it doesn’t really matter. heh. I think that and my high credit limit are due to the fact I banked with them for many years (from the NCNB days) and also when I got the card I had much better credit. Of course Target and American Express both lowered my credit limits significantly about 2 years ago.

I know I need to speak with BOA and the loan company. Any tips for that? I am CLUELESS. I’m trying to not be upset with my parents…my mother, may she rest in peace (she died when I was 17), spoiled me rotten and though my father made very good money he was frugal and had grown up during the depression so I understand his mentality. My mom would buy me and my siblings SO much and say, “Don’t tell your father!”… so often, that even now, 17 years removed, I can hear her say it in my head like it was 10 minutes ago — and then feel the guilt. Yay! haha. The problem is, I was never taught how to budget, manage $ at all or given chores, responsibilities. My father and I were lost when my mom died as she did almost everything. He took out a credit card (his account) with my name…I went to college…and had that for years. He’d pay it each month – I’d get schoolbooks, groceries, CDs, clothes…anything =. I didn’t go crazy, but my lifestyle (as far as materialism) was exactly the same without any work on my part.

I did find jobs and held on to a good one (not $-wise, but I LIKED it). About 2-3 years later, my dad re-married and his wife said he was crazy for still giving his kids money. I no longer had his CC at that time, but he had given my brother and sister Tons of money – I mean, he financed a Bar for my brother – bailed my sister out of debt and she has since filed some sort of bankruptcy twice! So, after the wife came along he told me that we (my siblings and I) were all “off the payroll”. Now, I was about 22ish I think. That makes sense (shower us with anything our our lives, don’t teach us how to manage money, pound into our minds that spending money is evil, and cut us off!) and I wasn’t getting any $ from him at the time, my siblings were… Regardless I was “lucky” to find shelter with various friends etc. I would pay nominal rent. I was never on my own until 2007 when my boyfriend of 7 ½ years had ignored me (100%) for a week and I basically just knew…I’d have to leave. I think he loathed me for a good 3 years at least, Talk about holding everything in!!! He brought me to this town and I don’t regret that. Life’s too short, but he said when I found my apartment (he was just like my father, sickly enough), “now you will learn how to be responsible”. Huh?! This was coming from a guy who makes a boatload of money at UPS (been there since 19 so he hates it, but makes SO MUCH and spends it all on frivolous things. When I met him he was 30k in debt. His father died a year later and he was able to pay that off. Then he just though he was hot stuff…no more debt and somehow I should pay as much as him for everything even though he made 4x as much as I ever did… So I just didn’t care. I found an apartment within 1 day :) and then the spiral slowly began. And here I am about 24k in debt (took a bit less than 2 years, with health issues, psychiatrist is 105 a session (just canceled my next one), cat at the vet, had a problem with online virtual games for a bit (o how insane!)…just stupid stuff. Luckily I’m not into clothes and shoes! If my dad knew he’d have an instant heart attack. He expected me to pay my truck off immediately. Every time I saw him for the first year he called it my “dependent” and asked when I would be done paying….he does not use credit, which is awesome, but hey, maybe I could have been let in on some secrets/thoughts/ideas/insight there.

Sorry this is lengthy, but I am at my wit’s end. ANY advice is good…except what past doctors have said, “you need to make more money” (that was a psychiatrist whom I no longer waste $ I don’t have on) and “you need to find a job with health insurance”. Man, I never thought of that. WOW….i just don’t know. Life is very bizarre.

Be well…Victoria”

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The Answer

Dear Victoria,

It is refreshing to get a question with so much detail. Thanks.

I think your situation is a good example of how money problems are the symptoms of the underlying issues. There certainly have been a number of issues that have lead to your current indebtedness. It isn’t just one thing.

This is just my opinion and as always, I reserve the right to be wrong, but I think the most reasonable and logical path at this time is for you to consider bankruptcy. Here’s why.

  • Based on your current income and the reasonable expectation you will find a higher paying job, it seems unlikely that more income is just around the corner.
  • Your ability to pay for appropriate medical care and medications right now is more important than the debts.
  • It sounds like you’ve learned some very good lessons from what you’ve been through to date and hopefully you will carry those lessons forward with you and not repeat the mistakes you’ve now learned to avoid. There’s no sense wasting a perfectly good mistake I always say.
  • You are currently unable to save any money and you need an emergency fund to protect you in case an unexpected expense comes up.

If you want you can click here to find a local bankruptcy attorney and go talk to them for free about your financial situation. Bankruptcy won’t discharge the student loans but with the other debt gone you can finally start making some progress towards those loans.

Additionally, if your student loans are government backed then look at the Income Based Repayment program (IBR) to reduce your payments. And based on your income you should review the government benefits available and see if you are eligible for any of them. It sounds like you would be eligible for Medicaid to cover emergency medical expenses and that’s worth investigating.

Please update me on your progress by posting updates here in the comments section of your question. I’m very interested in how this works out for you.

Big Hug!

Im Depressed, Anxious, and in Debt.   Victoria
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About Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode
Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.

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