All of us have likely experienced some degree of financial pain. But only some of us have experienced extreme financial trouble which leads to what I might call chronic financial pain.
I can’t say that I’ve ever experienced debilitating financial pain. Sure, it hurts when we realize we bought something that we could have gotten for half-off online or that we have to pay the most expensive car insurance rates in the country, but these aren’t things that necessarily prevent us from meeting our basic needs or eventually reaching our financial goals.
A little pain every once in awhile is actually a good thing. We learn from the small mistakes, and they encourage us to take action to avoid future pain.
But that pain becomes destructive when it lingers and eventually finds a way to negatively impact every aspect of our life.
This type of chronic financial pain has been something we’ve luckily been able to avoid. We’ve definitely had financial challenges such as experiencing a layoff and being $50K in debt, but we’ve never had the level of financial stress of wondering where our next meal would come from.
We have, however, experienced other types of chronic pain. As a result, we have sympathy for those who experience any type of chronic pain. It’s also given us insight into the amazing power of support groups.
Pregnancy Support Group
Amanda’s first two pregnancies were relatively simple. They consisted of what most people would imagine– morning sickness, fatigue, odd food cravings, and even some mandatory bed rest.
The pregnancy for baby #3, however, was nothing like the first 2. She was very sick. She had hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), which is a complication that affects about 1% of pregnant women. Unfortunately, we didn’t even realize what it was, or get much help for it, until it was over. Had we been able to identify what was causing her so much misery, we would have sought out better support instead of suffering through it alone.
Some people she spoke with about her experience made her feel as if her sickness was just part of the normal pregnancy experience–something all pregnant women go through–and some just handle better than others. This only made her feel like more of a failure and more depressed. Even after the fact, she never felt understood.
There is a high incidence of recurrence of HG with subsequent babies, so we had decided that we would probably not have another one. But surprise! Four years later, turns out we are getting one. We were excited for the baby, but nervous about Amanda’s health.
She immediately started searching for resources, and she became an HG Warrior. That is to say she joined the facebook group HG Warriors. In an instant, she had a network of almost 1,500 women who understood exactly what she had gone through and what she might go through again and who occasionally post memes like these:
This is what HG moms call “being crackered.” Crackers and Ginger Ale is one of the most commonly suggested remedies to morning sickness. This well-intentioned suggestion is only evidence of how misunderstood the severity of the condition is.
All of the sudden she did not feel alone. She had a group she could turn to with questions about meds and dealing with the sickness. In this group, she feels like she is not misunderstood. And at the beginning of this pregnancy it gave her more courage to face whatever might come.
Ankle Support Group
Last week I had my 3rd ankle surgery in 3 years. I broke my ankle skateboarding when I was 16. The break healed fine, but there was a complication in my ankle joint known as an osteochondral defect (OCD). It Is something that affects about 15 out of every 100,000 people as a result of either genetics or physical trauma, and it is very difficult to treat.
Although I’ve had increased physical limitations, I’ve been lucky over the past several years to still be able to participate in daily activities and even sports with minimal problems. It all finally caught up with me 3 years ago, when I started dealing with daily chronic pain whenever I am on my feet.
I am now a member of not one, but two support groups. I found and joined an online forum of other individuals going through the exact same thing as I was. For the first time, I was interacting with other people going through the same frustrations and disappointments. I even ended up talking to some of them on the phone, and some of these people are super depressed. But I understand why.
In addition, after seeing Amanda really benefiting from her facebook support group, I decided to see if there was an OCD facebook group. It turns out that there is one, and it has over 700 members. I instantly felt like I belonged.
I’ve received answers to questions and have been able to make suggestions to others based on my experience. In the process, I have received wonderful support and total acceptance.
I also get to read sympathetic and occasionally humourous memes & pictures.
Being understood is incredibly gratifying. My friends and coworkers often give me a hard time for taking the elevator at work, and I play along, but the fact is that I have a minor disability. Sure, I can walk (sort of), but that’s been about all I’ve been able to do over the past 3 years.
Oprah said that “the single most important lesson I learned in 25 years talking every single day to people, was that there is a common denominator in our human experience. Most of us don’t want to be divided. The common denominator that I found in every single interview, is we want to be validated. We want to be understood.”
We ALL want to be understood, and it is very frustrating and disheartening when we feel like we aren’t.
Financial support groups
So what does my wife’s pregnancy and my gimp foot have to do with finance? Everything!! Regardless of the source of chronic pain–physical, emotional, mental, financial, etc.–there are certain steps anyone can follow to at least take the edge off.
1. Identify the problem
Are you depressed, stressed, or angry as result of a really tough financial situation? The first step in the right direction is to make that connection. Not all people know that the source of their frustrations might be largely financial.
2. Join a support group
There are many forms of support groups out there. It could range from an in-person meeting at a local church to an online facebook group or forum. Below are just a few active online forums with large and supportive communities.
There are also websites dedicated to helping others get out of debt such as Steve’s blog at Getoutofdebt.org.
3. Seek Solutions
Once you find a group, don’t just read and listen. Engage! Speaking up will allow others to help with your specific problem. You may find there are others out there who have been in your exact situation.
4. Share your experience
After finding support and making progress in overcoming your financial pain, you will likely have the desire to help others. Doing so will not only motivate others but also help to motivate you to continue forward on your path of financial recovery.
If you have some type of chronic financial pain, you are likely suffering in silence. Everyone thinks you should be okay because you look like you should feel okay. That only makes the problem worse. But you can put a stop to that through understanding that you are not alone and talking to someone who has been in your shoes.
I included only a small sample of free online resources. Please let me know in the comments if there are others you think I should add, and I will update this list!
Have you ever been part of a financial (or any other) support group?