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I've Been Completely Humbled!

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 
I have always paid my way in life, even during some really tough times.

Today I found myself signing papers to declare myself insolvent.

I've been off work for 3 1/2 years on disability. And while I have intensions of returning to my job it's been a long road to recovery and I still see months and months ahead of me for rehab and a back to work program before I am able to get back to my job.

My disability is only 60% of the income that I was earning in 2004 when I went off work and my pension isn't indexed with inflation which means that everything has gone up in price but my income has remained the same. My rent alone has gone up $250.00 per month in the last 3 years.

When I was first off work I could just make ends meet but it's gradually gotten harder and harder as my rent and utilities and groceries have increased in price and it's come to a point where I have been falling behind in everything and taking food off of my table to try and make bill payments and avoiding answering the telephone because of bill collectors. And my homecare lady being wasteful with my toiletries hasn't been helping any because every month I've been having to buy shampoo and shower gel.

My stress levels have been astronomical and I'd fallen into a deep depression despite being on anti-depressants. I've been putting on a happy face for people but inside I felt like I was dying.

I decided last week that I just couldn't do it anymore and spoke to a bankruptcy trustee who went over my options with me and agreed with me that bankruptcy at this point was my only option because massive amounts of interest and late payments were being tacked onto everything I owed and even if I was to return to work tomorrow it would be decades before I managed to pay it all off and much of the debt that I owe now is accumulated interest because I have only been managing to make the minimal payments or just the interest payments.

What a humbling experience to have to disclose everything to complete strangers who in turn will be disclosing everything to more complete strangers.

It wasn't as bad as I thought though. I have to pay them a small sum every month for 9 months and then because it's a first bankruptcy, provided none of the creditors have a problem, I will receive a full discharge in 9 months and be 100% debt free. During this next 9 months I have to give them a monthly accounting of my income and expenses and account for every penny I spend, and I have to go to 2 credit counselling sessions: the first in early January.

I had a bit of a panic attack this morning before I went, but I went anyway and I don't regret it. There is huge guilt because shirking my debts goes against very moral fibre of my being. But there is also massive relief. I should feel shame, but for some reason I don't. For more than 3 years I have felt like I have been standing on the edge of a cliff with water rising around me. And it came to a a point where I just had to do something to get some order and control back into my life. Unfortunately this was the only viable option for me.

I have worked out a budget and after all expenses I have a whole $33.00 left over. It's not much, but it's $33.00 more than I had before. And it's a start.
post #2 of 38
*hugs* Nat you shouldn't feel guilty. I can't imagine how you've been feeling going through all this crud. I think you've done the right thing for your own mental and emotional health. You don't know how you could have been in the future had you not made this decision
post #3 of 38
I'm sooooooo sorry, but glad to hear that you're taking steps to help yourself.
post #4 of 38
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by lunasmom View Post
glad to hear that you're taking steps to help yourself.
I had to. It was the only way things were going to change. I had to admit there was a problem and remove my self from the situation before anything got better.
post #5 of 38
I worked for a lady cleaning houses, several years ago, she was in her late 60's and paying on bills, from an exhusband who had every credit card known to man kind,and had left her for someone else. This poor woman had no food to eat, no heat and was almost homeless, even thou she worked three jobs, My Dh and I talked her into going bankrupt. this wonderful women deserved so much more, she was embarassed at first, but when it was over she was so relieved, she could have heat in her house again, food to eat. and work one job. You have nothing to feel bad about, things happen that are out of our control.
post #6 of 38
Hold your head up and go forward. Don't let anyone or anything stop you. You will get back up again; and what's happened to you could happen to anyone, and has, to many, many good people. Know there are lots of people and cats here at TCS who wish you well and give purrs and support!
post #7 of 38
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone

I'm going to get my hair cut tomorrow. Something I've been wanting to do for months but haven't been able to afford it. I think it will give me a much needed self-esteem boost.

This whole week has been like walking in a fog because I've had to deal with paper work and phone calls every single day to try and get everything in order so that I could drop off the application and supporting documents by last Wednesday so that they could have the papers drawn up for today.

I wish I could say this was all behind me but it's going to be a daily reminder for the next 9 months. I've never been one for keeping meticulous personal records, especially of bills or receipts. So that is going to take some getting used to.

I spent about an hour making myself a makeshift filofax to keep my monthly records in. All of the cash register receipts from today were put into December after I recorded on each one what it was for.
post #8 of 38
I know it was tough, but I think you did the right thing! I'm sorry you have gone through all this. But just take things one day at a time.
post #9 of 38
What a terribly sad story. I'm sorry for everything you had to go through. Life isn't fair, but it's the bad times that make the good times so great.

I hope everything works out for you.
post #10 of 38
You are doing great sweetheart! I applaud you for hanging in there! You've already taken the first steps to getting your life in order and now everything else will fall in place soon hon! It will be a lot of stress off of you to not have to worry over your debt or other problems once this is all cleared up. Now you can focus on getting yourself healthier and improving your life! This is going to be good for you! You can do it

I am only a pm away anytime you need a friend to talk to Keep your chin up!
post #11 of 38
hey now, No reason to be down on your self, you have done the best you can for a long time!!! i know when your hurting how hard it is to do the day to day stuff let alone trying to work(i am only able to work now, cause i sit on my butt to do it)

I fully understand how fusting getting stuck with a disability can be, it a blow to the body, the mind, the spirit and the bank account. however it seems to be that you have not given up, and have taken the right steps all along they way. I have found that the best thing i can do is only worry about those things i can control(and know its not always easy)

i saw a few reports whee they said anti-depressants. dont seem to work well when a person has a real reason for being depressed. such as being in pain etc. worrying over items, Which you have been.

you have a done a great job at holding things off for this long,Try to see this new issue, like your rehab program, it is small steps back to where you want to me

There are many people here pulling for you, Good luck
post #12 of 38
Awww Linda, that must be hard Sending many calming vibes your way
post #13 of 38
You have nothing to be ashamed of. Through no fault of yours you have not been able to work for an extended period of time, I know I would be in a real bind and have to do the same thing if this happened to me. You did nothing wrong, you were not intentionally living beyond your means. I think the laws allowing people to do this were written just for these types of situations and you are doing what you need to do.
post #14 of 38
Don't feel guilty! You've been through more than most people could take, and seem to have handled it very well. There is nothing to feel ashamed of with your finances.

I'm so sorry you've had to go through all of this. I know things will get better for you soon, and you have a good attitude about the money.

You have all of your friends here pulling for you!

post #15 of 38
That is going lift a giant weight off your shoulders. Disability happens and you did what you thought best for a long time. This will give you a good leg up know-don't feel bad you had to file bk.
post #16 of 38
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by GailC View Post
That is going lift a giant weight off your shoulders.
It already has! I'm feeling so much better about life now.

With the bill collectors soon to be off my back and a near plan in place to get me into a physical rehab program in January, things are looking so much brighter.
post #17 of 38
Boy, I sure can relate to how you're feeling, Natalie! I think that that's a big part of why my blood pressure has gone high, and why I've been so depressed lately - b/c I'm in the same boat as you are, too. I've always supported myself too, and having my docs declare me permanantly disable and no longer able to work has been a real bone crusher. And having all those bill collectors harrassing you, plus having to rely on the help of others hasn't been easy for me to deal with, either. It makes you feel so useless & worthless..

You've done the right thing, and should be proud of yourself for hanging in there and hanging tough. You have nothing to be ashamed of..

You go, girl!

post #18 of 38
Oh hon, I'm so glad you shared this with us. And I admire you so much for the way you've handled it all! I've been dealing with a similar situation, and I struggled valiantly for a few years... but then I gave up and moved in with my parents. Yes, it's helpful to them, maybe even necessary, to have me here, but still... I wish I'd had the fortitude to do what you've done.

You may be insolvent, but you are also independent, and that's something to be proud of.
post #19 of 38
Thread Starter 
It's been over a week now since I signed bankruptcy papers.

One of the credit card companies (MBNA) is still calling me despite my having told them 2 weeks ago on November 26th that I was declaring bankruptcy and that I had signed the official papers on November 30th.

They called me every day this week and I have told them to take it up with the trustee, not me. And each one has still tried to bully me into making a payment.

It's 8am and I just got another phone call from a guy from there. I told him that I am not going to discuss the situation with him and that he needs to take it up with the Trustee and I gave him the phone number again, and told him that if I hear anything more from them that I would be contacting the Trustee myself and my lawyer and would be not only suing them for harassment, because that is exactly what it was but I would take my story to the media.

The nerve!

Anyway, other than that I am feeling such relief and zero guilt for having decided to take the road of bankruptcy. My life circumstances were beyond my control and a fixed income can only go so far and I know I did my best to stave off this step, but it finally got to a point where it became my only option.

I have some advice for those who are suffering and drowning in debt like I have been.

Life is not fun when you are afraid to answer the telephone because of bill collectors

It's not fun to have your home invaded by a stranger via a telephone and have them swear and call you names and make you feel so low and unworthy and like you would be better off dead than dealing with that kind of abuse. And believe me the thought of suicide did enter my mind more than once because of it. However I am a strong person and despite dark thoughts have always been able to pull myself back from the edge because while my life is not the best right now, it's still mine and I'm not done living it.

It's not fun to go without food some days, or just have a single meal replacement shake or a bowl of rice in a whole day, because your bills have eaten into your food budget to the point where you have to ration what you have left for nearly 2 weeks because once it's gone it's gone and there is no more money for anymore. I also found myself counting squares of toilet tissue so that I could stretch the time between having to buy more because having to buy stuff like that took more food off of my table! And I was already to the point where I was eating only rice on some days.

MBNA were abusing me in the worse possible way. I was down and out and they just kept kicking me. Calling me sometimes 12 times per day demanding money that I didn't have. I would tell them that my financial situation hadn't changed from 2 hours earlier and to stop calling me. They kept right on calling, sometimes at 6:30 am and sometimes at 10 pm, 7 days a week. It got to the point I just didn't bother to answer my phone and screened my calls. Some would abuse their position further by keeping my telephone line tied up and running out my answering machine tape, or refusing to hang up if I answered the phone. One girl kept my phone tied up for over 2 hours.

My advice to those who are struggling like I was, and who are being abused by bill collectors like I was, is to swallow your pride and do what you have to do to get yourself into a better position financially.

A huge reason why I didn't do it sooner was because I didn't want to lose my "stuff". But it finally came to a point where I just didn't care anymore. I figure stuff can be reacquired at a point in the future when I'm more flush and don't have to deal with heavy debt and bill collectors. It's just stuff! And that my health is more important than "stuff!"

I went around my home and put a mental price on what my stuff would sell for in a garage sale. It's hard to put a garage sale price on things you have owned for years, but I stepped back and thought "What would I pay for this if I were to buy it second hand?" and that made it easier. I came to see that my stuff holds a great deal of sentimental value, but not so much monetary because most of it is 10 years old or more, and a 10 year old couch in mint condition is not worth more than $75.00 used. The same with 10 and 15 year old applicances like a deep freezer and dishwasher.

I got to keep all of my stuff (furniture, clothing, kitchen things, personal possessions) because my realistic estimated value came within the allowable limit. The items they are concerned about as "assets" are houses and cars, cottages, boats...stuff like that. In the event of houses, I don't think they make you sell. I think a lien is placed on the property and in the event of a future sale the liens are paid first out of the proceeds.

I know there are other people here living a life of fear and dread from bill collectors and who are under a great deal of financial stress because of overwhelming debt and not enough money to go around. You don't have to live like that. And taking the steps to wipe the slate clean is not as bad as it sounds. In fact there is a huge sense of relief and a feeling of elation that at the end of the bankruptcy term that you are 100% debt free.

And what a learning lesson it is!

I have had credit card debt in the past where I have had to get consolidation loans and have paid them off. But declaring bankruptcy is a whole different learning experience. I don't like having to account to strangers for my spending, and I don't like having to disclose such personal information to them either. I know I'll think twice before I ever apply for another credit card!

So don't be ashamed if you have to do the same thing. And don't let "stuff" stand in the way of your peace of mind.
post #20 of 38
Sounds like this is the right decision for you. My thoughts are with you.
post #21 of 38
Oh sweetie, you should not have been subjected to this hell. It sounds like they are violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

For example, debt collectors may not:
  • use threats of violence or harm;
  • publish a list of consumers who refuse to pay their debts (except to a credit bureau);
  • use obscene or profane language; or repeatedly use the telephone to annoy someone.
I think you should report these people.
Where can you report a debt collector for an alleged violation?

Report any problems you have with a debt collector to your state Attorney General' s office and the Federal Trade Commission. Many states have their own debt collection laws, and your Attorney General' s office can help you determine your rights.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
From the http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/fdc.shtm
post #22 of 38
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by katachtig View Post
Oh sweetie, you should not have been subjected to this hell. It sounds like they are violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
[/list]I think you should report these people.
From the http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/fdc.shtm
Unfortunately those laws apply to the US. I'm in Canada and TBH I don't know what the laws are governing this. I did tell the bankruptcy firm about what MBNA has been doing to me for more than 3 years and they asked me if I had called the BBB, the police, lodged a complaint with the company etc. And told me that what they have been doing is considered harrassment. But she didn't site any particular laws to me. Because MBNA does their collections "in house", they are not subject to the same laws that govern general bill collection firms.

I had written numerous letters to MBNA asking them to cease and desist their harrassment of me and went on to relay all of the tactics and things said to me by their collection staff. Nothing was done.

But in January I plan on sitting down and drafting a long letter to the BBB about them, as well a writing a letter to the editor.

No one deserves to be treated with the complete disrespect that I was treated with. Yes, I know they were only doing their job, but there is such a thing as doing their job and harrassing someone. These people are vultures and competely forget that they are dealing with actual people who didn't choose to not pay their bills, but just can't pay them for whatever reason.
post #23 of 38
I'm sorry, I wasn't paying attention to your location.

I did some investigating and Manitoba's Consumer Protection Act is indeed illegal to

(f) make telephone calls or personal calls of such nature or with such frequency as to constitute harassment of the debtor, his spouse or common-law partner or his family; or

(j) make a telephone or personal call or attempt to make a telephone or personal call to or on a debtor to demand payment, or negotiate for payment, or seize or levy distress against goods
(i) on a Sunday, or
(ii) on a holiday, or
(iii) on any other day except between the hours of seven o'clock in the morning and nine o'clock in the evening; or
From what I can see, the complaints should go to
Manitoba Finance
Consumer and Corporate Affairs
Consumers' Bureau
Suite 302, 258 Portage Avenue
Winnipeg MB R3C 0B6
Tel.: (204) 945-3800
Toll Free: 1-800-782-0067
Fax: (204) 945-0728
Email: consumersbureau@gov.mb.ca
Website: www.gov.mb.ca/finance/cca/consumb

I know you need to take care of your health first, but I want you to have some power in this situation.
post #24 of 38
Thread Starter 
Thank you for that! I will definitely be contacting them about MBNA! That company should be shut down because of their strong arm tactics!

Originally Posted by katachtig View Post
I'm sorry, I wasn't paying attention to your location.

I did some investigating and Manitoba's Consumer Protection Act is indeed illegal to

From what I can see, the complaints should go to
Manitoba Finance
Consumer and Corporate Affairs
Consumers' Bureau
Suite 302, 258 Portage Avenue
Winnipeg MB R3C 0B6
Tel.: (204) 945-3800
Toll Free: 1-800-782-0067
Fax: (204) 945-0728
Email: consumersbureau@gov.mb.ca
Website: www.gov.mb.ca/finance/cca/consumb

I know you need to take care of your health first, but I want you to have some power in this situation.
post #25 of 38
I totally understand where you are coming from. I never answer my home phone. In fact, I have the ringer off. The only reason I have a home phone, is because it is required for my DSL. I don't have an answering machine right now. The other one broke during our move.

We are considering bankruptcy but are waiting until we see what the forclosure paid. It is my understanding when they forclose on your house, they also pay any liens against the property so it is free and clear. If they come after me for more money, then we will declare.
post #26 of 38
well done, Linda! It is difficult to do, but you will feel so much better in 9 months.
My mother had to declare bk a few years ago. My youngest brother and I worked overtime for months trying to get enough money to help her save her house but it didn't work. She is in a small apartment now and, while still not flush, she doesn't have the huge debts looming.

The tactics used by the collectors are completely illegal. We had someone like that calling a co-worker constantly (at work!) and would not stop the harrassment and abuse. It is illegal for them to call a person at work after they have been told not to. Same thing if they have been told to call an attorney. I hope you get them good!
post #27 of 38
MBNA has to be one of the worse.
when i travel for work, the will normally give me a company cedit card. One time, they did not give me the card, so i went ahead and left, was on the road for almost 2 months , ran up a bill of over 4,000 dollars,

i was shocked when
A) work gave me the money back in about 2 weeks. so i paid it off.
B) I still get phone calls from MBNA about when am i going to pay it back.
the best i fiqure out is maybe if someone from mbna would call that understood english,

i cancelled there card 3 years ago cause of this and i still get calls about a bill, that was paid off the next month.

Anyway, the most important thing right now for you, is get back to being able to work,take care of your self first. besides the cats
post #28 of 38
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by theimp98 View Post
take care of your self first. besides the cats

My kitties always come first. I always made sure that the cupboard has been stocked with the foods that they like to eat, even if I had to go without.

MBNA called me 3 more times after that guy called me early this morning. The 3 subsequent calls were automated messages. As soon as I heard them I just hung up. I'm calling the Trustee on Monday about this.
post #29 of 38
Thread Starter 
It's 9:30am Monday and I've already gotten 2 automated telephone calls from MBNA.

I just called the Trustee about it. I've had enough. I've given MBNA the phone number 3 separate times to the Trustee, including once to the direct line of the person who is handling my bankruptcy, yet they are still calling me 2 weeks later!
post #30 of 38
Thread Starter 
I just got a return call from the Trustee. They told me that they just got off of the phone with MBNA and has told them that if they call me again that a complaint will be filed against them.

I still plan on filing a complaint against them on my own for all of the harrassing tactics and stunts that they have been pulling on me.
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