What is it like to have no hope?
To see no way out? To have no answer to your problems? To see no end to your suffering?
I can tell you.
It is to be completely disheartened. To be beyond hope. To be full of despair.
Why did I feel this way?
In January of 2019, my husband DJ and I were just a few months away from bankruptcy.
We had nearly $40,000 of credit card debt, hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loan debt, thousands of dollars of medical bills, and several thousand dollars of monthly expenses.
Life had dealt us a hard hand.
It was May of 2018. DJ and I were living in New Mexico and had just returned from one of the greatest physical therapy conferences ever, when I suddenly began to experience bizarre symptoms. I was on high drive, full of ideas, extremely talkative, irritable, and unable to fall asleep.
I figured I was just tired and all I needed was a good night’s rest.
But rest did not come.
In fact, I went over 96 hours without sleeping at all.
My mental state continued to worsen until my mind was filled with grandiose delusions and I began to hallucinate.
DJ frantically rushed me to the hospital and after running every test you can think of, I was finally diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type 1. It was explained to me that I had experienced severe mania, a characteristic feature of the disorder.
I was absolutely devastated.
I was encouraged by the Psychiatrist to take a medical leave of absence for the next three months. I decided to actually resign from my job, determined to find a less stressful work environment.
And just like that, 50% of our income was gone in an instant. We had only a couple thousand in savings, and DJ’s income was barely enough to cover the bills.
Before we knew it, we were forced to begin using credit cards to make ends meet.
DJ and I decided to move down to Tampa, FL in the Fall of 2018.
We wanted to be closer to family and friends. We also decided to move in hopes of better jobs and a possible business opportunity.
Fast forward to January 2019…
Though we had each graduated physical therapy school about a year and a half prior, by January 2019, I was only working part time twice a week, and DJ was working two to three times a month if he was lucky as a PRN (as needed) physical therapist for local clinics.
We had moved to Tampa from New Mexico in October 2018, and neither of us had yet secured full time work. All we had been able to do was work part time and PRN.
There simply was not enough money coming in.
For the past several months, we had been using our credit cards to supplement our income, but by that point our credit limits had been reached, our credit scores had been tanked, and there was simply no more money left.
I’ll never forget looking at the couple hundred left in our bank account, and thinking to myself there was no way we were going to be able to afford the next month’s expenses.
“How are we going to pay for next month?” I kept asking DJ.
He didn’t know either.
We had just a few hundred dollars left in our account and several thousand dollars worth of bills quickly approaching. The sheer amount of stress, despair, anxiety, and depression I experienced in those few months was overwhelming.
We had never in our marriage been so close to the brink of financial collapse, and here we were, teetering on the edge.
In the end, it was decided DJ would call a close family friend and ask to borrow money. It was embarrassing, but we had no choice. We had no idea how we’d pay them back either.
The Light At The End Of The Tunnel…
I was on my lunch break one day, when I received a call from DJ. “Why don’t we do travel therapy??” he excitedly asked.
I had heard of it…but I didn’t want to do it.
Travel therapy was for the people that were minimalists and lived in their RVs, traveling the country state by state.
No, thank you.
“Gabi…we could pay off our credit cards in months. If we stay here, it’ll take us years!” DJ said.
He was right.
At our current pace, we would’ve absolutely drowned in debt, spending years and thousands of dollars extra in interest trying to pay off what we had accumulated. We’d never be able to enjoy ourselves, being slaves to the debt life had cruelly forced us into.
It took DJ several weeks to convince me that becoming a travel physical therapist was the right move.
It made sense financially – travel physical therapists are paid significantly more than those in permanent positions. And it was less stressful and wayy less commitment – most travel contracts are only 13 weeks long.
However, I was terrified.
I hadn’t worked full time since June of 2018 due to taking the medical leave of absence from work after being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. By that point, it was almost March 2019 – nearly 9 months afterwards, and I still hadn’t returned to work full time.
My confidence as a physical therapist was at an all time low. I was terrified of being fired. I thought surely I would screw up so badly my contract would be ended.
But lo and behold, I survived. I did not get fired. And better yet, my patients loved me.
DJ and I moved to South Carolina in March 2019 and ended up staying until the end of September 2019, nearly 7 months, working as travel physical therapists.
Becoming travel PTs was the best decision we could have ever made.
In those 7 months, we were not only able to meet our monthly expenses, but we also saved up an emergency fund of $15,000 and paid down $19,000 of the nearly $40,000 credit card debt we had amassed.
South Carolina will forever hold a special place in our hearts as the place that saved us from the edge of financial catastrophe.
So what it is like to have no hope?
I can tell you…
But I can also tell you that when you hit rock bottom, the only way to go is up.
Fast forward nearly a year later from those dark months and here DJ and I are…starting this blog about our financial journey.
We will take you along the way. We hope you will laugh with us and that you will cry with us. We aim to be transparent and real. To share both the good and the bad.
We have not met all our financial goals, not even close. But we are on our way.
Will you join us?
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