Today has been horrible. Not even travel horrible but just life horrible made worse by the fact that I am travelling and a bajillion miles away from my mother when I would like nothing more then a hug. It’s also compounded by the fact that I’m pretty much wholly responsible for all the horribleness because I have a not so endearing habit of making poor life choices, particularly of the financial variety. My life is basically a complete and utter mess. Which I knew when this trip started but feels so much heavier of a burden when you’re in a foreign country and don’t have a way home.
For those that are wondering, this trip is “funded” (if you can call scrapping by eating mainly peanut butter and jelly, feeding my dogs Pedigree and my cats Whiskas *gag* and having to camp at truck stops because you’re too broke for campsites “funded”) by my VA disability compensation payment. I am rated 100% disabled due to complex PTSD (and a whole bunch of related crap but that’s the main one). Generally speaking, 100% disability compensation is a fairly decent pay check, even for someone like me who pretty much can’t hold down a steady job to supplement it. It becomes less decent when you’re like me, and half of it basically goes straight away towards trying to keep the monster debt from swallowing you whole.
I’ll say it outright so no one thinks I’m fishing for sympathy. I got myself here, the debt is my fault. Not only am I not a particularly good money manager, but I have the really bad habit of marrying men who are as good at spending money as I am, and just as good at getting divorces where I’m left holding the bag. Lots of people seem to start their post-divorce lives with nice clean slates; in both of mine, I’ve started tens of thousands of dollars in debt, with the other half having taken on not a cent. I’m either too nice or too stupid. Whichever it is, I don’t value money like I clearly should. Its not that I like a lot of things (although if its for the horses, I wanted all the things), its that I like experiences, with people. And I often pay for those experiences so that I can have people to enjoy them with even when I can’t afford it. I have a lot of faults, and bad money handling is one of them, but I’m generous with it… whether I’m paying for an unrideable pony so he never gets abused again, paying to replace one of my dog’s hips so she can live pain free, or buying my best friend show clothes so she can show one of my horses, I’m not spending it on stuff, I just want to make lives better.
In any case, despite the supposedly decent check I’m cut every month, I live on the edge of the edge. After subtracting the enormous monthly debt payments (of which I can only afford the minimum, so you can imagine how much progress I am not making), the car payment (somehow the ex got our almost entirely paid off new truck, and I’m still paying for the car I owned before we got married), car insurance, the phone bill (which I actually am not paying cause I can’t get free data overseas anymore anyways), and the livery for the two horses I still pay for (of my seven horses, I only kept two, my rescue pony who can’t be rehomed because he’s not actually really able to be handled, and my four year old who needed more time to grow and who I actually did try to lease out, but couldn’t find a lessor that would agree not to jump him – and he was not physically ready to be jumping yet)… I basically am left with $500 a month on which to feed myself, Travis, and the dogs and cats, gas the car, keep the car and caravan running, cover emergency vet bills and/or human doctor visits, and whatever other odds and ends that show up in the course of every day life, on or off the road.
I feed my dogs and cats food I would never have imagined six months ago I’d ever let them near because its all I can afford anymore. Travis and I survive off of the food our family brought us when they visited, which he will again be bringing back with him in a resupply. When we’re lucky enough to be in a place like the ranch, we usually get one free meal a day from our hosts, which helps keep the Mac and cheese and pb&j edible a little longer. We don’t buy souvenirs from the places we visit, and we don’t go to any tourist places that require paying for tickets. Sometimes, we end up stuck at rest stops because we’re out of gas and have to wait for the next pay check to come through to get on the road again. Whenever we can, we try and find a host situation so that we can park up and save transport costs. We are travelling, yes, and most days its amazing, yes, but lets just say that we’re “budget travellers” to the extreme. Travis literally sleeps in the drivers seat of the car…
Today I learned that I missed my annual VA appointment to confirm that I am indeed, still disabled. I have no notification, via eBenefits, email, or mail of said appointment, nor was I notified that my benefits were going to be cut off, but there you have it. The VA, in all its medical glory, has decided that the best way to help treat a 100% disabled veteran whose main disabling issue is complex PTSD, with a history of suicidal struggles, is to cut their benefits in half (maybe more, I haven’t actually done the math) so that life can become that much more stressful then it already is! And, because I am in BiH, the chances of me getting a makeup appointment quickly and efficiently so the matter can be resolved before I jump off the deep end is slim to none… after all the VA can barely handle paying out BAH for GI Bill recipients on home soil, how will they manage to make an appointment for a veteran currently stuck in a non-EU country?
To say that I am feeling rather panicked is an understatement. I’m not on a work Visa, I can’t legally work in Europe, and going to a Bosnian jail just really doesn’t sound worth the risk of trying. Getting a work visa isn’t an option, trust me on this, if it was, I would have one, but even without my mental health being questionable, those are hard to come by for Americans, and impossible for work with horses. The halfed benefits payment means I can still cover the horses, thankfully, since they’re alive and sort of need to eat. I’m working with the livery owner to see if Doodle (my youngster) can find a loaner that will respect his need to develop (I won’t risk his long term health no matter how broke I may be – by the way, for those thinking I should just sell him, he’s literally not worth a dime so even if my heart could take another loss… just no). I can defer the car payments for up to two months. But those debt payments? I spent all day on the phone with my banks begging for help, but did you know, you can’t get debt help unless your account aren’t current, and my stubborn butt has never missed a single payment in my life. So unless I want to tank my credit and miss payments, I have those still to pay. My parents are trying their best to buy me some time, literally, but does anyone know how completely degrading and embarrassing it is to have to ask their parents for financial help at 31 years old? I feel like I got myself in to this mess, I should get myself out. But I also feel out of options.
I left England, in part because I was homeless after the yard I was living on was put up for sale because the owners had their own dreams to pursue. Finding housing with six dogs and five cats and for seven horses is next to impossible anywhere, but on my very fixed income, would have taken a complete miracle. So I sold my standing caravan, sold a horse, loaned the others to long term loaners, sold as much of my crap as I could and stored the rest in a friend’s garage and hit the road. I was prevented from selling by biggest asset, my motorcycle, by a financial gag order from my lovely ex, punishment because I made him file divorce papers on his own instead of jointly (seeing as how the divorce was in no way shape or form a joint decision, this didn’t seem unreasonable). My hope was that by selling off so much, getting out from under the horse costs, and living super minimal, I could start to make some headway on the stifling debt. But that hasn’t happened. And now I’m homeless, jobless, Va compensation halved so completely broke, stuck outside the Schengen Area, and with a minimum two month wait until theres even a chance of anything being sorted (and that is assuming the VA considers my case urgent, manages to find a doctor I can see pronto, AND doesn’t decide that I’ve been magically cured in the last two years since my initial rating – considering I was married, working intermittently, and had a home back then, I’d like to think it seems pretty obvious that things have not exactly improved but the VA isn’t known for its common sense).
I’m at loss at what to do at this point. I feel rather like I’m drowning in all the lovely Bosnian snow we’ve had lately. I’m trying to remember that things could be much worse… I could be having to camp out in the caravan right now for example, with no electricity in -12 degrees Celsius, but instead I’m safe on the ranch, in a cabin that sometimes is even cozy when I make the fire work right. I’m not starving, I have enough dog food to get through another week (though the cats will be out tomorrow, lord help us), my parents are helping me try and make sense of the mess I’ve made and haven’t even made a single judging comment (from the bottom of my heart, thank you for that), and Travis will be back in less then a week so at least then there’s someone to share the mental burden with. Plus, there’s a lesson in here somewhere, a bigger one then stop spending money you don’t have when you’re depressed, since that one has actually finally sunk in, even if it was much too late. I really wish we could just get to the lesson learned part though, and skip this disaster looming over my head just now. Just one break would be an awfully nice change of pace, just this once.