Financial Stress and Symptom Worsening

Ever since I decided that I was no longer able to work full-time, my life has been marked by significant financial stress. Yes, I do receive a monthly social security disability check. No, it is not nearly adequate for meeting my ongoing expenses. In fact, it is a mere 1/10 of my former salary as a clinical health psychologist. Without a doubt, my symptoms have been exacerbated by this continued financial stress. What a vicious cycle! I have certainly pared back my lifestyle as much as possible. Gone is my luxurious apartment in the Chicago suburbs; it’s been replaced by needing to move back in with my parents as an adult. Gone is my dry-clean only wardrobe of expensive suits; it’s been replaced by purchasing clothes on clearance, as well as at the least expensive department stores. Gone is grocery-shopping at high-end specialty stores; it’s been replaced by shopping at a discount chain, and regularly attending a local food pantry. Gone is my regular attendance at expensive psychological conventions, as well as having multiple subscriptions to professional journals within my field. I no longer sit down and pay my bills off in full, as I did when my income was drastically higher. I now negotiate with collection agencies for payment of my significant medical debt, trying to work out an arrangement for resolving my debt via modest, monthly installments. I no longer pay all of my prescription co-payments in full when I pick up my medications; I now “carry a tab,” of several hundred dollars, at my small town pharmacy. Quite honestly, part of the reason why I pushed myself to keep working full-time for as long as I did was that I reasoned I would be unable to live on social security disability benefits. Turns out, I was right. On a regular basis, I find that my symptoms are exacerbated by inadequate financial resources. Even going back to work, just part-time, carries increased scrutiny by the social security administration. I have to be exceptionally careful that my earnings don’t exceed what I believe to be an artificially low ceiling.

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