Financial stress can be a hell of a trigger for many trauma survivors.
The essence of trauma is worry that we are about to be hurt. Our entire nervous and endocrine systems get hijacked in the service of keeping ourselves away from danger and pain.
The thing is, access to money in our culture is a HUGE mediator of our chances of being hurt.
Nothing makes us feel quite as vulnerable as being broke.
It’s not a crazy fear, either: when we don’t have ready access to money, we often ARE especially vulnerable.
It’s not just in our heads.
Many people reading this count on certain resources to live and function.
Everybody reading this counts on access to safe, accessible, and reasonably comfortable housing. NOT having access to safe, accessible, and comfortable housing is not only a HUGE trauma trigger for many of us— but it often puts us in actual danger.
Many people reading this literally stay alive because of our pets. NOT having the means to responsibly care for our pets puts us in, without exaggeration, kind of a nightmare scenario.
Many people reading this count on internet access not only for access to their social supports, but for access to resources that keep them alive and functional. NOT having reliable access to the internet can cut them off from all KINDS of resources they need.
And, of course, there is one o the most basic considerations when it comes to money: we need to eat.
It’s true that there are some financial safety nets out there— but almost everybody reading this would probably agree that there aren’t near enough…and accessing those safety nets is often exponentially difficult when we’re already suffering.
Financial strain is difficult for EVERY human. Money is a problem that EVERY human needs to solve.
But when our past includes violence; painful, complicated relationships; or other forms of trauma— financial stress can hit a different level entirely.
Trauma survivors are often ALREADY walking around with a sense of dread or impending doom— and that’s on a day when “nothing” is supposedly “wrong.”
When you throw in the very real, very pervasive fear of NOT being able to function in the world due to insufficient funds, the anxiety and panic can make it enormously difficult to function at ALL.
After all, financial problems don’t just go away EVEN IF we get grounded.
They don’t go away EVEN IF we get our breathing under control.
They doh’t go away EVEN IF we we can shepherd ourselves out of a flashback.
To the contrary— it can be enormously depressing to do all the work we need to do to mange our post traumatic symptoms…only to return to a present moment where our very real financial problems are a STILL there, and STILL threatening to ruin our lives.
What you, as a trauma survivor, need to know about financial stress is that this isn’t just in your head.
It’s not you being crazy— and it’s not your fault that money is freaking you out this way.
You also need to know that the skills and tools you’re developing to manage your symptoms WILL help you with all of this.
They WON’T take away the actual financial stress— but wrangling your emotions and focusing in the present moment WILL help you do the things you might need to do TO manage your financial stress.
There is no way around the fact that money problems and stress SUCK.
There’s also no way around the fact that we live in a culture that has overwhelmingly conflicted, toxic ideas about what having or “making” money means.
Thats not your fault, either.
I’m not a financial advisor, and I’m not particularly great at managing MY money. I have all the problems that people with trauma and ADHD tend to have with money. Money stress has been one of the big drivers in my own suicidal ideation over the years.
So I don’t have a practical answer for the question of what the hell to do about the money thing.
What I DO know is this: we are more than our bank balances.
Whether or not the world appreciates it, we are.
We HAVE more to live for than being financially solvent.
And whether we solve the issue of finances or not, we and our pets DESERVE the very best life we’re capable of living, today.
So reel it in. Deal with today, today.
As with everything, I’ve found managing financial stress as a trauma survivor is a one day at a time project— often a one MINUTE at a time project.
Easy does it.