How to Climb Up When You’ve Hit Financial Rock Bottom

Hit Financial Rock Bottom

“What good is money if it can’t buy happiness?” —Agatha Christie

By Lynn Reilly

I was on hold for over an hour… no one was picking up.  I had the phone on speaker so I could work on other things, but I was a little taken back by how much effort it took to get someone to help me.  I was applying for the Snaps program, ‘Food Stamps’, state aid to feed my children. It was awkward enough as it was and I just wanted to get it over with, but instead I had to wait. Was it this difficult for everyone?

How to Climb Up When You’ve Hit Financial Rock Bottom

I had just resigned from my job and had next to no income while I took a couple of more classes to be eligible for a license in professional counseling.  My father suggested I apply a few weeks prior and I nearly scoffed at the idea. I didn’t see how I could apply for aid, I made a choice to leave my job. I chose to reduce my income temporarily.  I chose to take a risk in hopes it would give me a greater gain. I didn’t think I earned the right to ask for help.

His view was that that was what the program was for – temporary help to get by. And more importantly, it wasn’t just about me. I had two children I had also made a choice for. They had to live with my risk and decision. For that reason alone, I decided to apply. I made a decision to live without, but they had not.

Lots of paperwork, several more hour long phone calls, an interview and escorting my pride out the door awarded my children a monthly allowance of financial food aid.  I wasn’t personally awarded aid since I made a choice to leave my job, but my children weren’t penalized for my choice. Somehow, that made me feel better.

As my bills rolled in and my income did not, I was grateful for the help we were given…

As my bills rolled in and my income did not, I was grateful for the help we were given. And yet, I found myself uncomfortable every time I was at the grocery store checking out.  Because of that, I swear, my card didn’t work and the cashier would have to override and punch in the numbers several times often asking if I was sure there were enough funds available. I was sure. I kept careful track. And I felt embarrassed, every single time.

Inner Critic

I reminded myself that it was me judging myself. It was me who didn’t feel deserving. I wasn’t doing anything wrong and asking for help is more than okay. But I still squirmed. I still questioned what they thought of me.

I remember a few times being in line with another food aid card holder and feeling such compassion for them. I was wondering what their story was, how they felt about it and wishing I could give them more of what I had. But mostly grateful that we were in line together. I had hoped they didn’t feel the discomfort I did. I was certain they deserved it more than me.

The emotions I had felt during this time in my life were so raw and all over the place. One minute I was consumed with joy that I had the freedom to be pursuing a life better suited for me. And the next, I wondered if I had actually lost my mind.  Even though my successes would make their way into my awareness often, I would only hold them for short periods before the next task at hand. I was in survival mode, day after day. I was hoping my faith and effort would pay off and I wouldn’t damage my children’s trust and wellbeing.

Every month my food aid card would fill up with our allowance, I was grateful.  Despite my wondering, if I was deserving enough to receive, I knew I had made choices to not only help myself but to help more people. I wanted to learn and help more. I wanted to give more. And since all I wanted to do was to give, why on earth was it not okay for me to receive?? This was my continuous inner dialogue. The self-judgment and self-compassion were at odds.

The real measure of your wealth is how much you’d be worth if you lost all your money

I had a beautiful home I wanted to keep, children I wanted to keep comfortable…

I had a beautiful home I wanted to keep, children I wanted to keep comfortable, and a passion for supporting others on their journey of healing. But first I needed to heal myself. And that meant learning to accept my circumstances, choices, and trust that I deserved every ounce of help along the way. I was no different than anyone else.
What made me so special that ‘I didn’t deserve help’? Absolutely nothing.

It was a year later that I no longer qualified for state financial aid for food. I felt enormous pride to be able to afford to buy food for my home. I felt more excitement that the income I produced came from helping others on my terms, in the way I wanted to. And now I could help even more. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the majority of my private practice clients receive state aid of some kind. And I am honored that I had the experience to be able to relate and understand parts of the road on which they are traveling.

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” —Winston Churchill

We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give

I can’t remember the last time I didn’t give an extra dollar in line at the store when asked. I feel it is my duty to give back what I received. But more so, it feels amazing to give readily after learning to receive humbly. And that, it turns out, was exactly the lesson I needed.

photo source

Lynn Reilly
Lynn Reilly is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Master Energy Therapist and Author of the self-help book, 30 Days to Me and the children's book, The Secret to Beating the Dragon. You can subscribe to her blog and listen to her podcasts on as well as follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
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