No one thinks they're going to need to file bankruptcy until they do. At least, I didn't. This is how I clawed my way out of a terrible situation that was, sadly, of my own making.
I was 27 at the time - married for 7 years, living in suburban North Carolina outside of Charlotte; I had a home mortgage, car payment, credit card debt of about $10,000, and no kids.
I had been a truck driver until May of 2005 when I injured myself while cleaning the windows (another story entirely!) and tore the ligament in my left thumb, which required surgery to repair - I would be out of work for 2-3 months while I healed.
I'd never really thought about budgets or financial planning before that - it simply wasn't something I put a lot of priority on, seeing as I made enough money to not have to budget much of anything. I assumed that I'd figure it out and find a way to make it all work. I lived on hope and wish.
By the time I'd recovered from my surgery and was ready to go back to work, I had decided I no longer wanted to be a truck driver and went to work as a temporary office assistant. I'm not sure what I was thinking, but the reality of it was that I'd reduced my income from $47,000 a year to a little over $18,000 a year.
Payments were certainly not being made on time at this point, and I began to slip into debt collection. I made arrangements with the debtors I could, but ignored most of them. I figured I had no money to give them anyways, so there was no point in talking to them.
Bills piled up, calls kept coming, until one day I got a call from my bank: they were going to repo my car unless I made a payment that day. It was my only means of transportation and I would be devastated by its loss, so I made the only choice I thought was available to me - I borrowed the money out of the mortgage payment. Now the car was saved but what about the house?
I put it out of my mind and struggled on. Of course, by the time the mortgage was due I didn't have the money. It was late. And it fell into a spiraling circle of late payments on both the car and the house until I became so frustrated and depressed I was contemplating suicide.
During all of this, my husband had been continuing to drive the truck and bringing in steady money. About the time I decided that life was no longer living, he had also quit the truck driving job and was no working. So now I was making ends on just my measly barely minimum wage paycheck.
I felt completely hopeless and defeated. I remember sitting outside at a lunch break, trying to find the way out of the rabbit hole, when a person passed by on a cell phone discussing something regarding a file they'd been working on - a file regarding bankruptcy.
A light clicked! I'd file bankruptcy and save the house and car. Sure, my credit would be ruined - but it was a small price to pay to ensure I kept a roof over my head.
Finding a bankruptcy lawyer was relatively easy; filing the bankruptcy was even easier. I was eligible to file a chapter 13 and make payments to repay my debts.
It finally sank in how far into debt I was and how I'd done this to myself by ignoring all of the help that was offered to me along the way from various agencies and even debt collectors.
I was religious on making my bankruptcy payments on time because, after all, what would be the point if my case was dismissed and I still lost the house?
It took me 4 years and a LOT of hard work, but I did repay within the courts satisfaction - and now, 8 years later, the bankruptcy has completely fallen off of my public record. I've had to work extra hard to rebuild my credit, but I'm proud to say that I have a credit score of 680 today.
Contributed by Mara from North Carolina