In Part 1, I described five financial goals I had as a "teenager with some money.”
Starting at age 13, I saved as much as I could because I eventually wanted to leave the Midwest in order to lead a “frugal artistic lifestyle.”
Half of the twenty grand I had as a teenager came from painful experiences and lawsuits. The other half came from side-hustles (like guitar lessons and coffee shop shows) or odd jobs (like working at a factory and an auto parts store).
As a financially stable eighteen-year-old setting off into the world, I sought to always maintain a positive net worth, have a creative career, and lead a life focused on self-improvement.
Even though I didn’t have key vocabulary for FI (let alone any hard money skills), I had many things in common with people pursuing financial independence:
- I had an above average net worth for my age
- I felt lucky to have my basic needs met and wanted to help others
- I desperately desired to make the most out of life (especially after realizing how short it can be)
- I had guts
- I thought for myself
- I was an odd blend of caring and not caring what other people thought
Investing in Oneself: Spend a Little to Make a Little
In today’s post, I want to narrow in on a mental health lawsuit I was involved in during the early 2000s. At the age of 17, this money came as a surprise check in the mail. My portion was $8,000.
Retrospectively, I can easily see how that money provided much-needed confidence and creative opportunities. I used it to buy amps, guitars, studio equipment, cd packaging, and other items that assisted me on my journey as a full-time musician in my early 20s.
In essence, I had no fear using the windfall money to invest in myself. I've never looked at it that way before, but it's obvious to me now.
The initial investment paid itself back tenfold. Besides actually making money from my songwriting, I enjoyed my journey as a musician, got a severe “creative itch” out of my system, and met some great people (my husband being one of them).
My “ultra-frugal self” currently needs a reminder about the power of spending a little to make a little, so I hope to learn from my “younger gutsy self” while reflecting on this story from my youth.
For example, in this song I didn't know what I was doing, but I didn't mind. If you want to mildly enjoy it, I suggest skipping the first minute (at least)!
Back to The Beginning: When Mental Health Was “Treated Differently” By Insurance Companies
Our current societal reality is comprised of a healthcare system where people die or go broke depending on the whims of an insurance policy or an individual’s location.
While other people with similar conditions recover or at least obtain assistance, there are people in the US facing bankruptcy, loss of autonomy, massive frustration, and unnecessary stress on top of whatever original health concern they may have had.
Quite frankly, this is repulsive. How many people have to die? How many lawsuits have to happen?
A few details about the lawsuit I was involved in can be found here.
In summary, anorexia, autism, and mental health cases in general were not being covered in the same legitimate manner as physical conditions, especially in young patients.
Inpatient care was especially a nightmare for the families trying to receive it.
As seen in the article, a mother who lost her daughter to anorexia didn’t want to remain anonymous. She went public with the case in order to communicate how effective coverage could have made a difference and saved her daughter’s life.
Finding this woman’s story years later was heart-wrenching for me. I was simply one of the “other individual claims” mentioned in the article. That woman’s daughter (along with many others) will never get to tell their story.
But I can tell mine.
And I can tell you what I did with that money.
I bought myself time. And I wrote songs.
Inpatient Treatment: The Problem With Quick Turn Arounds
Back in the year 2000, I was an 8th grader lacking insight into how to work with my brain as an extreme systemizer. Around the first time I was hospitalized for anorexia, my nickname was literally “the robot.”
My first hospitalization did not go as expected for a variety of reasons, one being that it was shorter than every doctor I was working with recommended.
Why was it shorter?
Since nature is wise, some young bodies are able to recover faster from harsh conditions. Due to care in the hospital, my heart rate got back up to normal very quickly.
In fact, my heart rate was back to normal within a week.
Unfortunately enough for young resilient bodies, the insurance company came in from the side to say I was out of medical danger (even though I still needed to gain a substantial amount of weight and my internal mode of operating - aka mind - was a wreck).
When I first went into inpatient, my parents were told my stay was going to be at least a month. I imagine it was a huge relief to have me out of the house and receiving care.
After a surprise phone call revealing the insurance coverage was about to be dropped, they came to pick me up and take me home for their first “visit.”
Insurance Dropped? Evidence For A Distorted Mind
After being picked up from inpatient by my parents and taken back to the farm, I attended dreaded outpatient visits twice a week while my mother tried to act as my nurse at home. This did not go well.
My abruptly discontinued inpatient treatment caused my strict and warped belief system to go into high gear (along with the distorted views leading to my illness in the first place). My behavior became sneakier, and like many people in prison, I simply came out knowing how to be a better crook.
In fact, looking back, it’s easy to see how my distorted views were reinforced. My closest friends became people from the hospital I kept in touch with through letters. They were sick as well, and we just "supported" one another and complained a lot... to the tune of...
The doctors were wrong. My parents were wrong. I wasn’t sick. Or if I was, I wasn’t that sick. I didn’t need to be hospitalized for long, so I must be OK, etc.
Two lengthy hospitalizations and three years later, I still told myself the same thing - I wasn’t sick.
A Letter in the Mail: Tell Us Your Story
At 17, I received a brief request from my mom. She asked me, “How did it feel when you thought you were going to be in the hospital for several months but it was only a week? Can you write down how that felt in a two-page paper?”
Apparently, I was writing a letter to a lawyer, but I didn’t look at it that way. I was busting at the seams to process my mental health experiences in songs, writing, art, or whatever form possible.
After writing the letter, a few months went by. Then my mom said I was receiving some money for writing “the two-page paper.” I didn’t know I would receive any money. Once I did know, I didn’t know exactly how much money or why.
Only as an adult did I learn the total was around $25,000. Apparently, ⅓ went to the lawyer, ⅓ went to my mom, and ⅓ went to me.
Sounds like funny math to me. Technically, I was a minor and my mom didn’t have to give me anything. But she did.
It went into my savings, I didn’t ask much about it, and she never told me much about it.
Telling My Story Through Cryptic Music
Around 2004, I started playing guitar. During my senior year, I made friends with interesting and fun people around me. I got better.
At age 19, I eventually made an album and sent my songs to long lost friends I had made in the hospital. Making the album, (Jump Roping in Chains), felt like a whole new way to communicate with the world and communicate with the past. Even though I hadn't written letters to these individuals for a while, I was proud of the album and thought maybe it could help them.
I received two letters back from mothers saying their daughters were no longer alive.
Thanks for the CD.
A Harsh Reality
Anorexia is the most deadly of all psychiatric illnesses. At its worst, it is a combination of mental illness and physical peril that needs to be dealt with immediately and slowly over time.
I understand random luck played a part in my situation. Not everybody has a “magic mailbox” where checks suddenly appear. Not everybody is compensated for terrible experiences that may have been preventable. Not only do I want to lead an awesome and creative life, I feel an obligation to lead an awesome and creative life. I view FI as one small but significant part of the larger plan to make a friend with myself.