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A month ago I wrote that while I was out-of-state, I was pulled over for speeding and in the process learned that my driver’s license was suspended. Immediately I was incredibly grateful that this occurred in the state that I was visiting, while someone was with me, while I was on a short get-away with vacation pay, and that I had sufficient money to begin with. Normally I am terrified of police, but in this case I was at ease. This was a good start to a big mess.

The officer was polite, even slightly embarrassed as he apologetically informed me that my license was not valid. Of course I was all like, “What the hell?” We bantered back and forth that it had to be a small, weird thing that could be easily cleared up. Included with the ticket for driving on a suspended license he had written the phone number to call to get a fax number to send documentation to not have to pay the second ticket. This officer was unbelievably kind. Fortunately, my son’s girlfriend was with me possessing a valid license, so we were able to switch places at the officer’s request. To me, it felt like the Cosmos did It’s best to protect me from harm.

If this had happened in my state it would have cost at least $1000 and been a totally traumatic and disastrous event. At home I would have been alone without anyone to witness excessive force or legally drive my car to safety. At home the opportunity for discussion and infractions treated as unknown or oversight, is nearly zilch. Also, many cops where I live don’t believe anything you tell them. They are right you are wrong, period. I have in fact been wrenched from my car, cuffed, and thrown into a squad car over absolutely nothing. So this is likely what would have happened. As I later discovered, I was in the wrong, so an arrest would have been correct, but hopefully it would have been by respectful cop. Also, my car would have been impounded for several days costing me as much as my rent. I would have had to employ the assistance of a relative for a ride to it and the funds to release it. Still, in this moment, I feel I was sparred something horrible.

I was up all night searching online as to why my license could be suspended. Did I have red light violations? Did I have unpaid tolls? Was it something with my insurance? Nothing. I clung to the two years of really hard work I had dedicated myself to, my Wall, and my Core Values (safety is first). (When I began to feel unsafe, I used imaging to ground myself. Me sitting on my bed at home looking at my Wall which is two years of Work.)

Then I went into truly frightening scenarios.  The biggest was fear that a creditor appealed to the state to suspend my driving privileges over unpaid debt. In my state that can be done. In governmental wisdom, apparently it makes sense to not allow someone to drive to their job if they can’t pay certain bills. Also, some occupational licenses can be suspended for certain bills, although this one I didn’t find in my state. So, the inability to pay certain bills, can lead to job loss which of course is how one generally pays their bills. This would open the flood gates to suicidal ideation for me. I was fighting BIG FEAR.

This is what I meant in my post “Finding Solid Ground when the Earth Shakes” by large, nearly unmanageable, restrictions put on me because someone or some institution wants what they want regardless of my needs or abilities.  I ask that if you are reading this, stop and think on this. How have demands of others impacted your life, especially those you were in no way able to meet? For me, when I was small, it was that I meet the emotional needs of my mom, or at least meet her need to not be bothered by my needs. Right before I left my marriage, my mantra was “Work like Katie Couric, live like Laura Ingalls”. Literally. My husband was angry that I left a professional job a short time before, yet we did not have plumbing, refrigeration, heating/air conditioning or a telephone. And no, we did not have cell phones. I have more examples, but I am sure I made my point. Specifically, I have a couple huge debts I cannot pay and I am fearful that they will make me homeless. I really want to be able to pay my rent.

My first call to the state simply yielded that I did not have an SR22 on file and that my driver’s license would remain suspended until one was on file. Dial tone.

Next I called my insurance agent, filled them in on the events of the previous day, and requested they file the SR22 ASAP! They assured me that they would file it pronto and that probably the next day I would be able to legally drive. It was okay to have to wait two days to drive again because I still had two days of vacation with pay. To me, I felt like the Cosmos was arranging the whole thing to reduce my stress. I mean here I am, unable to drive for two days, and I still have two days off with pay. I didn’t like $250 out of my bank account, but at least I was not missing work and income at the same time. I am super grateful for a good job with benefits.

I called the state again and this time got someone who didn’t just hang up after one question. They further informed me that this suspension had been in place for the last 9 months. Yes, NINE MONTHS. So, I was driving on a suspended license for 9 months and had no clue. WHAT? WHY? They informed me that the state automatically requires an SR22 to be on file for three years in the event of being found guilty of not having car insurance. Ok, now that totally sucks!

Nearly a year ago I got ticketed for expired plates. My plates are due in January with ton of other bills (not holiday spending), and often I just can’t swing it until the last minute or into the next month. I live in fear the entire month of not being able to pay the $130 and getting ticketed. My fear showed up and I did get ticketed. In addition, I couldn’t find my insurance card, so I got ticketed for that too. I had hopes of taking care of the plates and verifying my insurance and being just fine. No go. The plates yes, but unknown to me, my car insurance had been canceled. At this I was crazy upset. I should have been covered. To this day I am super mad at how my account was handled with the acknowledgment that I should have kept better eye on the account. (This year I did not trust them, and I’ll be damned if the same thing didn’t happen AGAIN, but this time I caught it). Anyway I reinstated my coverage, went to court, got the registration thrown out but was found guilty of not having insurance the day I was ticketed. I paid the $300 fine, retrieved my license, and thought I was done.

When I got home from my mini vacation there was all kinds of drama with my insurance agent, changes to my policy, and documentation for a paper trail and proof of things being resolved to carry around with me even though an officer likely wouldn’t listen. My insurance agent sticks to not knowing about the need to file the SR22, that there was no miscommunication about my policy and it was my fault that it was canceled, and oh, here, lets’ ADD this and ADD that! They wanted to sell me more things as I am stressed out at my cost DOUBLING and driving illegally for 9 months. Unbelievable. I ended dropping down to liability. This adds a new problem- no money to replace my car in the event of total loss. I resolved to have very little contact with that office. Further, I bookmarked the home website log-in page to check my account monthly and I got the name and extension of the customer service person that untimely set things up for me to be able to follow account activity. She also listened to my drama which I needed. I don’t want any further drama.

I called the state yet again to ask how I was to know that I needed to file an SR22 and pay double for my car insurance for three years. I tend to be most worried about how I miss something. Despite this being a hellatious depressive episode fraught with PTSD bombs; I am generally responsible about vital things like car insurance. Also, when I believe I was not informed of something and I should have been, I will hunt down the notification like a blood hound. It I am wrong, I am wrong and I will admit it. If I am not wrong, yet penalized anyway, then this is especially something to remember for the future. No more being a victim of my own or anyone else’s making.

This time I got a super nice person who explained that the state sends out one notice, via the US Postal Service, that an SR22 needs to be filed. They additionally explained that the notice doesn’t say that very clearly. She said the letter says that by law in this state, one must carry automobile insurance. She went on to say, “People like you and I who have insurance, read it, say ‘I have insurance’ and toss it.” She told me that when she got this letter, she had someone else read it with her because she works for the state and knows no one understands the letters. In short, if one is EVER found guilty of even one day without car insurance, even with 20 years of previous coverage and current coverage, one is treated as if they never had car insurance. Nice. Oh, and no there is no copy of the letter sent or any way to find out when it was sent.

Overall I felt better after this third call to the state. A letter was likely sent to me to file an SR22. The letter likely didn’t look all that important and likely wasn’t clear to me upon a brief reading, that I had more to do regarding the cancellation of my car insurance months ago even though the requirement had been taken care of.

I write about this because traffic tickets, the cost of those tickets, resolving the issues that the tickets are about, going to court, interactions with law enforcement, state laws, car insurance and their agents, maintaining employment, proper notification, individual rights regarding these issues, and possible other scenarios; can seriously harm people who have mental health or cognitive challenges. This could have been detrimental to the progress I have made in the last two years. I also understand that it is even more challenging for others who may have fewer resources than I do.

I write about this because I want to share my journey out of depression as true as I can. Because of PTSD, because of crazy-out-of-my-mind-fear, because of more being asked of me than I could give, because of trying to avoid suicidal ideation, because of refusing to lose a roof over my head; I developed a horrid fear of white envelopes. I literally could not open mail for like a year. In that mail was a cancellation notice on my car insurance. Even though I had a verbal ok that I was paid through April, I should have opened the envelope, gone online, or called the company headquarters sometime prior to the renewal date.  There was a serious mix-up that caused me to not be paid up to the date I expected thereby resulting in the cancellation that led to the ticket that led to the SR22 that led to another ticket and possible risk to my life.

I write because I want to lay out the unpacking of the process. I want to lay bare the root problem and repair the false and harmful teachings entrenched in my thinking so I can stop them and quit hurting myself. The root of this was fear of the onslaught of bills that I could not keep up with. In actuality I probably could have paid what was due, but another part of it was frustration with the bills coming and coming when in my mind I was paid up. I didn’t calm down and ask the question, “Why do they believe I still owe them when I believe I am paid up? What is going on?” I didn’t ask because I wanted to be left alone. I wanted to put gas my car. I wanted food. The electric company was turning off my electricity. My car was soon to be parked unless repaired to be safe to drive. I was completely overwhelmed.

I can never get so overwhelmed that I hide from my bills, especially those tied to laws or that could cost me my job. With the law, no one will be left alone. It will only get worse. In this case I really hurt myself. It could have escalated to crisis and tragedy. I am incredibly grateful that it unfolded as it did. I have less money than I planned to have right now, but at least one more truth has been told.