Letter from DP : Personal SHTF

I thought I would bring up a few things that I see rarely mentioned on prepping and Survival blogs and see what people think. I believe that everyone must prepare for their own personal SHTF event. It happened to me. In a split second I lost everything, my health, my income, my ability to contribute and my independence. I don’t know that there will ever be a time that my family will have to “bug out” so to speak but I do know that a lot of what I see and hear makes me uncomfortable. I believe I’ve done more than most, more than I ever thought I would need to do to prepare for my families future. But no matter what I stock, what training I get for my family, there is one question that I cannot find the answer to.

From my experience, a personal SHTF can arise from something as simple as your car breaking down or losing a week’s pay due to illness. The economy has most people in such a financial position that they would have to choose between food and utilities if they unexpectedly lost the equivalent of just one week’s pay. In this situation most people will choose food simply because it is their own SHTF. The stores are still open and stocked, and the utility companies will work with you to skip a month and pay it off over time.

But, what if you were injured in a car accident? You have no vehicle because your car is now totaled, you’ve lost your job and though you do everything you’re supposed to be doing to get better you’re told by over twenty doctors that you cannot return to work due to your physical state. You apply for Social Security Disability (SSDI) but you’re denied within a few weeks and told it could take over two years to go through the entire process and get an answer. What do you do now? You have rent and utilities to pay, food to buy, doctors’ appointments and transportation to worry about all while you are trying to convince your family that everything will be OK.

You have no choice but to swallow your pride. You’ve been out of work for weeks, you’re going to the food bank and feeling humiliated, your savings is not going to last forever so for the sake of your family apply for welfare. You’re approved for enough in food stamps to pay for milk bread and eggs for the month then told that since you’re not a minority you have to go on the waiting list for section 8 (housing assistance) which is now closed because they have a back log of 5+ years. You made just over $300 too much in the last quarter to be approved for cash assistance so you’re on your own, but you can apply and go through the humiliation again in two months.

Now, consider that’s it has been a year. You told the state to go to hell long ago and buckled down. You did the rounds of food banks, free clinics, and church assistance every month. Your children received their clothes, school supplies and Christmas gifts from the thrift stores because the charities were all full of families on welfare. You’re a month away from not being able to pay your rent and you’re now in a wheelchair. You’re told that you are on a list to see an SSDI judge which could take another eighteen months but your saving grace is that the insurance company wants to talk settlement.

You decide to do the right thing and think of your families future. You take advantage of the housing crisis and use the money to buy a house. You’re now forty miles from the nearest shopping center but you have no rent, no mortgage, and by moving to a rural area in another state your SSDI hearing is only 4 months away. You’re going to be OK now. You swear you and your children will never go hungry again, you will never be treated the way you were, and your life will finally settle down.

You’re approved for SSDI at 25% of your pre-disability wage but you have prepared and you can make it now that you have no rent. In your own home, in a nice rural town, you start seeing what is actually happening around you. The government says there is no inflation but you know everything is more expensive. You find an old grocery store receipt from almost exactly a year ago and decide to do your own experiment. You buy exactly the same things today as you did a year ago and compare the two. Amazingly the receipt today is up nearly 12% though the government is still saying there is no inflation. You decide it’s time to apply for food stamps but something in the application leaves you with questions because the wording is very vague so you call to get clarification and find out that since you own your home the state will place a silent lien on the property. They will take it in the event that you go into long term care or when you die, whichever comes first. You think “Is $30 a month in food stamps worth it?” You bought the house to make sure that your children would never be homeless, even after you’re dead. You throw the application in the fireplace and forget about it.

You suck it up, say you’re done thinking the government will help someone in their time of need that worked hard, paid their bills and was disabled by another person. You begin preparing for your future. On your limited income you stock up on extra food; cans, boxes, TVP, water barrels, etc. You dedicate your spare room as your pantry and feel comfortable that by adding to it a little bit every month in ten years, when SSDI won’t feed you, when your children have children, you and your family won’t go hungry.

Though you can no longer shoot a gun you save up and buy beautifully maintained old Mossberg 500 12g. You see, you’re spending more time watching the news and you’re questioning things you never did before. Are you paranoid? No, but you are a single disabled mother with two teen aged boys and what you see makes you ask yourself what happened to your country. A gang has moved into the town in the last few months. People have reported robberies while they are at work. You dog, your faithful 10 year old basset hound, has gone crazy twice in the middle of the night with his attention directed at your sliding glass door. The old man down the street, the only one who introduced himself to you, was killed in a home invasion. The teenager old who was caught said they were looking for his prescription meds. You buy a handgun, a revolver so the children don’t have to worry about jams if the time comes.

You have your children trained with the firearms and add cleaning/maintenance supplies and ammunition to your cache. You pay extra on all of your bills for over a year so you can send your boys to a four day survival training camp and enroll them in MMA, archery and survival groups. You make a deal with someone to take their online college classes for them in return for two dirt bikes. You make your children literally take the bikes apart and put them back together so they know every nook and cranny that needs to be maintained. Their last Christmas consisted of knives, machetes, brass knuckles, batons and SAP gloves. You make it seem that you are giving them all the things boys want when in reality you are trying to prepare them without adding stress to their young lives.

You believe they are better prepared than most their age. You believe you are prepared for your own financial SHTF a week from now or ten years from now. But, in reality nothing can prepare you if it were a state or country wide SHTF situation. Remember, while you can walk short distances you are basically confined to a wheelchair and cannot lift more than a gallon of milk on a good day.

You don’t consider trying to get a dirt bike for yourself because eventually you would have to walk away from it. You know that if SHTF the government would block all highway access in a matter of hours so the truck will be useless. You know that your children are of the prime age for the next seven to ten years for the military to pull them off the street or out of your house if the president says to do it. You see, every day, that more and more people are angry at the way our government is handling things. You wonder how far things will go before the nation cracks. You wonder if there will be a time that you will have to leave your home and your supplies because of a true government SHTF.

If there is a SHTF situation that forces you to leave the house it is because leaving is your best chance at survival. You know that you would drastically lessen your families chance of surviving because of your physical condition. How do you convince your children, the ones you have raised to be good strong men, to leave their disabled mother behind if that is their best or only chance for survival? If the time comes how do I ask them to live with that?

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of TheSurvivalistBlog.net. He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. Nebraska Woman says:

    DP, what a poignant story.
    Since you were raised to work for an income, you do not know ways to get around the procedures. People inside the system know all the tricks; people outside the system are on their own. Sadly to say, I believe the part about racial inequality. In two of the nearby cities, you would not want to live in public housing.
    You are extremely resourceful, and I am amazed that you survived as well as you have.
    Of course your boys will help you; that is what family is for.

  2. Simply……..you can not.
    It is a part of tribal instinct to protect those who can not protect and defend themselves, it is as old a time itself.

  3. Donna in MN says:

    In this multiple problem senario, If I were a disabled single mother of two teen boys I would do my best to live in the NOW at this time. It would reduce stress if the family went to a Bible based church and found God in their lives. God gives us hope and peace with our troubles and they will all need to not worry so much and live for today, each day at a time.

    The senario shows the mother lacks income, so I would assume the father is a deadbeat and take him to court immediately for non-child support. Next I would ask my kids to participate in working to help support the family, especially for their needs in getting a paper route, mowing/shoveling, errands. If they are 16 or older, they should have regular pt jobs or full time in summer, mostly on weekends and arrange for transportation or bus rides to and from work.

    Now for the mother. She should try to find work, but it is not given what skills the mother has or the disability. Doctors saying she can’t return to work depends on what work she was doing. Maybe she can do something else. Being disabled, mom can handle phone calls for a business if she can barely lift a gallon of milk. Running a blog like what was advertised today could be a potential, as well as an online drop shipping business. If she doesn’t have the skills, she should learn to get them.

    She may need a smaller gun for handling like a .22 for lighter weight and less recoil, but she should be getting physical therapy to strengthen her to stand and improve herself. She can afford to learn the exercises once and do them at home with a job now. She can also fit a car with special needs to drive, and fit her home with disability features for wheelchair bound people. She can bug out. She must think like a “Survivor” and not a “Victim”. This is what turns “Disability” into “Ability”.

    Depending on the government for entitlements makes people diabled. There are over 600,000 disabled vets waiting for benefits over 120 days now, and the government is not working for them. If we were caught in a senario such as this, it is our “The Little Engine That Could” mentality that will see us through.

    • Donna, which of her preps should she sell, to pay the lawyer to take the father to court?
      Running a blog like survivalblog takes skills that most of us don’t have. Earning income like that means losing the SSDI.
      Some of your other ideas were good, but let’s be realistic.

      • Donna in MN says:

        Most State or district attorneys usually prosecute lawbreakers, esp. for non-child support like what I experienced. They don’t cost her, but If she wants to up her CS, then she uses a lawyer and that will cost her.

        I offered other opportunities, phone specialist for a business, creating an on-line business. I don’t know the background of skills this person has, but for managing a blog I did say it was a potential way to make a living, but that is up to her.

      • westofwalden says:

        In NY you do not need a lawyer to take a deadbeat parent to court. You can deal directly with family court, and there are no court fees. I don’t remember the details, one may have to start with the county department of social services, but it doesn’t cost the parent anything. Worth looking into, IMHO.

    • @Donna – Until I was 49, I did everything – and then looked for something else to do. It sounds like you are much the same. Then the Lord allowed me to become disabled, that I may know “the fellowship of His sufferings.” (Phil 3:10) On a good day, I can do a load of laundry and cook a simple dinner, but I will pay the price in pain for 2 days after. Truly disabled people who cannot hold a job do exist, and I pray that you don’t become one of them.

      @DP – Trusting in Jesus Christ is what gets me out of bed and through each day. I pray that you will come to know Him through your trials. And as others have said, don’t discourage your boys from taking care of you. Let them become the men you’ve raised.

  4. This cuts so close to home it is scarey.

  5. I am so sorry for your troubles.

  6. And………………this IS happening everywhere you look at this time!!!
    Whether it be a disability as in this case or just job losses and not being able to make up income………it is horrible!

    But, when it is a choice of dying in my home in less time or dying bugging out, I would hope that my family would have the sense to leave me as comfortable as possible and get out.

  7. This is something that those who scoff at being prepared don’t see or care to look at. They believe in the all or nothing catastrophe. Unfortunately, many in the prepper community also feel this way.

  8. Quite a horrowing story. Im thankful i made it to the payoff of my mortagage before my personal SHTF came.

  9. I will keep u and ur family in my Prayers. I have been in almost the same situation,except im not in a wheelchair Ive had three shtf’s in two years.And if it weren’t for the Lord Jesus Christ I would have ended up in the mental hospital that I Work at.and I hear the same things and worse happening to my patients.the world appears to be going to hell in a hand basket as one would say.So the answer for me was Christ,to ur question. GOD BLESS and if u can leave it in Gods hands to answer ur question. GOD BLESS US ALL!!!!.

  10. This also happens in part if you get old.No matter how healthy you maintain yourself at some point you can’t do what you used to be able to.
    What do you do?
    This article is very well written and we all need to take heed since it can
    happen to any of us, at any time in the twinkling of an eye.

  11. Beans-N-Bullets says:

    You are one hell of a lady with the survival skills to keep going and it sounds like we are going to have two more fine young men joining our ranks of responsible adults thanks to you. I hope you let them read this blog and the responses that have been placed.
    You have truly put my worries and troubles into perspective!!!! After reading your story I count my blessings, I can’t thank you enough.
    I pray for you and your family, stay strong

  12. patientmomma says:

    The woman in this scenario moved to a rural community, “40 miles from the nearest shopping center”. Many country areas develop “communities” of like-minded neighbors who help each other out. Is it possible for this family to get to know people around them, develop a relationship with a
    “church family”, or build a support network through helpful organizations? Some of my disabled friends have found part-time or online work through non-profit organizations. One woman works for a transplant help source, another works online for a disability help center.

    I look after my elderly neighbors and make sure they have food and can get to the doctor when needed. They in turn look after my house when I am not there. When I need outside help, I can ask my church family for assistance and know they will provide for my needs in an emergency.

  13. Sometimes we just want to tell our story. We aren’t looking for judgements or someone to try to solve our problems (‘you should have, you need to, why didn’t you, etc). I don’t think anyone on her other than the lady who lived this story is the expert. She is the picture of strength and resililancy and I am not going to judge her. I may empathize with her story but I am inspired by her courage and her will to survive and go forward.

    Unfortunately in my position I hear her story all the time. The last time I called section 8 for a client I was told by a recording there was a five year waiting list, you couldn’t even leave a message. Then I realized there are no homeless shelters that take families. There are no safety nets. There are no insiders or outsiders in that system. If you are rural you are probably going to be hosed. Some cities took over section 8 for their area but they sometimes have long waiting lists too. Families double up, triple up, live in cars. If you live in a big city, you can get on a waiting list but you might be safer living under a bridge.

    Thank you for sharing your story. You are an inspiration. I don’t think you can say or do anything to get your sons to leave you. Don’t even think about lying. They would incur incredible damage to their hearts and souls if you managed to get them to leave you behind. They won’t even be the same people anymore. Let them be the strong and honorable young men you raised them to be and allow them to stand by your side. Use that creative, survival brain of yours to come up with a solution to this dilemma.

    • Amy,
      You have spoken wisely. I agree with you.

      You are an amazing woman. You will be in my thoughts and prayers.

    • Amy,
      Something I learned much too late in life, after being married about 15 years, was the real difference between men & women. When a woman asks a question, she’s generally just looking for moral support; however, when a man asks a question, he is looking for answers and advice. AS a man I was always getting into trouble and accused of not listening, because I immediately launched into Mr. Fixit mode, since I had not yet learned the rules. So I suspect any male on this blog who gives an answer, is not being judgmental; but, just doing what we are wired to do. Make suggestions on how to fix things and make them better.

      • OP:

        Shortly after we got married (2nd go for both of us) we found the same problem. Fixed it by me asking “Is this a problem you want me to try and solve, or am I supposed to just shut up and listen?” Since the question was sincere, she gave me the answer I needed and that is the mode I went into. Works for us.

  14. You’re over-intellectualizing your situation. While you make reasonable preparations and sensibly deal with some pretty harsh circumstances, you assume that things will get much worse. They probably won’t. If you can continue to pay taxes on your property, and you’re that far off the beaten track, you’re probably never going to be forced out. If a gang really has moved into your town, the local cops are certainly watching them, and they will be dealt with. You’ve armed and trained, that’s all you CAN do. Don’t bother with MMA for self-defense–it’s not. It’s sports. You are NEVER taught the proper way to stomp kick a knee to break it (15-20 lbs pressure), the correct way to eliminate the future welfare dynasty of your assailant by properly kicking in the groin (no, it doesn’t involve your knee), or even the best way to crush a windpipe. Visit http://www.targetfocustraining.com and/or http://www.SCARS.com. NO, I DON’T WORK FOR EITHER, but have studied and trained in both systems. If you can’t afford live training–doesn’t sound like you can–you can buy excellent, affordable lesson plans on DVD’s from these companies that are filmed very close-up, slow motion and real time to show how to accomplish the aforementioned injuries and some even harsher. These are not sport fighting, Jerry Peterson of SCARS developed the official hand-to-hand fighting system for the Navy SEALS during the 1980’s, which is still available to all US SPEC OPS personnel through the Dept of Defense. I recommend both systems if you can pick away at buying lesson plans from both companies, on your limited budget, I’d start with the Hand 2 Hand series from SCARS, and Justified Lethal Force from Target Focus Training. You won’t be sorry, and you’ll never look at violence the same way again. Good luck, and God Bless You!

  15. Tactical G-Ma says:

    DP, Your situation is similar to ours in that DH became disabled, we sold our home in a hi-rent area and moved to a place where life is simpler. During the move, l was injured and can no longer work. What’s different in our story we both now draw Social Security which we both received our first time thru (a plan we paid into for 40+ years) and we both draw a small retirement from our former jobs. Our kids are now on their own. We know we will never bug out, so prepare accordingly. I grew up believing Welfare and Charity were dishonorable. Sometimes I pick up little jobs. We have our victory garden and chickens and do without many luxuries.
    I agree with others who have commented that you need to own your situation and get creative with ways to improve your lot. Your kids need to contribute by working and helping their mother and their father has to contribute. You have armed yourself against thugs, now arm yourself against slavery, the slavery of being owned and depressed by big government. Good luck to you and hope you find a better way.

    • Tactical G-Ma,
      Are you talking about SS retirement (based on your age) or SS disability? Assuming you’ve worked and paid in at least 40 quarters, the retirement is guaranteed once you hit 62. The disability is normally for those under the retirement age, and theoretically requires more proof. Getting on disability sometimes is a fight; but, I know of at least a few folks on it that really shouldn’t be. Keeping the takers off of it while getting it to those who are in true need is probably one of the biggest problems with the whole system.

      • Tactical G-Ma says:

        OhioPrepper, DH and I are both disabled. He started drawing SS at 56yo and I was 51 when I started drawing SS disability. Neither of us can function well. But we do a great deal to improve our situation and neither of us draw state supplemental aid. And we were both blue-collar workers. I think there is a whole lot less fraud with Social Security disability than with welfare. It’s not that I am not sympathetic, because I am. But I grew up thinking taking welfare or children out of wedlock were shameful.

        • SSI is actually defrauded more than almost any other welfare program in existence. I personally know illegal aliens that receive it. One hurt his back once about 25 years ago and got hooked up with it. Now he works construction for cash for another illegal alien with an unlicensed contracting business, and still collects his SSI. Every convict upon leaving prison suffers from PTSD, and is immediately hooked up with it for life. Convicts in prison frequently call into to Social Security to complain when their benefits are withheld while they’re in prison–a friend of mine works at SS as one of the call center problem solvers. Convicts oftentimes have their SSI automatically deposited into a bank account, and see to it that someone on the outside draws the money out immediately so that the govt. remains unaware that the convict is back inside. Eventually, SS catches on and stops their benefits until they’re back out of prison. I have an ex-relative who received SSI because he had a terrible disability that kept him from working. He was a drunk. SSI should not even exist…

          • Tactical G-Ma says:

            Leonard, Social Security is an insurance program that DH and I paid into for our entire careers. Although this is a government program, I don’t consider it a handout. Prehaps it does need reform and it should be for only those who have paid into the program. If you believe someone is defrauding the system, turn them in.

  16. After a couiple days to reflect on this post, I’m more puzzled than anything else. First, it’s not clear how much of this post describes the author’s situation b/c the use of the pronoun “you” -If everything described is from the author’s personal SHTF, then I’m sympathetic & empathetic. Or do somethings describe her situation, & somethings were added, that others may experience? Only the author can explain this for us.

    While it describes bad things than can happen, there’s no “here’s what I learned from my personal SHTF” or “here are some things one could do differently or better.” So, as a reader, I’m left with more questions & some sympathy, but don’t know what I can learn from this person’s personal SHTF.

    • RedC,
      I had similar thoughts. When DP states in the opening, “I thought I would bring up a few things that I see rarely mentioned on prepping and Survival blogs . . .” I can only say that it is something that is often mentioned here, by both me and others. TEOTWAWKI is nearly always personal, and your threat list and resolution matrix should always take that into account. Lose of job death or disability should be at the top of the list, with asteroid strike clear at the bottom, and natural events like tornado, earthquake, etc, listed based on the threats in your region.

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