Trauma Happy Finance: Digging for Gratefulness in Old Places

Welcome to Mondays here at Trauma Happy Finance! On Mondays I share something new I’m trying.

For a long time I’ve looked at just the negative consequences of growing up with my majorly mentally ill mom. But recently I find myself thinking about the good that’s come out of it. Maybe it’s just age softening the angry young man part of me but I’d like to believe that my New Miguel Habits also have something to do with it. Or maybe it’s like getting bored of an album you’ve heard hundreds of times before and now you just want to hear a different tune in your head. So I’m making the effort to dig into my brain to find outcomes from growing up that I’m grateful for, even if their origins are scary.

Finance is in the name of this blog and I haven’t written anything about personal finance yet. I keep thinking that my take on money is not applicable to most people because it’s so colored by mom’s paranoia about money. Therefore I am unqualified to talk about it. But that’s silly isn’t it? It’s my experience and it’s the truth of how I look at my personal finances and so it is worth sharing.

When I read personal finance posts on other sites I’m surprised by how judgmental I can get about the author. I start thinking about how “behind” the intended audience is. My head goes through convoluted insults like, “Of course keeping track of every financial transaction you do in an iOS app is a worthwhile endeavor! Without good data and hard evidence, how can you truly understand your spending habits?” Or I get snooty about how accepting some people are about carrying debt. But I have to breathe and take a step back and remember that for me, money was a source of fear. Seeing mom get so angry about it and being so careful about household expenses made me aware that money is a thing that runs out. That money makes me Mom scared.

So I’m grateful that mom’s paranoias combined with her inherent personality latched onto personal finance as the thing to obsess over. Looking back now, I understand that the intensity of Mom’s paranoia about money was because of her brain disease. I’m semi-thankful that her paranoia rubbed off on me. So I got diluted money paranoia which I use to motivate my self to understand and learn about personal finance. My reaction to Mom’s intense fear has driven me to grab my brightest flashlight and see money for what it really is so it can’t handcuff me like it did Mom.

I’m grateful for the fleeting moments I notice that I’m making progress. For those four seconds when I notice that I’m resisting drafting a post to put up here. For giving myself the space and permission to take stock of how my body feels the morning after having drinks the night before. And for the two seconds I don’t beat myself up about it before I go right back into self-criticism mode. With Mom’s brain disease I often felt like I wasn’t making progress with helping her or anticipating her needs. I’m thankful that I’m learning to listen to my self and my own needs after years of listening for hers.

Thank you, Mom, for showing me that money is a thing to be feared so that I have the drive to stare Money Monster in the face to understand what I’m fighting.

And thank you, Mom, for all those years of feeling stuck not making progress with helping you get better. It made me thirsty for progress and now I have progress to look for in tiny fulfilling moments in my own life.

What’s something you’re grateful for that wouldn’t exist without a painful origin? If you feel comfortable, share in the comments below. If you’d rather share privately send me an email: miguel [at] hellomiguel [dot] com

Trauma Happy Finance: My One-Two Pomodoro Punch

Welcome to Mondays here at Trauma Happy Finance! On Mondays I share a story about how I’m learning something new or a trying different technique to learn more effectively.

It’s getting colder here in New Jersey. The high temperatures are slowly drifting downward towards the dreaded 30s. The start of winter also means the start of a new year! If you’re like me, you’re always telling yourself that you should be an adult and not procrastinate so much. You’ve gotten by with the skin of your teeth so often that he the rush isn’t fun anymore. Or at least, that’s how I’m learning to think about it.

I was so used to thinking that being a smart person meant you didn’t have to work hard, that information would just come to you instantly and you’d retain it forever. You’d hear a lesson once and it would stay in your head for the rest of time, and especially on exam day. I got by thinking that way in high school but college sure beat that thinking out of me.

I know now that good study habits are the key to learning anything at any age. I am eternally grateful to Dr. Barbara Oakley and Dr. Terrence Sejnowski of the Coursera course, “Learning How to Learn” for giving me new mental tools to study effectively and efficiently. Here’s the link to the free Coursera course: Learning How to Learn. It runs four weeks and I recommend it highly.

This is the system, inspired by what I learned, that I use to make sure my studying time is actually studying.

#1. I use the Pomodoro Technique. The essence of this technique is that you set aside all distractions and singularly focus on your work for a set amount of time. Pomodoro is Italian for tomato, but don’t worry you don’t need a tomato to use this technique.

The technique recommends 25 minutes to start. You work for 25 minutes and you immediately stop and give yourself a five minute break. During this break you don’t touch your work at all. You’ll take the five minutes to go use the washroom, have some water, check the internet or just walk around. After your break you get right back into into it. The thinking behind pomodoro is that anyone can focus in and work for just 25 minutes. And certainly everyone likes having the permission to take that five minute break.

What this does is get rid of the expectation that study sessions have to be marathon three hours long with no breaks. Nothing is gonna get into your head that way and you just end up thinking you’re learning. But you’re just gonna tire your neurons out and not learn at all.

#2. This is the cheesy part: You gotta want it. I use the Pomodoro technique as the thing I want. I want to keep my word to myself and really study for 25 minutes. Do I love the material I’m studying? Not all the time but I want to keep my promise and really study hard for the 25. The pomodoro technique or the new note taking app for iPad isn’t going to save your bacon if your insides don’t want to study. Dr. Oakley said to try to think of it as learning to love the process that is studying, and not the product of, “Ugh, let just get to the end of this freaking chapter.”

I love being able to look back and think about last week or last month and how hard it was to remember some of the terms but now they come to me pretty easily.

I’m a proud graduate of the Learning How to Learn Fall 2016 class and here’s my Completion Certificate (with Honors) to prove it!:

Verify at

What study habits do you use when you’re learning something new? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @miguelmanalo

Welcome to TraumaHappyFinance at

Hello Reader!

Welcome to HelloMiguel, home of TraumaHappyFinance!

TraumaHappyFinance is a blog that’s about self-betterment for those who have experienced trauma and are trying to find ways to bring self-worth, learning, and happiness into their lives. This place is a community built to find others who are also trying to rebuild themselves.

My name is Miguel and I’m happy you found me.

I grew up with a paranoid schizophrenic mother and have been feeling floaty and lost for a long time, not understand ing the pain I had inside and what the confusion was doing to me long-term. Confusion about things like why Mom was always so agitated and worried about the CIA spying on us that she’d leave the phone unplugged all the time. I always came back to this dream of serendipity or luck of the draw that would help me find other people like me who’ve had setbacks in life ——— Setbacks with a big load of taboo on top. And all that taboo makes it hard to build a community based on this trauma.

Younger Miguel thought that maybe just around the corner he’d find someone who’d get it. I felt so isolated because my elder family members, Mom’s siblings, tried their best to help but they just couldn’t really understand my pain and confusion about having lived with Mom. Simultaneously growing up and watching as she got sicker and became less connected with reality. And not understanding that schizophrenia was a thing. I never felt like my friends would get it so I’d never bring it up. I just thought, “This is how my life with Mom is. She’s just really high-strung and mean and scared f everything all the time.” I didn’t get the truth of it so I drank a lot and smoked a lot of weed and thought girls would be the only thing to plug up this hole of ‘not getting it.’

But today I’m starting something different. I’m gonna stop waiting for the world to build the community that makes me feel seen and heard and looked out for. Instead I’m gonna build it. Right here, starting with just me. And you! You made it here, thank you. I want this blog to be a resource for people who grew up as children of parents with severe mental illnesses. Or have gone through other traumatizing experiences growing up.

You feel like you can’t talk about this weird, horrible thing that happened to you with your closest friends or family. You keep turning it around in your head trying to make sense of it by yourself. You might be in therapy spending weeks and months with a professional trying to deconstruct it and understand your feelings about it. Whatever you’re doing, I want this place to be a companion to all that, but not a replacement. I want to make a safe space for us folks with open wounds to be together.

When you come here to read, you can expect to learn strategies for how to bring more happiness, productivity, or joy into your life.

Rebuilding is not an easy task. And it sure can be a lonely one if we don’t have the familiar faces of friends and family to turn to. So I want to give you my face to turn to. I’ll tell you three times a week about what technologies I’m using to help me learn more effectively and finally finish undergrad at 28 (May 2017, yes!). Or what stories younger Miguel used to tell himself and what wisdom Today Miguel wants to give to him, if I had a time machine. Some days it’ll be how-tos on finding a therapist if you’re never gone before. I’ll definitely talk about the steps I took to master budgeting and my personal finances. I believe no stability in life is complete without you mastering your money and understanding your relationship with it. Money is a tough bull to control but mastering money is a key thing for living a happy-filed life because money buys you freedom or handcuffs, depending on how you use it. I can promise you that I’ll be here for you, three times a week Monday, Wednesday, and Friday week-in, week-out with quality posts.

I want to build a community in the comments of people who are going through this same journey. Of finally being tired of feeling stuck. Tired of feeling alone with their trauma-aftermath in their young adulthood and wanting to be their own master and take steps to bring their own joy and their own learning into their life. I want to wrangle all of us budget-makers, life-betterers and wounded-patcheruppers and focus on building happier lives together.

If any part of that resonates with you, TraumaHappyFinance might just be the place for you!

So let me know down below. Who are you? How’d you find me? And where are you on your journey of rebuilding?

NB: I am not a therapist. The comments are public. If you’re more comfortable sending me email instead, you can talk to me directly at @miguelmanalo or miguel[at]hellomiguel[dot]com. I look forward to meeting you!