It became clear when the fall from her bed left a gaping hole in her mouth: the stress from imminent foreclosure had taken over her thoughts -- day and night.
This 66-year-old woman bought her house for $250,000 in an established North Merced neighborhood two-and-a-half years ago. She had retired from county government one year earlier, but her relentless energy had driven her to take on two part-time jobs: one with the county government and one in health care.
She was earning $500 each month from the part-time jobs, in addition to more than $2,500 in monthly Social Security and pension payments. Buying the home seemed like a solid investment.
But then the downward spiral began.
She agreed to talk to the Sun-Star as long as she could remain nameless, because she didn't want others to know about her health issues and her financial peril.
When the economy tanked, she lost her part-time county job and worked so few hours at the other job that she sometimes received $5 paychecks.
At the same time, her home lost considerable value, making it impossible to refinance her adjustable rate first and second mortgages.
Now, with her checking account low and her savings wiped out, she fears that this month could be the last that she'll be able to make the mortgage payment -- the first she'll have missed since her $20,000 initial down payment in July 2007.
For the last six months, she's worked constantly, desperately, to modify her mortgage.
That hard work has taken a mental toll, and her once effervescent personality has been eclipsed by unrelenting stress and a growing list of health issues.
"I know that my nerves are really very bad right now," she said. "I'm not sure whether to let the house go."
An enthusiastic member of a local Red Hat Society -- a national cadre of women who meet for tea and companionship wearing exuberant red and purple outfits -- she often misses gatherings now, unable to front the cash for even modest get-togethers.
In 2008, she made $5,674 in wages, in addition to her social security and retirement pension income. In 2009, she was down to one job, and her wages had dropped to $1,307. She picks up hours when she can get them, but some paychecks have been unbearably small -- the $5 paystub was for a staff meeting, her only work that week.
"I don't know what to do," she said. "I'm broke. I'm cutting back, barely making it month to month."
Her combined mortgage payments are $1,367 a month. The first mortgage alone eats up 42 percent of her monthly gross income.
Last summer, she figured if she could only qualify for a loan modification under federal guidelines, the finances might work out. She would save $341 each month on her first mortgage, or roughly the same amount her monthly income has fallen -- $363 -- since 2008.
Since filing for a modification through her bank on July 8, her stress level has left her shaken and scared. She's convinced it has affected her memory, spawning fears of Alzheimer's disease.
"I went to take the census test, to work that job. I think I missed half of the questions. I got there and looked at that first question, and it looked like a foreign language. I was just so stressed, feeling so much pressure," she said. "I was just freezing up quite a bit. That's why I document everything, save everything, organize everything, and put everything back in its place. I'm afraid to go look for another job, because I've been freezing. Then I fear I will look like a dummy."
Finally, in October, she went to the doctor. He said she didn't seem to have Alzheimer's, but that anxiety had taken a toll on her memory. He prescribed a daily routine of sleeping pills and an amphetamine to regulate her anxiety.