Yesterday in part 1, I wrote about being mentally ill. This is a fact of life for me and it is one that I refuse to feel shame.
Much like money, mental health is not something we as a society discuss. They are taboo topics, only meant to be discussed in private with those who have your utmost trust.
Why does it have to be this way?
Yes, I am mentally ill, but it’s not my fault. I didn’t ask to have ADHD or Bipolar Disorder. I didn’t do something irresponsible that resulted in my lifelong struggle with depression and organization. It is simply, not my fault!
If someone asks me about the struggles I have with my mental health, I will gladly discuss them. The same can be said about my financial situation. It’s not that I want to draw attention to myself. Rather, it’s to show others who are also going through similar situations, they are not alone.
How does my mental health affect my finances?
When I was first introduced to credit cards, I shopped, a lot! I did this shopping for a couple of reasons but one main reason always stood out. My self esteem was low. When I was feeling fat or rejected, lonely or depressed, I shopped. I bought clothes to make myself feel better. Strangely enough, I did that when I was happy too. Basically I fueled my mental health with the rush of shopping. I was an instant gratification junkie.
When I was healthy, I found other sources of fuel for my mental health. I did yoga. I took pottery classes. I spent time with friends. I ate better and my finances improved.
After my divorce I charged on my credit cards again with little regard to my situation. I, once again fed my emotions. This time, however, I was celebrating. I gave in to a new addiction (traveling, concerts and following my favorite musical group). I did this until I ran out of credit. I see the error of my ways…now but it’s a little too late, the damage is done.
Sticking to my goals isn’t easy either.
I have made budgets, started using the cash envelope system and really planned my finances a number of times. I start out doing it and succeed for a short time. I don’t stick with it. I give in to myself and blow my budget. I borrow from one envelope to fuel another. I fail, time and time again.
Failure leads to depression which leads to inaction.
Inevitably when failure becomes apparent, I slide into a period of depression. Some people tend to get depressed for a short while. Then they will jump up, make a plan and take on their failure head on. I, typically, do not do this. I get depressed and stay depressed. Even when I know that I should be fighting, I don’t. I sit around and ignore the problems. I let them pile up until they become overwhelming.
This cycle is exhausting. It is physically and emotionally taxing on my mental health to live like this. I KNOW what I need to do. I can see the errors and how my decisions have affected my finances. I can lay out a new course of action to improve my situation. But when it comes to taking the action, I don’t find myself doing it.
I am mentally ill.
I realize now, how much time I’ve wasted over the past three years. My mental health allowed me to sit, stagnate and watch as things got worse. I beat myself up over every failure and every poor decision I made. When I should have been fighting so very hard, I sat back and let my depression and self-pity rule my life.
I was unemployed for a very long time. I knew I needed to fight harder to get a job. I just couldn’t do it. I made excuse after excuse for why I couldn’t “find” the right job. Sadly, I find myself doing that still.
I don’t want to blame my mental illness on my situation. I think laying blame is a waste of energy and does little good. But I can see now that it has affected my finances, my life, the lives of my children, my future and my happiness a great deal.
Getting healthy is the only option.
If I truly want to tackle this beast of a financial problem, I MUST get healthy. I need to be able to stick to my plans and keep my goals in mind with every decision I make. I need to be level headed enough to fight my way out of it. I need to have the willpower to fight through mistakes and not let my depression take over. And I need to think clearly each time I try to spend money. I need to see when instant gratification is trying to fuel my psyche.
I can’t let my mental illness win!
I MUST allow my mental wellness to be the victor!
I hope that sharing this part of my story will shed some light on my situation. Maybe others will relate and see that they too need to take control of their mental illness rather than let it control them. I also hope that discussions about this topic fails to be taboo. Mental illness is not our fault. We can not control who has it and who does not. We should not feel ashamed for something that is in our genetic make-up any more than someone who has Cancer. Neither of us could stop the diseases from taking hold.
And of course, if you feel that your mental health is out of control, please seek out a mental health professional in your area. I know I will be!
I also blog at A Five Star Life. I write about anything that comes to mind but try to focus on finding the good in daily life.
Wow. Very raw and honest. You are to be commended for your fight and your willingness to keep fighting and not give in.
You are definitely on the right track in recognizing the need for a good mental health professional. Other pieces of the puzzle that I don’t think you mentioned are physical exercise and diet. They do help to improve mental issues.
Also, being closely in tune with your spiritual life is a great help. I don’t know what your beliefs are, but I know when I’m actively seeking God through prayer, studying the Bible, and being active with other believers, my life is always better than if I’m not seeking those things.
I wish you well in your efforts and look forward to seeing your progress. You’re doing a great thing here.
Dr. Jason Cabler (@DrCabler)(Quote)
Thank you for your comment. I am definitely planning on tackling this with exercise and diet. I’m not a religious person at all but I plan to feed my soul with a new hobby that I find enjoyable. I’m hoping that will help as it had in the past.
Jessica The DebtPrincess(Quote)
I was under a lot of duress a number of years ago and at that time I made some really emotional and bad financial decisions. It took me some time to recover. Life now is much better thank goodness however when I am having a bad time I try to not deal with money in any sense as a protection.
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Miss T @ Prairie EcoThrifter(Quote)
on February 11, 2012 at 9:20 pm
I missed the first time around, but you have a powerful story. Mental illness is definitely playing a huge factor in your life and you are stronger for acknowledging it. It sounds like you are really working on it though. We ALL have should have’s and mistakes though. You’re definitely not alone!
American Debt Project(Quote)
Thank you for your reply. Mental Health is a HUGE part of who I am. And a huge part of how I got to be where I am financially. I really dislike the stigma that comes along with mental health and the only way to change that is to own it as a part of who I am.
Jessica The DebtPrincess(Quote)