A Story About Paying Off Debt and the Obstacles Along the Way

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Mental Health and Money Mondays: Let's Jump In!


Last weekend at the Seattle CentsPositive retreat, a life-changing (yes, I feel that way) personal finance gathering for women organized by author and blogger Tanja Hester, we were given the opportunity to brainstorm topics for participant-led breakout sessions.

I’m the type of person who starts sweating (like, in an alarmingly profuse manner) at even the thought of leading a conversation, so I tried to convince myself that I had nothing to contribute. But after a few squirmy minutes of hemming and hawing, I decided to share with the group my topic idea: mental health and money.


Talking About Mental Health 


If you’ve read any part of this blog, you probably know that mental health is something that I’ve grappled with for most of my life. Anxiety: I've got that! Depression: that one, too! Also several others! I seem to amass mental health issues the way I used to accumulate Pound Puppies back in 1986. Collect them all!

It became especially challenging once I graduated from school and entered the traditional workforce. I’m smart and hardworking, but I crumble under the pressure and micromanagement of traditional corporate employment, and no amount of therapy or medication has changed that.

In April, after a series of jobs that all left me anxiety-ridden and unable to sleep at night, I finally took a giant leap (of faith, of desperation), penned a resignation letter, and left full-time employment, possibly for good. I spent the spring and summer putting my brain back together and then found part-time work that gives me the space I need to truly take care of myself and thrive within my own limitations.

(Important sidenote: it is okay to have limitations and boundaries! There’s no shame in that.)

Anyway, mental health was something I was eager to discuss at CentsPositive, but I wasn’t sure it would garner much interest, given the variety of applicable breakout sessions on offer. When it was time to split up into groups, however, approximately a dozen women joined me.

Sitting in a tight circle in the hotel ballroom, we explored the mental health issues that concern us the most and how we cope with them. We talked about how our mental health affects our finances and how our financial choices/constraints affect our mental health. We shared our experiences with looking for good therapists, finding affordable medication, coping with stress, and securing insurance that covers the services we need.

When the session ended, I felt heard, supported, and inspired, and I hope the other women did, too. (If you were there and you're reading this, thank you so much.)


Continuing the Conversation


Moving forward, one thing I want to do with this blog is use it as a safe space to dig into the topic of money and mental health. There’s no doubt that the two topics are linked, especially in our current socioeconomic hellhole environment, which is defined in part by things like stagnating wages in many industries; rising costs of housing, tuition, childcare, and healthcare; burdensome student loan balancesworkplace stress; and a widening wealth gap. Combined, these factors create a breeding ground for uncertainty, anxiety, depression, and other debilitating issues.

Based on emails and Twitter comments I’ve received and in-person conversations I’ve had the privilege to be a part of, I think there are many people who want to explore mental health and money, and for a bunch of different reasons:

  • To feel less alone and more understood 
  • To vent 
  • To commiserate 
  • To give and receive advice 
  • To learn 
  • To problem-solve 
  • To be reassured there is hope
  • To know that they are valuable and important simply for being who they are, regardless of their finances or what they do for a living 

There are several people in the personal finance space who are already holding these conversations: Melanie Lockert of Dear Debt, Jessica of The Fioneers, Abigail of I Pick Up PenniesBaristaFIRE, Angela of Tread Lightly, Retire Early, and From One Geek To Another, just to name a few.

To add to the dialogue, I’m starting a new weekly series called Mental Health and Money Mondays. At the start of each week, I’ll write a post on a specific mental health-related topic, or I'll share a reader question/comment. Then I’ll open up the comments for discussion so that people can chime in with their own experiences, advice, and stories.

I chose Mondays because (1) alliteration! and (2) I think it’s a mentally and emotionally hard day for a lot of people. It can be brutal to make the transition from the weekend to the workweek. I’m hoping this series can serve as something of a respite for those of us who look forward to Mondays the way one might look forward to being woken up from a deep slumber via ice bath immersion.

Is this the right place to have these discussions? Do people still see blogs as a place to build community? I’m not sure, but I’m going to give it a try. If it falls flat, I’ll find some other online venue for these conversations.


Your Perspective: I Want It!


To get started, I’d love for you to comment in one or more of the following ways:

(1) Share a mental health-related question, concern, or topic that you think this community needs to talk about.

(2) If there’s a connection between your mental health and your finances and you feel comfortable sharing it, I'd love to hear about it.

(3) Tell us what this community can do to make you feel more supported and more heard as you cope with mental health concerns (whether those concerns are your own or those of a loved one).

And/or

(4) Share a post or article you’ve written about a mental health-related topic. Your stories and experiences are enormously valuable to others. I’ll also be sharing these posts/articles on my Twitter account throughout the week.

Of course, you are welcome to share anonymously.

Footnote #1: This blog occasionally eats comments. People have told me it’s because I’m still using Blogger, being the cheapie that I am. Maybe that’s true, but I’ve seen it happen on other platforms, too. I recommend saving your comment to a note or other document so that if it gets lost, you can just repost it. I appreciate your patience!

Footnote #2: Probably unnecessary to mention, as people are mostly very awesome, but I reserve the right to delete unhelpful comments. I don’t usually take down negative comments when they pertain to me and my own experiences and stories, but I will delete them if they are hurtful towards other people.

Thank you in advance for bringing your voice to the conversation, and happy (or at least tolerable) Monday!
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14 comments:

  1. Okay, I am 100% here for this! I think the conversation about mental health is why I started my Not About the Payoff series. I was tired of the "I DID XYZ AND YOU CAN TOO" and wanted to explore how people coped (or didn't cope) with their student loans.

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    1. Yay, thank you! I love that you are here for this! We should definitely discuss student loans. (a) It's incredibly stressful when your student loan balance is astronomical. (b) It can be an emotional thing to carry student loan debt for years on end. There's a lot of shame and blame that's rolled into that (at least for me - I'm trying to disconnect emotion from our remaining loan, but it's a process).

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  2. Hi there, friend. I agree with the other attendees of Cents Positive: this is a great idea for a series.

    I've been working on my mental health issues (anger, anxiety, depression) for years and as the group I'm a part of reminds me, I always will: I'm just not in control of my emotions. That's okay because it's about progress, not perfection. ;)

    I'd love to hear more about how traditional personal finance advice is heavy on tactics but somewhat light on application, especially as it relates to those currently dealing with a mental health issue. Would love to hear about how others have found some measure of success in applying personal finance concepts when getting out of bed is hard, when we're out of spoons, etc.

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    1. These are exactly the issues I'm dealing with. It is easy to get frustrated with myself: I can't work 40 hours a week in a traditional job without falling apart, but without a traditional job, I'm falling behind financially. That creates its own kind of stress. Kind of a Catch 22.

      I don't understand the people who've commented here and on Twitter who're like, YOU JUST NEED TO WORK MORE AND IGNORE YOUR FEELINGS, YOU LAZY ASS. Like... do they have no issues to work through? Are they just able to work in a machine-like manner? I don't get it.

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    2. Who are these people? I want to fight these people.

      Hard agree on the catch 22.

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  3. I love this and I'm all for it! So so great that you've taken the courage to discuss it with the group and there is an opportunity for everything Monday to be Mental Health Monday!

    What is very close to my heart is slowing down on the road to whatever your goal is. People oftentimes go toward specific goals like their life depends on it. They are sprinting to get to the finish, only to find out that it's a marathon they're running.

    I'd love to go deeper in how people can listen to themselves to slow down, without listening to the external pressures. That can be a potential source of anxiety - if you put pressure on yourself that's internal motivation, if someone puts pressure on you that's external motivation that will not be likely to last long.

    Please let me know if my ramblings make sense. In any case, I love the idea and I'm 100% for it!

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    1. I love the idea of slowing down. It can be hard to do because societal expectations are often not conducive to putting on the brakes. But it should be something that's encouraged! I think many people would feel at least a little less stressed if they could slow their pace a bit.

      Great topic idea - thank you!

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  4. You know how impactful that conversation was for me at Cents Positive ♥️ Day 5 on anxiety meds and counting.

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    1. So proud of you! Do you notice a difference, or do they take a couple of weeks to kick in?

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    2. A couple weeks, I think? So far, no side effects anyway. And maybe a bit of difference? Going to wait and see before I make any statements.

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  5. This is a great idea for writing about and putting out there. Thanks for doing that! I have a post mostly written about my struggles with depression and how stigmas about meds and other things (being blinded by depression and accepting feeling that horrid was "okay") kept me from going down that route until I was at the end of my rope. Literally, my thought was, "well, I may as well try this before I end it, because it's the only thing I haven't done yet."
    Letting depression go that long was a bad call. It negatively affected my finances, relationship (still working on rebuilding��), and more. I'm so glad I'm in the better space I am now. I've felt actually happy for no reason the last few months and I've had 3 months with no suicidal thoughts. Having had them persistent and daily for 10 yrs, it is amazing! It's celebrating the little wins I guess. �� Thanks for putting this out there.

    I've dealt with mental health
    issues

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    1. The link isn't popping up here, but I'll find it and share it in Monday's post. Thank you so much for talking about your experience. Depression can be absolutely brutal. I am so glad you've been feeling well these past few months.

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  6. At Cents Positive-Chicago there was also a breakout session focused on mental health and money. Such an important topic and definitely a need for a space to talk about it freely.

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    1. Yay, that's awesome! I'm so glad people feel comfortable having these conversations and sharing their experiences.

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