Living with depression and long term financial difficulty
My story is not unique, but is in fact very common.
Living with depression and/or anxiety is challenging enough, add to this long-term personal financial insecurity and worries, and things can sometimes seem like a bleak and endless tunnel. These two factors have become a way of life I have grown very accustomed to. I have no intention to set myself aside from a good many people who are in the same position as me, but would like to express some of the feelings I felt when the sense of drowning in your own circumstances tightens its grip.
I find myself constantly struggling to find meaningful full-time employment. I am by no means a benefit ‘hugger’ or resigned to the fact that I have to claim benefits indefinitely- quite the opposite. I love to work and the regular routine of working certainly alleviates the symptoms of depression and isolation, scrambled or over easy comes to mind! I always harbour a feeling of shame and embarrassment when I have to claim benefits. Maybe this is because ‘in another life’ I was married with two young children, I had a secure job with a career, a house, a car and life was ‘comfortable’. Through the passage of time, this all fell by the wayside when I became divorced and a single parent, lost my job and was first diagnosed with depression.
I feel that the lines can become blurred as to main contributor of both depression and financial struggle, for one is certainly a catalyst for the other. The yin yang of ‘if I didn’t have to worry about money so much, perhaps I wouldn’t feel depressed all the time?’ OR ‘if I wasn’t depressed perhaps I wouldn’t worry about how little money I had all the time?’ Chicken and egg springs to mind?
Depression can sometimes mean it is very hard to form strong relationships, therefore the working environment becomes more important and can sometimes go help us feel a sense of belonging and normality, plus the obvious relief to that empty purse. Unemployment only leaves a gaping hole in so many areas of day- to- day life.
I find myself relying on the Food bank more and more as my fortnightly jobseekers allowance doesn’t really allow for much to be put aside for food once all the bills have been paid. I have always struggled to keep an overdraft at bay so each month end includes a monthly interest payment in addition to the basics. It is impossible to make a dent in an overdraft when you are living on a day to day basis. I have been to the Office of Fair trading twice in my life to seek advice on managing my finances. In some ways, they can help with regard to credit card interest; however a lot of the time there is little they can do but offer encouragement to ‘keep going’, and perhaps hope and assurance that things will ‘pick up’ soon.
The inevitable pit in the stomach at the forthcoming month end is a frequent visitor. The fear of not making each bill payment or having to phone, yet again, to postpone gas or electric payments. Also the fear of something unexpected cropping up, for example a new washing machine or other large item. Everything I own is valued and precious to me.
Unfortunately, having a history of depression can affect job prospects as time goes on. A CV ends up looking a bit like someone who frequently flicks through the channels on a TV, never settling on one programme or job! Frequent gaps on a CV are always difficult to explain when the reason has been due to stress and depression.
I strongly feel that more understanding and support is needed. Though current awareness of mental health is much improved, there is still room for better support. I feel, at present, that mental health is ‘talked’ about a lot but I sense there is still quite a lot of stigma, hurdles and challenges to overcome before there is a more ‘comfortable’ and secure way forward. It can be a very difficult to admit and seek help. I for one do not feel comfortable about declaring it on application forms!
Always thinking about what you can afford this week and what will have to wait for another week is hard work and mentally exhausting, in conjunction to constantly looking for work opportunities, which naturally triggers bouts of depression and hopelessness.
Over time, I feel like it has made me numb and emotionless, and made forming relationships difficult. The optimism and motivation for life can become harder and harder to maintain. I think the overriding symptoms of my circumstances leave me feeling very vulnerable, sometimes very alone and extremely sad. It makes me feel different in a not comfortable way and I often feel ashamed and let down by myself for not being wise enough to avoid the situation I find myself in today. Boiled or poached springs to mind!
On a positive note, I feel that on the Isle of Man there is a lot of help out there, though sometimes it would seem like chance or a roll of the dice whether you stumble across it when you can become cocooned in your own narrow circle of existence. To find the right help takes effort and that is difficult for someone suffering from anxiety and depression, or embarrassed by their financial situation.
Procrastination is rarely a solution. However from my experience, once embarrassment and awkwardness is overcome, embers of confidence can be re-lit and the climb up from that first rung of the ladder can become easier with a little patience, perseverance and resilience, and of course with a little help from other!