Happy St. Patrick’s Day, y’all! A couple times a month, Tyler and I sit down and catch up on finances. While necessary, this conversation is something that I absolutely hate doing. Finances make me incredibly anxious. I don’t have a specific reason why- I’m generally not spending outside of my means, and things are relatively stable. Yet, many of our financial conversations have ended with me laying in bed because I think the world is ending.
The American Psychological Association estimates that 72% of Americans are stressed about money occasionally, and 22% feel constantly stressed about finances. With these statistics, we can assert that financial stress spans across many mental illnesses, and to those who do not have a mental illness. For those of us with mental illness, however, I would argue that managing money is different. Here’s why:
- Anxiety that leads to avoidance
As I’ve already mentioned, my anxiety surrounding finances is particularly bad. Thankfully, through DBT and the other therapeutic work I’ve been doing, I’m learning to better manage that anxiety. I’ve gone two weeks or so where I’ve refused to check my bank account because the thought was too terrifying. As I wrote this, I couldn’t remember if I made my student loan payment this month. My computer is relatively slow, so logging in means at least 30 seconds of waiting. My breathing was heavy, and I refused to look elsewhere.
- Depression and feelings of hopelessness
When I’m in the depressed mood, the last thing I want to do is check my bank account. Money, or lacktherof, can make me feel trapped and helpless.
One of the major symptoms of borderline personality disorder is impulsivity. For some, impulsive behavior manifests itself in spending sprees and the general inability to control one’s spending. Last week, I had a dip in my mental health where I was feeling suicidal. At one point, I started searching online for things to purchase. I thought if I got rid of all of my money, I would have no choice but to die. Funny enough, I didn’t actually find anything online I wanted to buy.
As I alluded to earlier, not having control over my money makes me feel like I don’t have control over my life. Part of the reason I get so anxious is because I feel like I’m losing control.
For me, there’s more to uncover when it comes to my anxiety over finances. Growing up, my mother and I weren’t even close to being well-off. Yes, we made ends meet, and I even competed in artistic roller skating for close to a decade. However, I also have memories of running around the house and counting dimes so we could buy chicken for dinner. This is, of course, just the way life goes sometimes. The attitude I developed toward finances, however, arguably could’ve been handled more productively. I was taught that our financial status was something to be ashamed of. I always felt that because we didn’t have as much money as others, that I was lesser than. This sentiment inevitably bled into the underlying feeling that I was different from all of my peers.
So, what’s next? Time doesn’t heal everything, but I think my relationship with money might be one of the few things solved with time. The longer I stay financially stable, the more I’ll trust myself with money, and the more secure I’ll feel in general. In the meantime, I’m not sitting on my hands. As with anxiety that rises from any other situation, I use my coping skills to handle the anxiety. For me, this means holding or playing with the puppy, watching vines, taking a bath, or other self-care exercises.