Money and Depression

I have a confession to make. The last few months have been the happiest for me in several years. I am convinced that the biggest reason for the turnaround is that I finally have some grasp on my money which I never really had before.

For years, I wondered seriously whether or not I was clinically depressed. I often looked at depression websites and noticed that I matched up with many of the symptoms, but I never bothered to actually address whether or not I was in fact depressed.

It turns out that I wasn’t depressed after all, but that my spirit was being crushed by debt and a fear of money. I was suffocating in debt and it surrounded all my thoughts, but I was too frightened to do anything about it.

Ask yourself these ten questions:

  1. Do you buy yourself things as a reward on a regular basis, for such minor events as “payday” or “I got through work without killing anyone day”?
  2. Do you realize that you need to change things, but feel too trapped by debt to even know where to start?
  3. Do you lie awake at night wondering how you’re going to pay for the essentials in your life?
  4. Have you lied to anyone about money in the last month?
  5. Do you think to yourself “I shouldn’t be spending this money,” but you do so anyway?
  6. Do you read or hear about people that are rich and believe that you’ll never get there without a miracle?
  7. Is your first thought after a windfall involve what new things you can buy?
  8. Do you owe so much money to various people that you can’t conceive of how to begin paying it off?
  9. Do you believe that you will never be out of debt?
  10. Do you believe that you will never have “enough” money?

If you answered “yes” to the majority of those questions, there’s a good chance that you feel a general malaise in your life. For me, it coated everything with a sense of sadness and helplessness. I felt as though I was slogging through a swamp flowing backwards and it took all of my effort to merely stay in place.

After a while, things did begin to slip backward and I was nearly swept away by an onslaught of unexpected events. I finally realized that I had to do something to fix things, and so I started as easily as I can.

I started by taking one day at a time. I just woke up each morning and committed myself to not spending money in unnecessary ways. I didn’t worry about saving or investing or anything for a while; I just worried about not spending money.

After a month or two, I suddenly began to realize that my checking account had a lot more money in it. I remember the day that I realized I could make a quadruple payment on my highest interest credit card. When I wrote that check and put it in the mail, I felt as if there was a ray of sunshine on me. It didn’t drive all of the clouds away, but I began to feel the warmth of the sun just behind the clouds.

Two months later, I paid off that high interest card. In the five months since then, I’ve paid off all of my credit cards, my auto loan, and I’ve started investing in a mutual fund.

Once these events started occurring, the clouds lifted from my life. I realized that my worries about money were not only affecting me, but they had been affecting my relationship with others, including my wife and my son. I began to see them in a new light, not one clouded in worry about how I was going to provide for them, but as the beautiful people they are and what they give me each day.

Please, if you answered “yes” to many of those questions, wake up tomorrow morning with a plan for the day, a baby step for turning things around. Don’t worry about saving or investing or anything else, just make little changes so that you’re pulling less money out of your checking account. If you want, keep track of the good choices you made and look at that list when you’re feeling down.

Give it a few months. Keep paying your bills as before and just keep making baby steps. One day, you’ll look at your checking account balance and realize that you have more money than you thought, and you’ll realize that there is hope.

Please note that I am not a medical professional of any kind; do not accept any of this advice as a solution to your potential depression. I’m merely offering reflections on my own life; if you’re concerned about depression, please seek professional counseling and don’t rely on this post for answers.

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