Updated on 12.29.06

Money and Depression

Trent Hamm

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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  1. Thank you for a wonderful post. I almost cried when reading it because it sounded so familiar. It’s comforting knowing you’re not alone, and it’s inspiring knowing that there is hope. Thank you again!

  2. Daniel says:

    I’ll second what Molly said… the stuff you’re saying is not complicated, it’s just laid out plainly for us to see, structured so as to make the whole money thing far less overwhelming. I’m of the same opinion you have, I don’t like money, so if I become organized, I won’t have to think or worry about it.

    I want you to know how much I appreciate your writings and this blog in general… it’s become something of an inspirational guide. Keep up the great work and don’t stop.

  3. Karen says:

    Thanks for the info. Here’s my trackback.



  4. John Edmonds says:

    In the UK at least, Depression is now the third biggest reason to visit a GP and yet, outside of the medical field, very few people understand what Depression is all about.

    You might therefore be interested in a brand new DVD just released by my company called EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT DEPRESSION and presented by UK Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Darryl Britto, who made the DVD especially for Depression patients and those training in the medical field. He discusses the myths about Depression, as well as its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, the various treatment including antidepressants, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, and Social Intervention, and then goes on to discuss prognosis (outcomes of treatment.) MORE INFO AT: http://www.TimeTrappers.co.uk

    Cheers, John Edmonds, CEO, TimeTrappers

  5. Bren says:

    You really hit me hard with this, That is me your talking about!!! I’m going to change and do what you did. Thanks for starting me in the right direction! Sometimes we just need to see that someone else is just like me. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I really like this site.

  6. Bettsi says:

    Hello! I am enjoying your blog so much! I just found you today and I am drinking it in like a man in the desert! Thank you for sharing your experiences and offering hope. I’ll definitely be reading along.

  7. Kelley Ann Hornyak says:

    This blog post really struck a chord with me. I’ve been very depressed about money for quite a while now–too depressed to even work harder to make more of it. I end up spending money on things that I think will make me feel better, which just compounds the problem. I particularly like your idea about writing down the things we decide not to spend our money on. Writing down those positive choices is a reward in itself! I’m starting that list NOW. Thank you for that!

  8. Ms. PW says:

    Interesting post. I agree that people who are in a position where their money problems are self-induced can find a way out of it. But what if you have a 750 credit score, are current on all you bills and have struggled intensely in the past year to do so and are now at the point of not having the money to pay your credit card minimums anymore and have to file for chapter 7 in order to keep your home? I agree that most ppl’s money problems are self-induced. This is not the case with my husband and I. I am disabled and he is self-employed in an industry that has taken a nose-dive in the recent economic depression. His #1 client went bankrupt this year and we have been surviving on credit for nearly a year now, expending more than we bring in, just living minimally. Neither of us have bought new undergarments in nearly 2 years. We both drive paid-off vehicles over 12 years old, each. We are down to 10% of what our income stream was 2 years ago. We do not spend money as you described in your post. We live very simply and always have. We have always paid our credit card balances, not the minimums, until recently. we could not sell our house to get out from under the mortgage thanks to the ppl in the mortgage industry who lent to those who couldn’t afford it. It was on the market for a year.
    So, what do you do when you have a 750 credit rating, a major in Business Management, are facing Chapter 7 and mandatory budget counseling classes? The problem is not how we manage our money. It’s the idiots making decisions about how to manage our country’s wealth messing things up for all of us. Thanks Reagan for your ‘Trickle-Down Economic Debt” and NAFTA. Soon people will be crossing the border from the US to get into Mexico to get decent jobs!
    If you have the luxury, and yes, it is a luxury, of spending money you don’t have, then you are creating your own issues. Hmmm, no reply necessary. Just food for thought. Things have changed a lot in 2 years.
    Bitter and Cynically. Ms. PW

  9. Lisa W. says:

    I’m glad I found this. People don’t realize how important money is! If you don’t have enough, you’re stuck in a mediocre life. Bad neighborhood, tiny apartment, etc. That “Money isn’t Important” crap society instilled in our heads is pure b.s. to keep us down and humble, while the rich have all the fun. I wish I’d learned this sooner, but now that I have I’m seriously working everyday to have my OWN BUSINESS. Forget this living paycheck to paycheck crap!

  10. rodgerlvu says:

    Thanks for the info. you do well in thinking and writing…

  11. Gary S says:

    Wow. Good stuff. I know that eventually things will turn,but living through debt really hurts. After many years in the television industry, I decided to form my own company. 3 years later my income is almost non existant, and my wife is paying most of the bills. The ironic thing is that my company has turned a profit this year, but 3 years of bad decisions has put me in such a hole that the money goes out faster than it comes in.I’ve actually started taking ownership of my mess a year ago, but it’s probably 2 years before I can turn this around. Meanwhile, I have 2 teenage kids, a big mortgage, and I feel my world is crashing down on me.I have to take it one day at a time, cause when I look at the big picture, depression sinks in and my day is blown. My family can sense when I am down, my workers. Again, I know it will get better. But it can’t come soon enough.

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