Mental Health

How Depression Can Affect Your Finances

Ocean Shores, WA – Photo by Grace Moore

A version of this post was originally published on Medium.

I have depression. I have ever since I was a young teen, though I didn’t know it at the time. All I really knew when I was a teenager was that I was miserable most of the time and could never really figure out how to sustain my happiness. 

It took me years to really figure out that I was depressed, and longer to get any sort of handle on it. I still have plenty of depressive episodes, but I can cope better than I once did. 

That doesn’t mean depression doesn’t still derail me sometimes, or make it hard for me to do the things that I need or want to do. 

Sometimes, my depression gets to a point where it becomes difficult to work. And that’s when my finances start to take a hit. 

My depressive episodes come in waves. I’ll feel fine for a few weeks, and then suddenly I won’t. When these depressive episodes hit, working becomes a lot harder. Still, I can usually grit my teeth and push through, at the very least getting the bare minimum done that I need to in order to pay all my bills for another month.

But some episodes are worse than normal, and so everything is harder. A lot harder. Work feels like a more-than-monumental activity. And since I’m a freelancer who works from home and there is no one around keeping me accountable but myself, it’s very easy to just not do it.

If you’ve never been depressed, you might not understand how someone could be unable to work because of it. And the thing is, when I’m not actively feeling depressed, I also sometimes wonder why I can’t make myself be as productive as I want to be when I am depressed. I’m going to be sad either way, I think, so isn’t it better to be sad and making money?

Then the depression comes along, and any sort of rational thinking goes out the window.

Suddenly, work is pointless. No matter that I literally need the money to live. I just can’t see the point in doing the work, when everything is so painful and overwhelming. And with no outside source that I have to be accountable to, I don’t have to justify not working to anyone else but myself, and I don’t take a lot of convincing.

So then the end of the month comes around, and the consequences for my days of very little work are starting to be felt. I’m never about to starve or be out on the streets, but things end up a lot tighter than I’d like them to be. 

And then there is the fact that not having enough money for things causes the negative self-talk to start up, which can lead to more depression and another decrease in productivity. Being depressed and being poor is a vicious cycle, it seems.

Whenever this happens, I think the worst part might be that I know it won’t be the last time. 

As I write this, I’m feeling pretty good, and I’ve been getting more work done. This period of feeling better could last for a month or more, or maybe a week or less. No matter how long it lasts, though, there will almost certainly come another time where I find myself unable to work, and I repeat the cycle all over again.

My lack of motivation to work when I am depressed has ripple effects beyond immediate financial needs. It also makes it hard for me to work towards my goals, or do certain things that I want, like travel. 

I have a lot of goals for myself, both personally and professionally. Only, when I’m depressed, it’s really hard to work on any of my goals. I want to be a writer, but writing is so hard when I’m depressed. And being depressed makes me more likely to think things like, “Well, nobody cares about my work, really, so what’s the point?” and “I’m not actually meant to be a writer and I may as well just quit.”

And then when you don’t have any money, or you struggle with the lack of motivation to act on big goals, you can see how doing something like planning a trip could fall by the wayside. 

I am actively seeking help for my depression and have been for some time.  I’m definitely in a better place than I once was, but I’m still not where I’d like to be. But I hope that a day will come when I don’t become so financially derailed by my mental health. 

That day just might not be today. 

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