I’m going to #HoldMyHandsUp and say that I’m not afraid of money anymore. And I’m proud to finally say it out loud.

#HoldMyHandsUp Just A Square PegTalking about it, dealing with it and being in possession of it made me feel extremely anxious. I find speaking about money is awkward and it used to give me the sweats just thinking about it. But I’m not alone in this. Today, The Freedom Community Project in Derbyshire has said that ‘debt is the sleeping giant of problems created by COVID19′ and warns that many people are having sleepless nights because of it (Source).

In the respect of earning a living throughout lockdown, I’ve been so lucky and I’m grateful to my employer for letting me continue my work. It’s not only meant I’m bringing in money, it’s meant I have a routine which is vital to my mental health. Mental health and money worries are closely linked. When you’re not feeling yourself and can’t think straight, dealing with things such as money aren’t at the forefront of your mind.

So, I thought I’d share with you why money matters made me anxious, how I got help and how I #HoldMyHandsUp to not being afraid anymore.

Why money makes me anxious

Mental health and money worriesAs part of my Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), one of the traits I strongly experience is that of impulsivity. I act on impulse and usually, it’t not a positive thing. Growing up, I wasn’t too bad with money. My Mum would give us pocket money each week and if we wanted something in particular (normally a book or the latest shouty band CD), we would save for it. As I got older and started at university, I would receive a student loan every quarter to pay for my accommodation and anything else I might have needed, like food or books. I was, like every other student, delighted to have this large amount of money every few months and spent it like it didn’t have worth. I think most of it went on boozy nights out which were large and often. So much so, I got myself a credit card. I’d always been told by my Mum that these weren’t a good idea and to steer clear. However, this thought was pushed to the back of my mind as I started living on this card. When my moods were bad, I’d go on a spending spree to make myself feel better. I’d feel elated and awesome. It was giving me a high, like doing drugs would. But, like a drug, the come-down was brutal. I’d be physically sick with worry that bailiffs were going to show up at my door and cart me away. I’d have panic attacks and became really paranoid. So much so, I hid my bank statements when they arrived through the letterbox.

To help ‘pay off the card’ I got a job which paid £3 an hour and really wasn’t worth my time. The £12 a shift wouldn’t have even covered the interest so I quit the job.

After I finished uni, I kept spending and spending; my wages, credit cards, you name it. I was in such a bad habit and such a vicious cycle. I went to the bank on several occasions to ask for help. This came as financial advice and made me feel optimistic. As soon as I’d pay a bit off, I’d feel great. But two weeks later, boom, I’d spent it again. And the bank kept increasing the limit on my card. Instead of questioning why I needed to keep increasing it, they just did it. I was in this awful cycle, seeing no way out.

How I broke the cycle

Mental health and money worries

When I say ‘I broke the cycle’, it wasn’t me alone. For the first few years Karlos and I were together, I didn’t tell him about my money issues. I didn’t tell anyone, not even my stepdad who’s like the superman of saving. One night, I remember having a full blown panic attack, I couldn’t breathe, I was crying like the world had ended and Karlos was bewildered as to why I was hysterical. It’s then I had to tell him. I was so embarrassed and ashamed but also relieved. The paranoia and the anxiety had come to a head and I needed to let it out. Karlos, who is also super savvy with money (and numbers), offered to help me to organise my debt so I could see it. He put it into a spreadsheet, explained what I needed to do and how I was going to do it. He also set me up with online banking which I’d never done before as I always wanted to avoid seeing the damage I’d done.

That same night, I cut up my credit cards and promised Karlos and myself that I wouldn’t get into that state with money again. It took over my life and my mind.

My relationship with money now

…Is a positive working progress. I’m doing so much better now thanks to Karlos and his help. Although money still perplexes me, he took the scariness away by showing me what was what. Money has worth again now and I’m aware of the value of it. I know that if I spend my ‘spending money’ before the end of the month is out, then that’s it. I guess I’m just like everyone else now, which is preferable to where I was a few years ago. It’s also great to see how much I’ve managed to pay off and it makes me proud. It still makes me cringe but Karlos shows me how far I’ve come.

If you’re struggling with money…

Don’t do it alone. It’s not easy to share your money worries or debt with someone else. I felt so guilty and ashamed but after that, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. There’s also so much help around now through banks and charities.

The Money and Mental Health Charity are amazing. They’re helping to break the stigma around talking about money and helping those struggling with their mental health.

Mental Health and Money Advice offer invaluable advice and support if you need guidance.

Visit the Mind Charity website for advice and tips on getting help with money matters if you’re struggling.

Join in the conversation: What are you holding your hands up for? What mental health/self care achievement have you made during lockdown? Take a selfie of you with your hands up and use #HoldMyHandsUp on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram to share a mental health achievement you feel proud to hold your hands up for!