This Is What Depression Does To Your Wallet

As much as we would like to pretend that finances and mental health are not linked, the reality is that they form a loop where one enhances the other in infinity loop. The first time I became severely depressed in college, I had just received a medical diagnosis of ulcerative colitis, and a medical bill not covered by my insurance for the colonoscopy I never imaged I would need at that age.

I remember sitting on my couch staring at the bill for over $1000 and rubbing my stomach. Although I was told to avoid all carbs, spicy foods, liquor, and cheese, I immediately grabbed my wallet, took a cab to the nearest grocery store, and purchased all of the things I was advised against.

When you’re depressed, your life feels like it isn’t your own, and therefore you forget you need to be tender to it. In a way, you feed into self-destructive habits because it allows you a false sense of control over your situation.

Around this same time of my diagnosis I picked up smoking cigarettes. I also began drinking half a bottle of whiskey every night. Even though I knew I was actively destroying my body, I had a sense of control: if I die it’s my own doing, and no one else’s. The thing about depression and finances is that you no longer see a future for yourself, so you rationalize that there is very little point in saving or building a better life.

The loop I’m talking about looks a little something like this:

You’re too depressed to leave the house, so you order in food all the time, you feel bad you’re spending so much money on take-out so you grow depressed about it, but you’re too sad to leave the house to go buy healthy, cheap food, so you order in more food. Then there comes the whole idea of self-medication, which I touched on above. You’ll be willing to shell over $20 dollars for a handle of alcohol because at least you can quiet your mind long enough to fall asleep when you’re wasted.

When you’re depressed, you tend to fall back on vices in order to numb the pain because at the time, it seems easier this way. And whoever thinks vices are cheap are sorely mistaken. You justify spending money on take out, drinking, whatever can fill you for the time being, because even though you’re depressed, you’re also deeply hungry.

You justify to yourself that if only you could afford therapy, healthy groceries, a yoga membership, that then you would finally be able to experience true happiness. You begin to assign joy to physical things, even when you fully know you can’t afford them and shouldn’t be wasting your money.

As difficult and terrible as this cycle seems, eventually you learn to break it.

For me, it was the night I realized I had blown through almost a semester’s worth of financial aid in a month. I was able to see through my depression and enter survival mode. As sick as I was, I got a job at Starbucks part time in order to last me until the end of the semester. I started to just be able to get by, and little by little it instilled in me a sense of confidence I had been missing in my life.

Although depression can take an ugly hit on your wallet, things are never as impossible as they seem. Even when you’re in the depths of your darkness, try to remember to invest in yourself in small, healthy ways and your investments will return to you.

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