It seems there’s been a lot of talk amongst some personal finance bloggers about their experiences with depression. They have shared their stories bravely and have offered their experiences as way to inspire and help others going through similar things.
For myself, I struggle with depression and I know it’s played a big role in how I got myself into this kind of a financial situation in the first place. Having a major mood disorder means you don’t always have a lot of control over your feelings on a day to day basis – it’s kind of a roulette wheel of crappy.
Even after it’s treated with anti-depressants, it’s still touch and go. The pill just kind of buffers you against the worst of the feelings and then you deal with whatever else your brain hands you that day. Most days, my brain is a total douche bag.
Don’t get me wrong, I still get up in the morning, go to work, come home, and engage in semi-meaningful hobbies and bonding with family and friends in my spare time – it just makes it harder. Generally, it just means that many interactions and/or activities require a little extra ‘umph!’. And by ‘umph!’, I mean that noise you make when you’re trying to get that little extra effort required to move that heavy box into the back of the truck.
Here’s my default setting for most things:
When I default on ‘angst’, I get really interested in things that I can use to kick start my mood into a forward feel-something-else motion. I take shortcuts because it’s less work than letting things run their course – most of the things are pretty harmless but they do add up.
For example, coffee:
But it gets to be a problem when the little things aren’t enough. It’s harder to think straight when I get desperate and I don’t always properly work through all the options when I’m in that frame of mind. Before you know it…
So what to do? There’s some really important things I learned over the years to combat my bad moods and the need to escape them.
First lesson: Just accept that it’s crappy sometimes
When I understand and accept that It’s crappy and I don’t fight against it, it’s easier to deal with because I’m not fighting a war on two fronts. It’s reality and there’s no point in trying to pretend that it’s not; if you do, you end up getting desperate to avoid feeling crappy and you make stupid decisions.
Instead of being “OMG, I’m so not feeling crappy right now – this is not happening AT ALL.” Then going out and spending $400 on stuff so I can convince myself that everything is fine.
I can be ‘Wow, this really sucks” and ride it out. Most of the time, the fear of the feeling is worse than the actual feeling itself. If I’m not trying to convince myself that everything is fine all the time, it’s likely that the crappy will run its course and I can get on with life without being worse for the wear.
Second Lesson: When it’s crappy, have a distraction list
Feeling really down, or irritated, or numb or anything along those lines can be really difficult to tolerate. Especially when it happens enough to make me wonder if there are other feelings besides the crappy ones. I know that life has highs and lows but when I’m low, that’s all I see. When that happens, I need to have things around me that I can turn to for positivity. For example, I keep a happiness project on my Ipad: I have a photo album of people and places that I really like; catchy music that never fails to make me smile (Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke); and a couple of fun shows/movies that I love (Despicable Me – “IT’S SO FLUFFY!!!”). Sometimes I forget about it but when I use it, it’s great.
A distraction list is basically a bunch of things that you can do in the moment if you’re having a hard time. It can be anything from calling a friend, to painting a picture to meditating for twenty minutes – it’s usually best to have a couple portable ones that can be done anywhere (like meditative breathing techniques). I list ten or so things that I can do instead of making an unfortunate spending decision.
Third Lesson: Know your triggers
There’s a bunch of things that can make it harder for me to get through a day and knowing what those are helps me either avoid them or know what to expect when something happens. Like someone who gets headaches because of changes in barometric pressure, emotional triggers can work very similarly.
For me, it’s important to structure my free time. If I have a whole weekend full of nothing, I can implode by late Saturday afternoon and be off spending because I’m feeling bored and anxious.
Keep a journal and track moods and behaviours can be a good start. A lot can be learned from getting a feel for how thoughts, emotions, and actions all interact to create a current situation. I could actually benefit from doing this again because I’ve started slipping again personally.
I’ve done a lot of work to keep myself as well as I have and my depression is managed. I understand that this it’s going to be a chronic, lifelong illness and that I might have to go in for more treatment if I ever enter into another ‘major depressive episode’.
If you do struggle with a lot of ‘negative’ feelings and you haven’t gotten help, I would strongly urge you to talk to someone. Start out with someone in your personal circle if you’re not up to talking to a professional, or vice versa a professional. Get the help you need because it might not go away on its own.
If you have emotional triggers with money – maybe these tips can help!
What about you readers? What do you do when you’re feeling blah?
Thanks for coming out and sharing your depression story with us Lindsey. That is brave of you to do and I know it will inspire others who are in the same position to work at ways to improve their moods. I liked the part where you mention to keep a journal of triggers. We all need something to fall back on when we are not in a happy mood. I’m for the most part always happy but when I get angry (mostly when I see crappy drivers) I need to relax a bit. I tend to get upset out loud at how people don’t have a minute to live. I allow other people to change my emotions and that is something I shouldn’t do. I’m in charge, not them. Once you are ‘mindful’ of what sets the mood it may be easier to recognize what is happening. It may also give you a better handle on the situation. 🙂
Lindsey D says
Thanks for your kind words, Mr.CBB. I think it’s human nature to be influenced by what’s happening around us – sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad. It sounds like you’ve got a good awareness of it though!
I will admit that people who drive like crazy to get somewhere a picosecond sooner are infuriating!
I find that growing my awareness has really helped me become better at managing my moods and coping with the ups and downs. Cheers!
Matt Becker says
Wow, this is a really honest and helpful view on depression Lindsey. An your tips for how to deal with it are so simple and practical. It’s so important to know that it’s coming and have a plan for how to deal with it, just like you’ve outlined. And the cool thing is that that approach can really be generalized to a lot of life. Really powerful and helpful stuff here. Thanks.
Lindsey D says
Thank you Matt, I really appreciate your supportive comment. It was great for me to put my experiences into words too. Sometimes seeing it on a screen (or paper) can remind me how far I’ve come over the years. Especially when I can forget it when I’m sulking about whatever.
You are right, I find that a lot of what I learned in dealing with depression can be transferred to other areas of my life: work, relationships, whatever…it can all be applicable.
Budget and the Beach says
Thanks for sharing your story. I wonder just how prevalent depression is related to debt…I’ll bet a lot more than we think because just like other destructive behaviors, shopping can get out of hand when emotions are out of control. I love all your coping mechanisms as well…and that fact that sometimes you just have to ride out the feelings.
Lindsey D says
Thanks for commenting – I wonder how prevalent the connection is between depression and debt as well! People will find all kinds of ways to deal with what’s hitting them at the moment – I know they’ve found positive correlations between things like alcoholism and depression, I imagine abusing credit cards could be up there too (or whatever).
Thank you for sharing such a personal side of you. I agree with you awareness and identifying when you’re in a “low” is key so that you can tell yourself to just ride it out instead of trying to band-aid it with emotional shopping (the main culprit of my frivolous spending before). You definitely have some great processes in place to combat your depression! P.S. I love Despicable Me – I constantly do the “Is this annoying?” and smacking my cheeks. 🙂
Lindsey D says
Thanks Anna, Despicable Me is awesome, isn’t it?
Band-aiding is so much easier to do than riding it out, if you’re not sure what it looks like. The feelings can feel really overwhelming and it can be scary to just consciously decide to ride it out, it can be way easier. Sometimes just asking yourself “what’s the worse that will happen?” is all it takes for you to realize that you’ll get through it. 🙂
Shannon @ The Heavy Purse says
Thanks for sharing your story, Lindsey. I agree that fighting what you’re feeling is often an exercise in futility. When you’re feeling crabby, mad, sad or whatever – that’s what you feel. By nature I am upbeat, but I have my days too. And I’ve learned to accept them and move on. Pretending they don’t exist has never made them go away (kind of like debt). It sounds like you’ve figured out when to relinquish control and when to take charge of your emotions.
Lindsey D says
Hey Shannon! It’s kind of a tricky thing to learn and when you’re unsure, it can be pretty overwhelming. But when I got to the point where I was confident that I could cope when things went side-wise, I was a lot more willing to take the risks. 🙂
I love the idea of a happy list. I totally have one, but as you alluded to, I often forget to use it. Mine includes gems like “eat sardines” and “watch Bollywood movie.” I also sometimes just Google “how not to be depressed.” It sounds lame, but that’s basically how I solve all my problems in life, haha. I would be an utter failure sans the Internet.
Lindsey @ Cents & Sensibility says
Hi Cantaloupe, I love Bollywood movies! I should immediately add that my list – I wish life was an East Indian musical most days (in the song and dance way). I think we’d all be lost without the internet! Don’t fret, my pet – you’re not alone. 😉
[email protected] says
I definitely used to shop when I was depressed. Luckily, I seemed to grow out of it over time and learned new coping skills.
Lindsey D says
Hey Holly, I imagine that things will change as I go along. Thanks for visiting!
It is so true, sometimes you just need to let the emotions (high and low) just set…
Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says
Hugs to you, Lindsey. I suffered from major depression for 7 years, so I know what you’re going through. Your coping tactics here, especially the distraction list, are spot-on, and were/are crucial for me too. Hang in there, girl!
I agree that structuring your free time is crucial. Having a focus and setting tangible goals has been very important for me. Success is hard to define, especially in my industry (acting)- so to maintain momentum and feel great I got into running where I could have very clear objectives and measurable results.
Lindsey D says
Thanks for sharing about your own experience with depression – I find these strategies are the basic ones that carry me through most things. 🙂
Lindsey D says
Hi Stefanie, Acting is a very difficult profession to gauge success in since you don’t have all the traditional markers to fall back when you’re trying understand your progress. Running is amazing and can be done almost anywhere on any budget! Thanks for commenting!