It’s the end of 2016 and despite the overall awfulness of the year with someone I know passing away, other celebrity deaths, the constant war and just the terrible outcomes of some of the world’s decisions, I’m actually pretty happy. On top of having traveled to five countries this year (a definite record in my books), I managed to clear off my credit card debt! And I no longer have to pay my car loan! This is exciting for me because for years those who know me have heard me lament over my financial issues over and over again, being a mix of having really bad salaries and being in credit card debt. It felt like a long journey to me, and it also feels weird to know that I accomplished this after all that struggle. But it feels especially good to be able to just go up from here and aim for better financial decisions.
This also means that I now have experience on dealing with credit card debt, and I’m happy to share if it’s of interest though it isn’t much in the grand scale of things. My debt wasn’t that bad, something that I was eternally grateful for despite my laments. But the problem was that it lasted way too long, and though I can tell you the steps I took into dealing with the debt (to put it simply, I budgeted and took on a balance transfer), I realise there was a bigger lesson I learnt through this and throughout the year. That was:
Take care of your mental health first
Would you believe me if I said that taking care of my mental health got me into further debt which made it worse, but I’m still glad I did it anyways?
Yeah, it was not a good financial move. I got therapy early this year and that set me back quite a bit when I already had credit card debt. In fact, the therapy made my financial state worse! I even hit a point where my credit card got declined when I had to make big payments for my dad (which he would pay me back eventually).
My former mental state made it hard for me to care or notice the financial state I was in. I knew financially I wasn’t doing well, but I was suffering from really bad anxiety for over a year and had been battling depression for so long that I couldn’t focus on what was important, especially on my finances. I had written for a personal finance website before, and knew I had the answers, but I couldn’t get myself to seek or solve them. I was terrified to depend on people. I was terrified of depending on myself.
Which was why the decision to spend more to get therapy took a lot of effort on my part. It’s not easy to get the right therapist, and the cost was the main reason I avoided it for so long. But my anxiety was getting worse. Depression often made my mind empty and tired, I would think of bad thoughts and focus on them, which was why I had it for so long cause it’s easy to mistake it for laziness and everything just being in my head. But anxiety was the complete opposite, it was so physical. I would hyperventilate, I would cry when I’m on my own, I would tremble, and I would feel pain on my shoulders right down to my fingertips.
I was reaching my limit of juggling between anxiety and depression. My finances were going nowhere, and if this kept up I would never be able to hold down a job. So I asked around for who I can go to, and a good friend recommended her therapist to me. This therapist was good and had helped her a lot, but she warned me about the cost. At this point, I knew that cost should never be the main focus here. My health matters, and there was a high chance my bad mental state was causing these bad salaries and constant debt.
It was the best decision I had ever made for myself.
Think of spending on your mental health as an investment to yourself. Both physical health and mental health needs to be well cared for to be able to do anything you want to do, and if your mental health was in jeopardy and is affecting that, doesn’t it make more sense to spend what you can to get treatment for it?
I agree that today’s economy makes it impossible to make spending on your mental health on top of your priority, and it’s true that you should focus on taking care of your basic needs first. But if you are in a bad mental state, one that is affecting you enough that you are limiting yourself and your abilities, I implore you look into seeking treatment. The Befrienders are a good place to start with if you really need to talk to someone about your problems, I have spoken to them and they really are good in listening .
You can also go to any clinic and talk about your mental health there too. While the doctors there are more towards caring for your physical health, they will factor in your mental health too and either give you a lending ear, medication (if your symptoms were physical like mine was) or recommend a doctor to you.
For those of you who are in a good enough state but get mentally worn out a lot, there are many options but they may cost such as traveling if you need to escape and breathe, or going for yoga lessons or doing group therapy by joining others in doing crafting or cooking, anything that you can invest to create a better self for you. While each one is great in helping you mentally, just be careful not to confuse indulgence with therapy, because not all activities will make you better. Focus solely on being kind to yourself, so that you can bring out the best of you.
In the end, that decision to focus on my mental health than money was the turning point that made me focus on what was important: myself. Sure, it was a challenge to deal with the debt it gave me, but I was mentally better to tackle it which led to me being debt free today. A little worn out in savings, sure, but still debt free. So as 2016 draws to a close, I wish all of you better mental health in 2017, and be the best you that you can be proud of at the end of each and every day.