MH@H Mental Health

Financial Preparation for the Mental Illness Storm

Financial preparation for the mental illness storm – cartoon of a piggybank

If you ask the average person about things that come to mind when they think of mental illness, they probably won’t think of finances.  But mental illness, and especially the disability that may result, can be expansive, and financial preparation can make it a little easier if a mental illness storm does roll in,

I grew up in a very financially responsible household.  Debt was something to be avoided like the plague, and saving was seen as a must, not an option. Consumer culture was not a way of life to be embraced; personal responsibility and accountability for financial choices was key. I picked up a lot of my parents’ financial approach by osmosis, and I feel very lucky that I had such strong financial preparation.  When I first got sick 11 years ago, I was off work for close to a year.  There was a 6-month wait period to qualify for long-term disability insurance.  I had enough sick time banked for around 2 months, and then I had to rely on federal Employment Insurance sickness benefits for the next 4 months.  It was nice to get, but it was nowhere near enough money to be able to pay my mortgage and bills and still be able to eat, so I was very grateful I had savings.

Managing with illness

Ever since that time, my illness has stayed pretty front of mind when it comes to all things financial.  It’s essential to me to have easily accessible savings, and I add to that rainy (aka depressed) day fund whenever I have the chance.  I don’t want to be barely functional in terms of my mental health and have a lack of financial preparation mean I have to waste time and thought pulling my money out of investments, so I make sure there’s always money sitting in a savings account, there for me whenever I might need it.

After I bought my condo, I threw extra payments at the mortgage whenever I possibly could.  With some help from my family, I was able to pay off the mortgage in full almost 3 years ago. That turned out to be the smartest move I ever made.  In 2016, I quit my job because of bullying, but the bully-in-chief decided to make sure I would have a very hard time finding work again, and I ended up unemployed for 8 months.  I was severely depressed, I had no income, and if it hasn’t been for having my mortgage paid off and all the other financial preparation I’d done, I probably would have had to sell my condo and move, which would likely have pushed me over the edge that I was teetering on. Universal basic income would definitely have been helpful in that situation.

Now I work 2 casual jobs.  I make a good hourly wage, but I don’t always get (or feel well enough to accept) many shifts.  While I have savings in the bank, I try to live as cheaply as possible and use a variety of penny-pinching strategies. I know that at some point, I’ll probably have to go on disability benefits for the long-term.

Coupons & other ways to save

Coupons are great.  I also check store flyers and take advantage of rewards programs, especially those that offer gift cards as reward options.  My local grocery store has a great rewards program, and I regularly redeem my points for gift cards for places I might not otherwise spend my money.  Sites like Rakuten give you a percentage cashback for doing your online shopping via their links, and they sometimes have promos that offer a higher percentage back.  None of this stuff is big bucks, but it’s essentially free money.

There are a number of different internet survey sites that give you rewards for doing surveys.  Although the rewards per survey are small, if you’ve got time on your hands it’s pretty easy to accumulate rewards.  I’ve collected several hundred dollars in rewards in the form of Paypal, iTunes, and Amazon credits.

I’ve pared back any services that I was paying for but really not using.  I wasn’t really watching cable tv, so I ditched that.  I realized that I didn’t need the internet speed I was paying for, so I cut back on that, too.

Managing medical expenses

I’m lucky that I live in Canada where there’s a public health care system and medical expenses are reasonable, but still, the costs aren’t negligible.  When I had a regular nursing job, I had benefits, including extended health insurance, paid by my employer. Now that I work casual, though, I have to pay for this myself.  It’s $200, but still saves me money compared to no insurance.  When I was unemployed in 2016, I had to pay out of pocket for all of my drugs.  I wish the government would realize that it’s cheaper to provide drug coverage than to pay for the costs down the road of people stopping meds because they can’t afford them.

Worry about the future

For the last couple of years, I’ve gotten gotten hit with a rush of worry about the future most nights, just before bedtime. How will I take care of myself?  How will I support myself financially?  What if I can never resurrect the tatters of my career?  Then I climb into bed, the meds take over, and off to sleep I go.

II’ve gotten used to it sufficiently that I can shift my mind back away and not give it too much pre-bed airtime.  It would be nice if it would stop, but I don’t think it will.  I have no certainty, and there’s no safety net, other than the financial cushion that I’ve built for myself.  I have no resilience to handle setbacks.  All I can do is just exist each day.  Perhaps that would be a good thing if it was about mindfulness and that kind of thing, and maybe there is an element of that, but when it comes down to it, it’s really just one more form of avoidance.

A few years ago I never would’ve imagined that I’d be having this kind of fear stop by to pay me a visit each night.  I felt stable and certain looking towards the future, and being able to take care of myself at a very basic level really wasn’t a prospect for my future that seemed like it could be real.  I didn’t consider that my illness might shift from episodic to constant.  So many things I could never have guessed.

Having a mental illness can be expensive.  And that’s before even thinking about the manic spending sprees that people with bipolar disorder may go through.  If we do as much financial preparation as we can, then maybe, just maybe, they’ll be enough to keep us afloat when our illness throws the next “bomb cyclone” at us, and maybe it can help tone down at least some of those bedtime visits from the big bad wolf.

book cover: Managing the Depression Puzzle, Second Edition, by Ashley L. Peterson

Managing the Depression Puzzle takes a holistic look at the different potential pieces that might fit into your unique depression puzzle.

It’s published by MH@H Books and available on Amazon and Google Play.

14 thoughts on “Financial Preparation for the Mental Illness Storm”

  1. I have struggled for years with finding a career to stick with, that I can manage with my PTSD and Lyme disease. God kept telling me I had to quit working (private duty nurse) and I wasn’t listening. I pushed myself as far as I could go-and then ended up paying for it for the past two years. My prayers go out to you my dear, and I love your blog~

    1. Thanks sweetie 🙂 I find working casually as a nurse I’m able to push myself within reason without going too far and making myself sick. It’s tough to find that balance.

  2. i agree. its important to be financially secure. i try to save where i can also. i try to pay all of my bills on time. living alone can be hard and stressful. i still prefer it though to liveing with someone. xo

  3. I’m so glad you wrote about this. The reality for us spoonies is, with or without mental health issues, in this life, the bills have to be paid, and society can be quite unforgiving especially in the US with its terrible healthcare system. I’m always interested in how others with illnesses make a living without bringing harm to their health, and I was inspired by how you found work/a lifestyle that you could work with while dealing with the illness. I’m trying to find something myself as I get more stable, and I hope that I can find something fulfilling and healthy. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I hate how expensive healthcare is. My insurance does not cover mental health services until I meet my $5000 deductible. So I am in quite a lot of debt. I wish someone taught me better money management because I tend to have emotional spending sprees. I’m better at stopping myself now but the damage has already been done.

  5. I agree. I’m not on any of meds because of this issue. It’s so hard to get help with expensive medications where Im from. Thank you for sharing because I think a lot people do not know how expensive having a mental illness is and the challenges that come along with it.

    1. It makes me so sad that cost has to influence people’s choices around treatment, both for meds and psychotherapy. It just seems so unjust.

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