Have you ever wondered how financial stress could affect your mental health? Today, I have a guest post by Kymberly “K-Rants” Akpowowo, a xennial blogger, advocate, and licensed social worker with years of experience in mental health, community administration, and advocacy. Kymberly is multi-passionate about health, politics, finance, women empowerment and many other things. She has made it her personal agenda to keep the uninformed informed. You can learn more about K-rants and her many passions at k-rants.com or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
When you think of mental health, one doesn’t automatically think of financial problems, but the two are actually very closely related. Continued unemployment, lay-offs, unexpected life events such as pregnancy or a chronic health diagnosis can all lead to high occurrences of mental health problems.
The burden of financial stress is very closely related to common mental health issues such as anxiety and depression which if left untreated could potentially lead to more chronic health-related problems. Economic shock can hit at any time and how people cope and deal with the effects of the change weigh heavily on them both mentally and emotionally. Left unchecked, this mental stress can lead to additional behavioral health problems like substance use, severe mental illness, and even suicide.
Now that’s extreme I know, but think back to some of the financial hardships many experienced as a result of the Great Depression, for some, that was the first time experiencing extreme financial hardship or economic turmoil. It has been my experience both personally and as a social worker that most individuals are rarely prepared for major change or unexpected life circumstances, leaving them vulnerable with a one-way ticket to rock-bottom.
My Personal Experience
Case in point, earlier last year, in an effort to further my education and position myself for a career change, I took a vow of poverty. In order to complete my second-year internship, I chose to make a sacrifice so that I could obtain my degree in social work. Spoiler alert! Today I am a licensed social worker in the state of Texas and currently working towards becoming an LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker).
Before I left my full-time job working in mortgage, I planned out the details of my temporary leave from the full-time workforce to the best of my ability. I took my financial aid refund and paid my car note up six months and took a part-time job working for the hospital making $12.82 per hour. I only worked two days a week and occasionally filled in for coworkers who had either called out or were on vacation. Things were going okay until tax season hit. I had planned on filing my taxes and using my refund to get ahead.
The funds received from my return in conjunction with my spring financial aid refund would have allowed me to pay my rent through the end of my academic program.
I soon found out that I would not be able to execute my plan as my tax preparer failed to catch the absence of a required form that needed to be filed for those individuals who received health-care through the market place. I wanted to share this with you because this one mishap not only threw me for a loop, but it put me in a financial bind that I almost didn’t recover from.
Related: My Journey of Overcoming Poverty
It took the IRS eight additional weeks to process my return leaving me strapped for cash and having to figure out how I was now going to pay rent. In order to not get evicted, I borrowed the money two months in a row from friends and family and took out a payday loan (huge mistake).
The burden and stress of trying to figure out how I was going to continue paying bills and pay people back on top of trying to finish a master’s program, complete a full-time internship, and work part-time was too much. And did I mention I’m a single mom? I had gotten to a point where I was so stressed and anxious that the symptoms had manifested themselves physically. My body ached from head to toe.
The Diagnosis That Changed My Life
In May of that same year, three months before I completed my program, I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease, scleroderma (an ugly cousin of lupus). In a matter of six months, my entire life was turned on its head and I wholeheartedly believe that stress, anxiety, depression, and my lack of coping skills was the primary trigger that led to this illness.
The mounting medical debt that I incurred, in the beginning, trying to determine what was going on with me did not help matters either.
It’s been a little over a year now and while I’m much better and currently under the care of a rheumatologist, I think about how close I was to giving up on life.
The mental and financial stress had become overwhelming and I was on the brink of a breakdown. It wasn’t until I remembered my why and reminded myself of why I set out on this path in the beginning that I was able to reel myself back in and start to prioritize tasks and get back on track.
None of us know what life has in-store for us and yes, there are times when we bite off more than we can chew. There are many things that contribute to our lived experiences and some of them we have better control of than others. Despite this, it is so important that we take the time to recognize that money and mental health tie into one another.
If you or a loved one is experiencing financial difficulty, here are a few tips that you should be mindful of that may indicate you need to seek help:
- Excessive anger or irritability
- Constant crying or feelings of sadness
- Lack of sleep or constant fatigue
- Interruption of sleep pattern
- Increased alcohol use
- Drug use or increased dependence on prescription medication (opioids)
- Lack of focus or constant worry
- Not caring about things that should otherwise be important
- Not being able to function at work, home or school
Have you ever had an experience where financial stress affected your mental health? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to share this post to raise awareness.
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