Anxiety, Chronic illness, parenting, women's health

Money and Mental Health

It was time for me to face my fears. Money wasn’t just a tangible exchange of currency for goods. For me, it was a deeply rooted fear of going without, being out of control, and letting go.

Photo by Katie Harp – Pinterest Manager on Unsplash

To me, the world has always been a picture of souls interconnected by an invisible string. I’ve seen how just the “right” person enters my life at just the “right” time. It never ceases to amaze me and I find that it’s rarely easy to ignore.

The Way it Went Down

Matt and I have been struggling with our finances since we got married.

Money tips and wisdom weren’t shared with either of us growing up. In fact, money was a major trigger for stress in both of our homes. We were both raised by single parents for a long duration of childhoods. There was very little money and very little resources because of it. Ironically, both of our single parents married their spouses when Matt and I were around the same age. New income from new “breadwinners” in the home meant new opportunities that weren’t afforded to our parents when they were single.

All of a sudden both of our families were able to afford name brand cereal (heck, cereal at all!).

We got new school clothes instead of second hand clothing.

Matt looks back on his household and I look back on mine and it’s shockingly similar. Our parents essentially went from having nothing to having excess. This created a culture of entitlement, living beyond the families’ means, and debt. Then, as the credit card statements arrived in the mail, the arguments surrounding money began.

We both remember our parents and step parents fighting over money. Shouting matches over the stress of it all. Still, behaviors went unchanged and we both grew up in homes where money wasn’t dared brought up in discussion.

Avoidance became the key to keeping arguments under wraps.

Til’ Debt Do Us Part

Our lack of money smarts wasn’t all on our parent’s shoulders, of course. Matt and I never really talked about the financial specifics of our relationship, goals, or even pasts. Our conversations went as deep as:

“Yeah, my parents fought a lot about money.”

“Yeah, mine, too.”

Or, we would set lofty goals without any plan in place.

“The goal is to not go into debt.”

“Yeah, that would be horrible if we ended up in a financial situation like our families.”

The wedding came and went. We immediately spent the cash from the wedding envelopes immediately. On what, I don’t remember.

We opened credit cards for emergency situations because we didn’t have a savings.

Then, my health quickly and suddenly declined. Medical bills were thrown on credit cards and small personal loans with high interest rates became our cushion for survival. For years, and I mean years, we went into debt and total denial that our situation was as bad as it was.

Blank Slates and Fresh Chances

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Years passed and debt increased.

Unforeseen circumstances kept mounting and throwing us into what felt like a whiplash state of saving then spending. We would make progress and then fall right back into spending and avoidance. We’d become stressed and then splurge on a vacation to get “away from it all”. (That doesn’t work, by the way).

Our daughter was born and we imagined a new chapter beginning. We dreamed new dreams. We made new lofty plans without any accountability or measurable goals in place.

Her 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th birthdays passed and we were sinking further into debt. In this span of 5 years I began and quit multiple jobs because of my health. I could not hold down a full time job which left our finances even more unpredictable. Finally, we enrolled in the debt management program with CESI and consolidated our debt. (they’re a non profit and I highly recommend them!)

With new tools in our tool belt and a breath of fresh air, I started back to full time employment.

Unfortunately, after nearly two years of employment, I had to resign due to health issues once again. I immediately talked to my therapist during this grieving process. It was so taxing on me and disappointing that I had to give up a position I loved so much. She suggested that I consider freelance work as a virtual assistant and writing. My love for administrative support (major geek over here!), writing, and desire to stay on track with CESI gave me the push I needed to jump into the unknown.

Enter Amazing Breakthrough

Photo by Sarah Gualtieri on Unsplash

My freelance profile posted and I got a message shortly after from the lovely Whitney Hansen of Whitney Hansen Co. It turned out she needed a virtual assistant ASAP and well, I needed a job! The thought of working for a finance guru intimidated me like crazy!

Day One: I pushed my fear aside and got to work on my newly assigned tasks.

I read all about her work, listened to her podcast, and began reading her blog. She had me hooked. Whitney talked about things I had never heard about: side hustles, how to start a savings, and manageable goals for paying off debt. I soaked in everything like a sponge. She wasn’t talking at me, she was sharing her heart and also her mind. In one of her podcasts she interviews Cait Flanders, author of The Year of Less . My intrigue was sparked. I bought the book used on Amazon and got to reading.

My Rude, but Gentle Awakening

Photo by Nika Akin on Unsplash

The first few pages of Cait’s book made me cry.

Whitney’s podcast made me cry.

Sessions with my therapist made me cry.

Something ran deep within me and I couldn’t figure it out. What was it?

I began to grieve.

I dug deep into the soil of my soul and there, just at the rock bed, was fear. On the surface everyone else saw my health concerns, my best intentions, and my polished facade. Deeper, there in the dark, was the fear I had buried as a child. Fear of losing what I held dear, fear of lacking control, fear of letting others in. Spending had become my salve. I shopped for comfort. I shopped to forget. I shopped to control.

“Tiny” well-meaning purchases over time had buried me.

It was time for a rebirth.

I could not be held responsible for what I did not know growing up, but I was responsible for choosing not to grow up.

The following weeks, I decided to stay at that root and to look it dead in the eyes. I observed the deepest and darkest places of my behavior. Places that I felt ashamed of–the impulsive spending, relentless excuses, and denial. I did not stay there, though.

We cannot dwell in a place of regret. Nothing blooms there.

I asked Whitney for help by joining her in her 1:1 coaching. She graciously accepted us and all of our nasty debt into her arms and began gently coaching us on how to take ownership over our finances.

I began working intentionally with my therapist about my desire for comfort, suppression, and hiding from fear.

This has been difficult. The first month of setting a budget did not go as planned. We basically fell on our faces. Whitney helped dust us off and encouraged us to keep going. I replaced spending with eating for a short time. My therapist listened with true empathy as I cried through the realization that I had exchanged one bad habit for another. (Cait highlights this common tendency in her book).

Matt and I are setting goals and working hard to be a team. It’s fun to be on the same page and dream together!

I’m learning to not be fearful of finances, but instead feel empowered by my choices.

Let’s End With This

You’re not defined by the mistakes you’ve made.

Evaluate the “mood behind the motion”. Are you eating, spending, sleeping, avoiding, or drinking when you’re stressed, scared, overwhelmed, sad, or angry?

You’re not alone.

Advocate for yourself. Ask for help. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.

I promise, there’s something beautiful waiting to bloom.

You are lovely + You are loved,

Nikki xx

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