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How My Mental Health Cost Me $31,000

I was 23 when I experienced my first panic attack. There was nothing out of the ordinary, and I did not experience some traumatic event — it just happened. I was at work and went from feeling fine to feeling like death was knocking on my door in less than two seconds.

I never really knew anything about mental health. In fact, I am embarrassed to say I was completely ignorant; at one point in my life I thought panic and anxiety disorders were a way for people to “get attention.” I have come a long way since then, and while I think society as a whole has come a long way, too, we do still need to keep the conversation going. It is an issue that will affect your whole life — I am proof of how devastating it can financially be.

1. Working less and spending more. This was a huge problem for me, as I never knew when I would experience a panic attack or how long an episode would last. Sometimes it was one attack and would last a few minutes; other times they were unrelenting attacks on top of attacks that lasted for days affecting everything from how I slept to what I ate. As one probably would guess, I called in sick often, left work early, or just took weeks off at a time. This resulted in either a very small or nonexistent paycheck, making me rely heavily on loans and credit to fund my increasingly expensive lifestyle. I went out less often, which equaled a lot of takeout from high-end restaurants, because I just couldn’t stomach the usual places or was just bored. I also started to just spend on anything and everything just to feel better, whether was fast fashion, nights out, or a spur-of-the-moment weekend vacation. The grand total of what this cost in the span of six months was $16,000 CAD ( $12,300 USD).

2. Making horrible, irrational decisions. This was in part due to the lack of sleep I was getting. Impulsiveness is a side effect of chronic sleep deprivation, but also when I had moments of relief, I tried to live hard and fast, fitting in as much as I could before the next episode. This resulted in me moving on a whim from one province to another, quitting a stable job in favor of signing up for a for-profit higher education institute, and switching the field of studies just because (which, by the way, I ended up dropping out of after two months, and still have to pay for the tuition). While my now rational self cringes at this, at the time, I thought I just needed a change to “fix” myself. I didn’t get better, and I just added to my debt load to the tune of $20,000 CAD ( $15,400 USD).

3. Medication. Oh, the medication — so much medication, no health insurance, and the numerous ambulance rides (those things are expensive). I started depending on benzos to feel somewhat normal. Newsflash: they didn’t work, because I was getting them through emergency room visits and not through a proper channel. I was taking anything — Clonazepam, Ativan, and others I just can’t remember the names of. I was taking them like candy, even though all they really did was keep me in a constant state of dullness. Also all the sleeping pills, whether prescribed or over the counter, and all the other medication I was taking due to the numerous other symptoms I experienced. I don’t know the exact tally of this amount, and while I know I am lucky in the sense of “yay Canada free healthcare,” these things still added up really fast. I estimate this being anywhere from $6,000 – $7,000 CAD ( $4,600 – $5,400 USD).

4. Ignoring bills. Let’s talk about credit cards, bills, and every adult thing I ignored. I stopped paying attention to anything remotely adult-related. I stopped paying bills unless I absolutely needed to, like when my phone got shut off or how instead of paying rent I just moved (WTF). I maxed out all my credit cards, and then just ignored the balances. I just let my bank accounts go into overdraft and ignored those, too. This cost me to the tune of $5,000 CAD ($3,850 USD).

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If anyone is keeping a running total, I racked up a whopping $41,000 CAD ( $31,500 USD). All this could have been avoided by properly addressing my issue. I am proud to say today I am in a better place. Let me tell you — counseling sessions cost far less than a student loan. After coming across TFD a year ago, I finally decided to get the help I needed financially and mentally, and am proud to say that today I am slowly working to repair my credit score. I have a financial portfolio, but even bigger yet, I have a bank account — something I hadn’t had in almost six years. So I encourage everyone to get educated about their financial and mental well-being, because it will save you thousands in the long run.

S.J. is a mother of 4, currently working towards a degree in accounting. She has always been good with money, just not her own money. She loves to read nonfiction anything, really, and spends her spare time indulging in anything finance-related.

Image via Unsplash

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