Real life stories
How Covid-19 has impacted my mental health and money
TJ Frost, 48, lives with bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, CPTSD (complex post traumatic stress disorder) and OCD, and she also has a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. Here, she explains how difficult it's been to manage her mental health and money problems through the Covid-19 pandemic.
When we suddenly went into lockdown for the first time, I felt so on my own. I missed my son, his wife and my grandkids – they're my support network. Not being able to see them and celebrate things like Mother's Day really hurt.
Spending money online to make myself feel better
I couldn't do the things I know can help when I'm struggling with my mental health. When you feel really poorly, it's hard to get outside, which was worse anyway because of the lockdown. I started spending money online at all hours of the night to make myself feel better.
It was exciting to see the parcels arrive, and I felt I could justify it. I wasn't drinking, or gambling, plus some of my money was going to good causes, so how bad could it be? But despite my poor credit rating, I kept getting more money and credit, which made it harder to stop. As time went on, I was sinking further and further into debt.
The effect on my mental health
It all had a devastating impact on my mental health. I couldn't sleep, I lost my appetite, and I found myself on edge all the time. I felt paranoid every time I heard a knock on the door in case it meant the bailiffs had caught up with me, and the debt companies started to chase me with phone calls and letters. It felt relentless.
I knew I had to do something. Because my mental health was near crisis point, I spoke to my GP and was re-referred to my community mental health team. But I knew my health wouldn't improve unless I did something to manage my money too, because trying to hide from everything wasn't doing me any good.
I knew I couldn't talk to the bank on the phone – it's too overwhelming and upsetting, it would often bring me to tears. Following the Mental Health & Money Advice service's suggestion, I wrote letters to tell them about my mental health problems so that I could be referred to my bank's specialist team.
Taking control of my mental health and money
Declaring my mental health problems wasn't a sign of weakness - it helped me feel like I was taking control. I know people find it hard to talk about money because I did too. I haven't always been in debt, and I work really hard. But I've realised that one of the reasons I got into a mess with my finances was because I didn't want to tell anyone just how bad things had got.
You don't have to tell the companies you owe money to about all of your problems or share your life story, you just need to tell them that you're struggling with your mental health and they'll put a plan in place to help you.
My water company is an excellent example of this. The letters and calls have stopped. Instead, they've set up an affordable payment plan for me which covers my arrears. The money comes out of my account when I get paid, so I don't need to worry about it.
I would really encourage people not to ignore their money worries. Things are more likely to get worse, and your health will suffer. Support is out there, and you don't have to try to figure it all out on your own. Asking for help might feel like one of the hardest things to do, but it can make a massive difference.
*If you are worrying about your mental health and money situation download our free Mental Health and Money Toolkit to help you understand, manage and improve your mental and financial health.