Did you know that four million people across the UK have money worries due to their mental health? In this special blog to mark the launch of the new partnership with Lloyds Banking Group which will enable us to create a new UK-wide Mental Health and Money Advice Service, Chris explains how having a mental illness can at times affect the way we handle money and why the new service is so important.
Spending money when you are feeling unwell, for me is self soothing, self medication and also self harming. The impulsivity is addictive and I feel a release when I spend money. Retail therapy isn’t just a saying, it’s a real thing, but unfortunately it can also be a very distinct sign of when someone is unwell. But how do you stop someone who is on a spending mission?
I certainly haven’t spent millions when I am unwell. The most I’ve spent is about £1000 in a few days, which is still a lot of money. When I am feeling manic, I become more impulsive or energetic; I do things that are slightly out of the ordinary for me. I recall one of my friends telling me that I serenaded her with Erasure from the other side of the street! I also recall once waking up on a bench in Vauxhall with very little recollection of how I got there.
To pre-empt this having an impact on my savings, I pay greater attention to my spending when I am feeling manic. My first thought, when I start spending more than usual on things I don’t need, is to keep the receipts.
It doesn’t always matter if you feel like you can’t stop it, just keep the receipts. By keeping them it means I can return everything when I feel stable again. I’ve bought everything from Bonsai trees, to theatre tickets for other people – there’s not really much logic in it at all!
My second thought is to keep the tags on. It’s the same principle as the receipts – I can return them as soon as I feel stable again. I once bought a designer waistcoat that I really didn’t need and didn’t even fit me. When I got home, I didn’t want it, so the next week I returned it.
My third thought is, try and eat something. Do you find that when you’re hungry, your weekly shop ends up containing lots of things you don’t really need? You end up buying things you would never normally buy! The same rule applies. If you are fuelled by coffee and cigarettes, the jittery, anxious, impulsive part of me definitely comes out.
My fourth thought is to protect your money, as best as you can. I transfer as much as I can into a savings account event month. This means I am left with just enough to keep me going, so I will never end up spending my whole pay cheque. The other beauty of a savings account (or bond) is that it takes a couple of days for the money to transfer back into my current account, and by then I usually feel stable again.
Lastly, I try to be kind to myself and not feel guilty about it. I already have to deal with a lot of emotions and adding more on top of that isn’t a great idea. So, I try to be kind to myself and not to worry so much about what I have spent. If I follow all my rules everything can be sorted out and no real damage will be done.
For me, spending is a clear indicator that I am not well. Sometimes it’s hard for me to notice if I am unwell, as I am not always aware but I found that by having these rules I keep myself safe.
Mental Health UK works across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland to improve the lives of people with mental illness, and to support carers. Together founding member organisations Rethink Mental Illness, Support In Mind Scotland, Hafal, and MindWise have worked for over 40 years to provide services, information, and advice to support anyone affected by mental illness.