I never thought chasing a dream would lead me to depression and debt. But that’s what happened after I started a business with friends nine years ago.
At the beginning, it was amazing – being an entrepreneur was a feeling like no other. There was a rush that came with growing the business and achieving professional success. However, it quickly became very isolating, wreaking havoc on both my mental health and personal life.
Friends on social media and in real life would constantly tell me how impressed they were with all my success. I’m sure it seemed like I was living a glamorous life – traveling across the country, meeting clients over lavish dinners and cocktails, hiring brilliant new employees.
On the outside it looked like I had it all together. But inside I was falling apart.
Working 60 to 80+ hours a week and having crippling anxiety became my new normal. I found myself slipping away from the things that brought me joy. Eventually I stopped seeing friends and family and became more isolated as each day passed.
I realized the career I loved was making me depressed. At first I thought I could work my way out of depression, but the more I worked, the darker things became.
“On the outside it looked like I had it all together. But inside I was falling apart.”
I also started to care less about my financial responsibilities like taxes, bills and budgeting. And since I was working so much, I spent more money on conveniences. Things like cabs rides when I was in a rush and takeout when I had no time to get to the grocery store.
An often overlooked symptom of depression is overspending. I spent because it made me feel better, which then led to debt. The more debt I got myself into, the more depressed I became. It was a vicious cycle.
I woke up one morning and decided I had had enough. I made the hard decision to leave my business, get a full-time job (thank you, Vancity!) and made a deal with myself to focus on two things:
- My happiness and well-being
- Getting my financial house in order.
Here are some of the steps I took to get my life back on track.
1. Told the truth
Debt became my dirty little secret. I knew the only way to get a hold of my financial situation was to face it head-on with honesty and vulnerability. I decided to reach out to friends and family and let them know the truth about what was going on.
“Debt became my dirty little secret.”
Telling my friends and family helped keep me accountable. Instead of pressuring me to join them on an expensive trip or at a fancy dinner, they were able to support me.
That wasn’t enough though – I also had to be honest with those I owed money to. Creditors are not always friendly when you owe them money, but I had to face the music, make a plan and move forward.
2. Got support
Talking to friends and family can be therapeutic, but it’s not always enough to help make long-term changes. That’s why I started seeing a counselor to talk things through and work on my mental health.
I worked counseling into my monthly budget, made space for the hard work and reaped the rewards. I continue to see my counselor for my mental health, which keeps me on track with my financial goals.
3. Started a budget, even though it wasn’t perfect
I had never in my life had a budget. A typical month for me meant spending until I didn’t have any more money and then using my credit card more than I should have. I knew that I could not continue down this path.
I put away the credit cards, opened a spreadsheet and started to look at the numbers. My system is basic, but works for me. I take the amount of money I’ve made that month, then deduct my bills, savings (long and short-term) and debt repayment. I make sure to put some money aside for surprises to ensure I don’t get myself into more debt in the future. Finding a system that worked for me was one of the keys to success.
Also, I opened a few different bank accounts that each served their own purpose. I have one for spending, one for everyday necessities like groceries and bills and one for saving. I found that keeping my spending away from my savings and necessities is a great way to keep me on track.
4. Consolidated debt
I had debt in many forms, including a line of credit and credit card debt. The interest I was paying on each was upwards of 20%! With the high interest rates, I wasn’t able to make much of a dent in my debt.
With the help of a Vancity Wealth Advisor, I consolidated what I owed into one low-interest loan. I then created a repayment plan and set up an automatic withdrawal from my account every two weeks. I didn’t even think about the payments and my debt started to go down.
5. Continued investing in myself
My Wealth Advisor suggested I put everything I could towards my debt to pay it down faster. With that method, I’d be out of debt sooner, but have nothing saved at the end.
Even though I’m still paying down my debt, I have continued contributing small amounts to my RRSP. The small monthly contributions make me feel like I’m helping my future self, which has gone a long way towards feeling good about my progress and reducing my anxiety.
As I watch my credit score go up, my depression and anxiety have gone down. Tackling my debt and figuring out what’s important to me has been an eye-opening experience. It has allowed me to focus on things that matter to me and start looking towards my future goals.
As I watch my credit score go up, my depression and anxiety have gone down.
I’m not 100% debt free yet, but I’m almost there.
For anyone suffering depression, debt or both, help is out there, and you don’t need to handle it alone. Speak to your doctor or healthcare provider about your mental health and speak with a financial advisor about what’s best for you.
Your future self will thank you.