Reality of mental illness #1 MONEY

University is a time of money worries for most students, but for me it is a source of very real difficulties.

I have problems with impulse control and am vulnerable to going on wild spending sprees when my mental health is bad.  I just can’t help myself and feel like I need to spend, spend, and spend.  I also have problems with the mathematics of spending and can go vastly over-budget without even realising it.  This has led to me getting into debt problems.

I remember my last spending spree very clearly. When my student bursary was transferred from one place to another I was accidentally paid twice for the same month. Unfortunately this was at Christmas time and so I couldn’t resist a spending spree where I spent over £1000 in one day.  Most of the things I spent my money on were presents for others.  I bought an X-box360 for my boyfriend and a cashmere scarf for my Mum as well as many other things. I also spent nearly £200 on getting my hair done.  At the end of this day I had spent an entire month’s wages and had to live with the financial repercussions.

I had to sell my car at the beginning of the year in order to pay off a large spending spree. I was very upset at this because although I know I don’t really need a car in London, especially where I live because the traffic is awful, I have had a car since I was 17 (so 11 years shhh) and so I feel like my freedom to just get up and go anywhere has been taken away from me. On the up side though, having sold my car I managed to get a Freedom Pass, so I get free travel all around London and free bus travel around the entire country so I really can’t complain.

It’s a catch 22: when I find myself getting into debt problems, my mental health deteriorates, which means I am more likely to go on another spending spree and make debt problems worse. It all goes round in a vicious cycle.

I have had some help from the welfare department at my university.  They have helped me make a detailed budget so that I feel more in control of my finances. This works well when I am feeling ok, but when my mental health is bad then I still end up going on spending sprees and ruining everything.

When things get really bad I have to give my debit and credit cards to my boyfriend and he gives me a sensible “allowance” every day to make sure that I cannot go and spend money and if I spend my allowance in one go then that’s my own problem and I have to wait until my next payment.

I have been in university now for 7 years. That’s 7 years of having not a lot of money; so not being in control of my finances, even for a little while can have a large impact on my life as I don’t have the buffer zone most people have and so I can end up in a lot of trouble.