How My Mental Illness Drowned Us In Debt

When my husband and I first met (2010) I only had 2 lines of credit and no other debt. The only debt he had was his car. I was a supervisor of lawn and garden at Walmart. I made decent money as a 20 year old. We moved in together at the end of 2010. Around that same time, I decided to get a 2nd job and go to school full time.

That following year I started facing hardships at work and school. I was feeling completely stuck and depressed. I quit working at the end of 2011 because I was too depressed to function. I also quit school. We moved in with Chris’ parents to try to save money, but I just couldn’t hold a job. I knew I had depression, but I didn’t do anything about it. I thought there was no help for me.

After we got married (2012) my husband quit his job at the tire and lube department of Walmart and became a garbage man. We always had a plan for our future as a family and the income allowed me to stay home. We were still living with his parents, but I realized that was adding to my depression, too. Not because they were bad people my any means, but my anxiety made me feel completely judged. I spent most days in bed in their basement. I would wait for Chris to get home for me to eat. I basically lived as though I was in a cave.

In the Summer 2012, we finally decided since we weren’t exactly saving money that we would just go ahead and move to another apartment. We figured we were trying to start a family and didn’t want to do that out of their basement. We got a 2 bedroom apartment and I was happy for a little while. Then not getting pregnant month after month fed the already existing depression monster. I also have to account for the relationship problems I had with his and my family. Everything just felt so dark.

Then, by some miracle, I got pregnant. When you are pregnant all you want is to provide a quality life for your child. I started wanting to buy everything. I didn’t want to rely on a baby shower. I never felt comfortable asking people for gifts when it was our choice to procreate. It was then I found my obsession for baby items. I bought a lot of clothes from the second hand store. I bought baby equipment periodically and looked for lower prices, but the excitement I got from it is where this debt spiral began.

We had our son in the summer of 2013. We were a one car family since I stayed home all day. I gave my car to my step dad who needed it to get to and from work. Plus, the car itself was falling apart. I was fine with the lifestyle at the time. I thought I was happy.

In March of 2014 we finally closed on our first house. I was so excited! I was eager to decorate to my hearts content. I started applying for credit cards periodically to the certain stores we would shop at. By this point we were already over $5,000 in debt because of my heinous shopping and a vacation we had taken the year before. The years went on and the debt went up.

After our daughter was born (2017) I knew we needed to change. I didn’t consciously realize it at the time, that my depression was causing me to rack up all this debt. I thought it was just me wanting to have nice things (which is also true, but rationally we just couldn’t afford it). We were paying minimum payments just to wind up using it again and maxing the cards out. It certainly was horrible and I feel so much guilt for it. Anyway, I finally decided that I was able to hold a job again. I started working at Target part time to start paying the debt down. I did get carried away and spent a lot of my checks on stupid things that brought me temporary joy. I was chasing good feelings through spending money. I just didn’t know it yet.

At the end of 2017, we had been contemplating selling our house to pay off debt and find something bigger. We went to an open house just for fun and wound up talking to the realtor there. She got us very eager to go ahead with the plan. We listed our house and sold it within 24 hours. Unfortunately, the market was a sellers market. We had a very hard time finding and being accepted (by sellers) for a new house. We decided in order to maintain stability that we needed to rent an apartment while we continued to look for a house. I wasn’t spending as much and we were very focused on the debt. We used the sale of our house to pay nearly all of the debt we had off. We went from paying somewhere around 1100 a month in credit card payments to maybe a couple hundred or so.

We finally found our new house and moved in May of 2018. It didn’t take long before I got excited about decorating again. I had the intentions of paying things off, but at some point I quit caring and started racking it up again. During all of this, a good friend of ours was going through his own journey with mental health. I had begun opening my eyes to things he was telling me. I learned so much from him sharing his experiences.

I finally realized, my depression was making me spend. I was chasing the excitement and temporary joy just to feel a some kind of positive feeling. I guess you could say it was sort of like an addiction. Chasing that high so to speak. Unfortunately in total it made me rack up almost $30,000 in debt over the course of our marriage. Absolutely disgusting. I am completely ashamed to have done that, not only in my name, but even in my husband’s name. I wish I would have known what I do now to have prevented it all. But, I guess it is better late than never. The lesson has been learned.

We now have no credit card debt. The only debt we have are 2 family loans which we are working on paying off [oh and my student loans and our house if you want to include that]. I have learned so much over the last couple of years. I am much more aware of my habits now. I am finding other ways to chase those good feelings. I have changed. I am so grateful to be where I am now. Grateful for where we are financially. Grateful for my husband not holding it against me even though that would be completely justified.

I just hope that if someone reading this is chasing that good feeling through bad habits, that they recognize that and alter what they are doing. I attribute a lot of my change to taking the plunge and starting medication. Talking to others has also been helpful. Know you aren’t alone and you don’t need to fester in silence.

-jenn

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