Twelve-year-old Portia Baptista had just come home from school when she heard soft sobs coming from her parents’ bedroom. Her heart sank. Her mom was in bed, crying yet again. Portia poked her head in the door. “What’s wrong, Ma?” she asked. “Nothing,” her mom replied, pulling the covers up, embarrassed that Portia was seeing her distraught. “No, please tell me,” Portia said. She knew it was not all that healthy to serve as her mom’s confidante. She also knew her mom didn’t have anyone else to talk to, so she insisted. Her mom paused. “Well, I just feel so bad. If it wasn’t for your father’s income, I’d be homeless on the street. I can’t take care of myself.” “No you wouldn’t end up on the street, Ma” she said quietly, trying to sound sure of her statement. “We’d find a way.”

“At the time, in the mid-1980s, nobody knew what major depressive disorder was,” Portia said. “Although my mom had been seeing a psychologist for about five years, the therapy didn’t seem to stop her feelings of doubt and anxiety, and her incredible sensitivity to any kind of stimulation. It was like her ‘fight or flight’ switch was always on. Mom had had a pretty rough childhood so I guess we were all waiting for her to come to better terms with it.” Portia said. “We didn’t realize that her never ending grief was due to a chemical imbalance. I’m sure the terrible stress she experienced as a kid contributed to her depression, but there was definitely a neurological issue.”

“Mom managed to get us fed and off to school, but the depression made her feel like she couldn’t provide for herself and have some measure of independence,” Portia said. “She hadn’t worked since before I was born, and it seemed too stressful for her to even consider looking. Even something as seemingly simple as calling the gas company to correct a mistake on the bill seemed to be too much pressure for her. Sometimes it seemed her depression manifested physically, as she often had backaches too.”

“But I’ll never forget when she said she thought she’d end up homeless,” Portia said. “I was pretty numb at that point, but that statement made me really sad. I didn’t know how to help her. It made me feel a little scared and lost, myself.”

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How Finances Can Impact Mental Health

When you’re depressed or anxious, your thoughts can be overwhelmingly pessimistic. When everything seems hopeless, it’s hard to get out of bed, let alone interact with other people, get or hold a job, or manage your money. You may end up ignoring your finances, which can make you feel worse. You’re likely aware that a failure to deal with your finances could, in the worst case scenario, leave you destitute, which can be paralyzing. It’s possible that these fears become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Financial troubles can also contribute to depression. If you get laid off, are broke, or in debt these stressors can trigger a depressive episode in those prone to them.

Tax time can be particularly difficult for those of us with depression. We are forced to gather our financial records and review them, which can be a stressful enough process.

We are also forced to confront the state of our finances, and those of us who may be depressed already or are in financial straits, may have to face some unpleasant truths.

It’s Never Too Late To Get Help

However, no matter how depressed you are or the how bad your financial situation may be, it’s never too late to reach out for assistance. Remember that chances are your depression is warping your perception of your circumstances. Talking with a counselor can help give you perspective, relieve your anxiety, and give options you may not have realized were available

“When the next generation anti-depressants came out in the early 1990s, my mom decided to try them.” Portia said. “The change in her outlook and level of motivation was phenomenal. After a while, she even got a retail position at a bookstore in our neighborhood. The pay wasn’t great, but the job got her out of the house and helped build her confidence. She got to enjoy helping customers, being among all those books, and started to joke around a lot more. She also got in contact with a financial advisor though her job, which helped her plan ahead and made her feel more in control. Her outlook isn’t always sunny, but she’s a lot better able to cope with setbacks, financial and otherwise.”

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