finance

"I was hospitalised in the middle of the night due to my financial anxiety."

These days anxiety and depression are on a meteoric rise, and the quality of our general mental health and wellbeing is rapidly on the decline. Why? There are so many reasons – millions in fact, but here’s a snippet of what it means to me.

At first, my financial journey simply meant “getting out of debt”, which loosely translated meant – “stop using the bloody credit card!” I would stress about payments, stress about savings, stress about my rent and then put myself down for getting myself into that situation. It was a recipe for disaster.

Then about two and a half years ago, I realised for the first time how anxiety and money can create a financial sh*t storm – my husband was given a lifeline in his job after a period where we thought he’d completely have to change careers, but it meant moving across the country. I had just quit my very stable, very well-paid job with no alternative to go to, we had just paid for our wedding in cash, rented out our home and all I had thought about all year was money. How were we using it, where was it going, how much did we need, how long could we survive if we were both unemployed?! See, sh*t storm.

On the surface everything was fine – I was newly married, disgustingly in love and managed to shred myself of a toxic working environment – but underneath, my poor little brain was suffering.

 

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And then it all unravelled in one sweaty, 2am hospital admission.

I was staying in a hotel in Sydney’s CBD the night before an important client conference that I happened to be facilitating, and at 2am in my deep slumber, I suddenly sat bolt upright in bed. I was covered in sweat. Like dripping, as though I had just walked out of the shower. I remember wiping off the sweat trickling down the back of my neck and being so utterly confused. What the hell was going on, was I dreaming? Then the racing heart rate kicked in and coming from a medical science background I frantically started taking my pulse trying to figure out what diagnosis I was going to give myself. I even walked over to the bedroom mirror to check my reflection to see if I was having a stroke. Sounds stupid now but at the time I was in survival mode.

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I remember calling the hotel doctor who immediately told me to hang up and call the ambulance – I was having the symptoms of a heart attack. So obviously, more panic ensued.

Barefoot and completely beside myself I walked across the marble floors of the hotel lobby and waited like a homeless person on the suede lounges in the foyer. The paramedics were lovely, but with an annoyed tone said, “your O2 stats are up, you’re breathing too fast. Just try to breathe slower through the attack”. At this point I still thought I was having a cardiac related event.

After arriving through emergency, I was sat beside two young guys in suits who had clearly done a number on themselves at one of George Street’s finest drinking establishments and were sitting over vomit bags, both connected to saline drips and feeling pretty sorry for themselves. Comparing our nights, I couldn’t tell which one was worse.

The emergency doctor swaddled over with some pills cupped in his hand (not very hygienic by the way) and said, “here, take this valium, it’ll help”. I was still so confused, shouldn’t you be hooking me up to an ECG and administering digoxin? Why wasn’t there a fuss? I could be in cardiac arrest, guys. He took one look at my reaction and said, “you’re having a panic attack love. It’ll pass, but the Valium should help you sleep.”

WTF is a panic attack?

For the first time in my life, I felt completely out-of-body. No, no, sorry Dr. I know exactly what is happening inside my body. I always have complete control. You have got to be wrong. Cause I’m in control. Yeah, control… actually was I losing control?

The fact was, this was a physical manifestation of the pressure I had put on myself and the stressful situations I had either ignored or simply tried to fight through, cause anything less is just weak, right?

My life, and my constant need to find that financial security had depleted all cellular strength my brain and heart could muster. I was exhausted of “fighting”, and my body was telling me through the most dramatic way possible.

In the months after my “incident”, I began to understand how money and anxiety can become a vicious cycle. And so like most other hurdles, I found a way to go around it because jumping over it for the rest of my life would be bloody tiring [and I also have really short legs].

Number 1 – I learnt to relax. Heck, I hadn’t been “relaxed” in a long time. I tried the art of meditation, but truthfully I sucked at it. I know this isn’t the point where you give up, but I found other things like the beach, super sweaty forms of exercise and digital-downtime to help turn the brain-dial down.

Number 2 – I tried to understand ways that would decrease my anxiety-inducing money moments and I implemented them – I created my anti-anxiety-financial tool belt! This included things as simple as a budget, direct debit payments, less activities and less financial responsibilities. The debt was paid off, so I just needed to make baby steps.

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Number 3 – I made a promise to myself and my husband that we would never get ourselves in a position where we had to worry about money. Whenever I went to spend money, I thought to myself, “do you really need this, or should you put it in your anti-anxiety-savings buffer?” We learnt to save well, but also not cut ourselves down if we messed up.

Number 4 – I remembered that life is not perfect and neither is money! And funnily enough, this is when I started accepting other aspects of my life I had once ridiculed myself for – my weight, my career failings, everything. Life is too short to be angry at yourself all the time!

Number 5 – I learnt how to make my money work for me. Having a clear budget that was simple and fitted into my life, made it easy for my money to come in and go out. K-I-S-S is so true!

Number 6 – I learnt to invest. This was massive for us. Investing in shares today, with the future in mind means that I have a bunch of shares working away every day and I don’t even need to lift a finger. I also happened to write an e-book about this journey too, here!

Today, I might talk about money a lot (at www.fearlessfemaletraders.com.au), but I don’t lose sleep over it anymore; I don’t let my financial position or past financial mistakes define me. Don’t let it define you either.

This article was originally published on Fearless Female Traders and was republished here with full permission. 

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