Mental illness effects tons of people across the world in a variety of ways. I have suffered from a series of mental illnesses including alcoholism, bipolar and severe depression for most of my life. I would estimate that I didn’t even know I had issues for about 90% of it. As sad as it sounds, I always just assumed that there was something wrong with me. Now that I know about these mental health issues I can look back and understand exactly how they have affected me. I’m also able to see how they fed off of each other making my mental state worse and worse as each one fought for dominance in my head. I used alcohol to combat my bipolar so things would seem normal, but that fed the depression and led to some incredibly erratic moments.
The Early Years
One of the earliest things that I remember is constantly spending money on superficial items. I used this as a way to boost my self-esteem. Another thing was my inability to focus in school, which affected my grades so much that I didn’t go to college. The lack of a college education resulted in missing out on a lot of job opportunities in life. Nevertheless I was still ambitious about my opportunities. I didn’t give up; I kept trying to live by the idea of “you can accomplish anything in life if you try hard enough”. Unfortunately, this isn’t always true. I ended up failing miserably at a lot of my life goals, which gave the depression a chance to gain a solid foothold. This opened the floodgates for all of my illnesses to band together and create a never-ending train wreck of epic proportions.
This period of my life was a blur of wild drunken binges, manic phases that usually involved blowing large amounts of money, and severe bouts of depression that made my obsession with hating myself worse. Throughout these years I could barely hold down a job, and when I did there was this inevitable feeling that I would find a way to lose it. I finally got to the point in my life where it was just easier to do nothing rather than having to worry about something. My philosophy was “if you don’t do anything you can’t fail at anything”.
It wasn’t until I moved in with M that I started on my path of recovery. However, there were still a lot of hurdles to overcome and the process was slow. Finding yourself as a person isn’t easy, and having a mental illness makes it all the more difficult. Over the years she worked with me, and I began to overcome some of these issues. However, my mental illness fought back. I struggled to manage them and this was a trying period for both of us.
Life on its terms
Currently there are still parts of my life that haven’t been fully corrected. I have been slowly addressing all of the mental illnesses and seeing a therapist. I’m working on managing a budget and learning to live life on its own terms, whereas in the past I tried to fit everything into my own narrative. I have a job that I like, and I’ve started putting money into my 401K and buying company stock. It’s not much yet, but this is my start to FI/RE and my path to financial peace.
My Path to FI/RE
I know my path to financial peace isn’t going to be quick or easy. It’s a long-haul journey, and I’ve accepted that steady will win the race. I have a great start with a good job that offers a 401K. I’ve started putting away money (starting small, I know I can’t afford to give up 20% of my paycheck yet, and that’s ok!). You would be amazed at how far a small win like starting a 401K goes towards boosting my energy and making me actually want to do more with life. I’ve learned that having a mental illness doesn’t have to keep me from FI/RE or anything else in life. It can be tough, but it’s not impossible.
I want to stress that if you or someone you know struggles with mental illness it’s not impossible to get on the right path. The key is to start slow. Get the little things in life figured out first – find a good job and manage your medication correctly (Can’t stress how important this is!). It’s also incredibly important to see a therapist once or twice a month. Sometimes just being able to vent every once and awhile can make all the difference in the world. I’m not going to sugar coat things, it’s a long process that won’t be figured out overnight (One of the biggest mistakes I made was attempting to fix everything overnight). But nothing worth doing is easy, right? It’s definitely achievable, and having partners on your path will make it that much easier.
I’ve just started my path to financial freedom, but I am loving the journey so far. Here’s to the coming years and all it has to offer.
– Sincerely, J
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