Podcast: Panicked Over Finances? Why Money Influences our Mental Health
The rent is due tomorrow; but then you’ll be left with only $10 for the week’s groceries. What do you do? Many people panic over money (or the lack of it), but for those of us with mental illness, it can feel like a life or death situation: It can trigger an even greater anxiety attack and/or depression. Or it may mean not being able to afford the medication that keeps you well enough to work. What can be done?
In this Not Crazy episode, Gabe and Jackie discuss how you can gain a sense of control in these situations, and Jackie shares her own big money scare.
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About The Not Crazy Podcast Hosts
Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations, available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from Gabe Howard. To learn more, please visit his website, gabehoward.com.
Jackie Zimmerman has been in the patient advocacy game for over a decade and has established herself as an authority on chronic illness, patient-centric healthcare, and patient community building. She lives with multiple sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, and depression.
Computer Generated Transcript for “Panicked Over Money” Episode
Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.
Announcer: You’re listening to Not Crazy, a Psych Central podcast. And here are your hosts, Jackie Zimmerman and Gabe Howard.
Gabe: Hey, everyone, and welcome to this week’s episode of the Not Crazy podcast. I would like to introduce my co-host, Jackie Zimmerman, who lives with major depression and anxiety disorders.
Jackie: And you know this guy, Gabe Howard, who lives with bipolar disorder.
Gabe: Jackie, we’ve been friends for a while now, we’ve been doing this show for several months and I decided that I want to risk all of that by talking about the one subject that causes more fights than any other subject known to man.
Jackie: And what would that be?
Gabe: Money. I want to talk about money.
Jackie: Money, money, money.
Gabe: So in a recent poll, the three things that married couples fight about more than anything else are family, religion and money. And I would argue that money is at the top because nobody is taking people like onto the People’s Court or Judge Judy to sue over political and religious differences. Money is everywhere. If you talk to anybody, literally just go grab a stranger on the street. Be like, hey, you ever lost a friend over $10? Almost everybody will have a story of a friendship that just imploded over what we would consider a small amount of money. Money just creates an intense amount of anxiety in our society.
Jackie: And the thing that I think is unique about money and anxiety is that it’s something that I would assume everybody experiences, not just people who are prone to anxiety, not just people who live with mental illness, but everyone has had some kind of issue with money that has given them anxiety.
Gabe: When I was younger, I used to watch golf with my grandfather and, you know, they always do these expose on the multi-millionaire golfers, and they were interviewing one of them and they said, hey, when you have a putt and if you make the putt, you win $100,000 and if you don’t make it, you lose $100,000, does that cause you anxiety? Does that make you nervous? And the guy said, you know, the most nervous I’ve ever been playing golf is when I bet another golfer a hundred dollars that I could make this putt and I didn’t have the hundred dollars in my pocket. That really spoke to me because it wasn’t the amount of money anymore. It was the awkwardness of discussing the money, finding the money, figuring out the money like this is what gave this guy anxiety. And again, he’s famous. I don’t know, maybe it was just a cute story he was telling, but that makes sense to me. You ever been in line and been a dollar short? Like, how embarrassing is that when you thinking that everybody in the store is like over on register five, there’s a tall, fat redhead that does not have one dollar to pay for his groceries.
Jackie: I can feel that because if you’ve ever had your credit card declined for any reason, your debit card and you want to justify it. I know there’s money on there. That’s so weird. I just used it like I just got paid. I swear I’m not a poor person. There’s this like panic where you just want to justify why it didn’t work. And my assumption is all of this comes from the scarcity model, right? We’re all afraid of not having enough. What happens when we don’t have enough? So how hard do we have to work to get enough? What if we’re working really hard and we still don’t have enough? And the anxiety around all of that of how much do you have? What happens when it’s gone? I think is something that is underlying in our society and in everybody but amplified for those who live with any kind of illness. Because for me specifically, when I worked at a big, fat corporate job and I made all kinds of money, all I thought to myself was, I’m staying here forever. So that way I make so much money that I never have to worry about what happens if I actually can’t work again because I will just bank so much money. I’ll have so much. I’ll always pay my health insurance. I’ll always have all of this stuff. And spoiler alert, I don’t work there anymore. I didn’t bank any money when I did work there. But when you have an illness, whatever kind it is, you’re worried about money not just because of normal reasons, but you’re worried about like, what if I can’t work forever? What if I can’t pay my health insurance? What if I can’t afford to be healthy?
Gabe: There’s a meme that works its way around the Internet that always says that we’re all three bad months away from being homeless. I don’t know if that’s true for all of us, but that really spoke to me because it took about three bad months to really put me in a bad way where I started to need help. On an interesting side note, none of us are three months away from being millionaires. So I think that we need to take that into account when we’re determining how to like maybe, you know, structure our health insurance and things like that. But but wrong. Wrong show. We’ll just put that aside for a moment. But think about this. The whole world is discussing being three bad months away from homelessness. Whether or not that holds up is really irrelevant. I think that does speak to the majority of people. Now, let’s apply that to people living with mental illness, people managing a life long and chronic disorder, because I know that if I couldn’t afford my medication, if I couldn’t afford therapy, if I couldn’t have afforded hospitalizations and on and on and on. Gabe Howard would not be sitting here. That’s just a hard fact. Yes, I worked hard. Yes, I have a loving family. But you know what really saved me? Resources and that resource all boiled down to hundred dollar bills. And that’s sad.
Jackie: The catalyst for this specific episode was from about a week ago, I sent Gabe a text and basically I had a full blown anxiety meltdown because my husband had called me and said, oh my God, our health insurance doubled on my last paycheck. And I said, wait, what do you mean it doubled? They didn’t tell us that. Like, they obviously would communicate that because that’s what normal people think happens in the world. But they didn’t. They just took it out of his check and it was doubled. And I panicked. And I have not had an actual panic attack in, I can’t tell you how long, but I felt it. It was the heart racing, soul crushing. Can’t breathe like, oh, my God, what are we going to do? Because we are people right now who are living pretty paycheck to paycheck. And that is even questionable because I don’t know when my paychecks are coming in, because I work for myself and I don’t have regular paychecks. And my husband took a pay cut a year ago to take the job he’s at now. So all of this is spiraling around my head and I’m like, how are we gonna do this? This is $400 we didn’t know we needed and I could just work harder. But where am I going to find the clients? Just, you know, anxiety spiral talk in your head. And I reached out to Gabe because we were already talking. I said, hey, I know you’re telling me something important right now, but I’m not really listening honestly, because I’m worried about this health insurance thing. And I realized in that moment how money is something that can cause high anxiety. And within a split second, like he sent me that text about our health insurance doubling. And almost immediately I was in a full blown panic about it.
Gabe: There’s so many directions that we can take this, and that makes me excited. I love it when Jackie, says, oh my God, X, and I’m like, Oh my God, we can do y z bat symbol. So we might have to create multiple timelines. And let me ask you multiple questions about this, because the first question that I’m going to ask you is if your health insurance would have doubled and you had a million dollars in the bank, would it have bothered you at all?
Jackie: Me today thinks no, but I also think that people who have a million dollars in the bank are really good about money and any sort of unexpected expense that comes up, they’re upset about it also.
Gabe: I understand what you’re saying because paying attention to our resources is a vital part of money management. But a year ago I was sitting on my couch at like 2:00 in the morning and it was storming and I felt a drop of water on my head. And I looked up and the roof was leaking like leaking a lot. And I saw all of this damage. And I thought, oh, well, that’s a bummer. And I went to bed. I just went to bed. That’s it. There was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t stop the rain. I don’t know how to fix a roof. I don’t know how to fix a ceiling. But the reason that I didn’t freak out and panic is because I had the money. I flat out had the money. I knew that I could afford to fix it. There was nothing I could do. And I slept well. And I think about this because I think about Gabe when he was in the little six hundred square foot apartment living paycheck to paycheck with a thirty five hundred dollar deductible. And anytime my car made a noise, I just white knuckled because I couldn’t afford it. When oil change time came around, I thought, shoot. Where am I gonna get 30 bucks? Because it was hard. It was so hard. And I want to point out and this is where I want to go back to the timeline again. You were perfectly healthy. You weren’t having a medical problem. This was just an expense that rose in price. Right?
Gabe: So now imagine if the text message you got was from your doctor that you needed to go on a different medication that wasn’t on generic and therefore cost five hundred dollars a month versus the $10 co-pay. Or imagine if you were just diagnosed with bipolar disorder, major depression, schizophrenia, psychosis, and they were recommending an outpatient treatment program where the deductible was thirty five hundred dollars. And I can’t help but notice in all of these scenarios where we get diagnosed with all of these awful things, we all have health insurance. Some of the health insurance are better than others, but health insurance is always present. Now, imagine that you get diagnosed with a serious mental illness or I don’t know, is there such a thing as not a serious mental illness? And you have no health insurance? Because I know that my inpatient hospitalization. What, 17 years ago cost like $80,000. It didn’t cost me because I had health insurance. And I thought that was normal.
Jackie: I think this is a good time to point out, Gabe and I, we both understand our privilege in this conversation. You know, like I can make my bills and I do have health insurance. Gabe, same for him. And I can only imagine what it’s like in this moment where you’re choosing between paying for health insurance and feeding your kids or one of those other really intensely awful choices you have to make in terms of what to do with this small amount of money that you make. Granted, if our health insurance. Rewinding for a minute, our health insurance didn’t double. They just had an error on his paycheck, which is like makes me want to write them a heavily-worded note about how rude and anxiety-causing that was. However, if it did double, we would have to make some really, really difficult changes. Not difficult in which kid to feed? Kind of difficult. But where do we rearrange money? The reality is we probably could have found it, but it would have changed the way we live our lives. It would have changed what we do with our time and our energy. And I would have honestly had to work a lot harder to make up for that money. I would’ve had to find more clients. But it’s not lost on me that that is an option that I have is to go find more work. So I want to be cognizant of that in this conversation that Gabe and I both have the ability to figure it out pretty flawlessly in these situations for the people who don’t have the ability to figure it out or they can’t or they’re already working their ass off so hard that making more money is just not an option right now. Like I see you, I have no advice for you. None whatsoever. But I recognize that money and anxiety is significantly more prominent when you don’t have the ability to just get more money.
Gabe: And this is the multiple time line that I want to reconnect back to the beginning. So Jackie, finds out that her bills go up and she freaks out and things. OK, how am I going to find more money? But ultimately, I can do it. If it happened to me and it went up, I’d be like, well, that sucks. I would rather spend the money on something else. But ultimately, I have excess income. I’m fortunate I have more budget, so I’ll just bitch about it to my friends that, ugh, the cost of health insurance is ridiculous and not lose an iota of sleep. Somebody else is like you have health insurance that can go up top. How lucky are you? I would kill to have health insurance at all, let alone have it doubled. And then other people are just so rich that they’re like, I don’t have health insurance. I just pay for everything in cash, because I’m Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos’ lovechild that gets one hundred and eighty five billion dollars allowance a day. And then there’s people that are I don’t even know what the right word is for it.
Gabe: They have a level of financial insecurity that I can’t even adequately explain. And any explanation that I gave would just make me an asshole. There’s really no other way that I can put it. They don’t have a six month wait for a psychiatrist. They’re not even they don’t even have enough money to make the list. And all of us. And this is the takeaway. We’re all fighting each other. We all have mental illness. We all have mental health problems. We’re all trying to figure out how to make it through. And instead of figuring out how to make resources more abundant and accessible for all of us, we’re all like Jackie, she got health insurance complaining about the price. Or, well, she’s so rich, it doesn’t matter. Oh, well, he said he doesn’t even care if his roof falls and he just goes to bed. And that becomes the talking point. I really think that we need to come together on this one and find out why it is not accessible regardless of your socioeconomic status.
Jackie: I don’t know that I totally agree with you. And that’s because I think that if you’re somebody listening to this podcast and you’re going, wow, that asshole is complaining that their health insurance went up and I don’t even have health insurance. Honestly, I don’t think they’re that worried about me and judging me. I think they’re going. I don’t have fucking health insurance and I don’t know how I’m going to make things happen. I agree that obviously we should find a way to like pool resources or ideas and make things happen together. But my assumption and if you are a if you’re that wealthy listener, please sponsor us. We really could use your help right now. But if you’re not that wealthy person and you’re everybody else listening, I don’t think people are necessarily holding grudges against other people in this space. I think everybody’s just trying to survive.
Gabe: That’s a really good point, Jackie. But what bothers me is that what we all have in common is that we’re all fighting really, really hard to survive. And I do think that we determine how much effort the person is putting into survival based on the resources at their disposal. And that’s what I would like to remove. I don’t know that I worked any harder to survive because I had a lot of resources. I just think I didn’t have to work as hard. And I think that society judges people on the lower end of the socio economic status very, very harshly. They say things like, well, why don’t you have savings? Why didn’t you save for a rainy day? Because that’s not an option. That’s really not an option. They say things like, why won’t you be med compliant or why won’t you go see your doctor? They are trying to see a doctor. They’re on a 12 month waiting list for the free clinic. They can’t afford their medications because medications can cost thousands of dollars a year. And they’re choosing between eating, being homeless. And this goes back to something that we really need to discuss. And I’d really like your opinion on it. Jackie, sincerely if you, Jackie Zimmerman, had a choice between paying for safe housing, a safe place to live and food or your mental health care, which would you choose?
Jackie: I would choose a safe place to live. Hands down.
Gabe: And I think that most people would. And I think that we need to understand that many people are in this position.
Jackie: We’ll be right back after these messages.
Gabe: We’re back discussing money and anxiety.
Jackie: Gabe, you’re not wrong. Right? Like, these are all really good points that we need better access to health care. We need a better support system. We need all of these things. But if you’re somebody who doesn’t have any money right now, today, like, for example, I got a stat for you. We know that I love stats. There was a stat by the Royal College of Physicians, whoever the hell that is, that said that half of people with anxiety also have a problem with debt. So are you predisposed to one or the other? That’s not even talking about medical debt. That’s just talking about debt in general. So how do you get out of this kind of debt? How do you save if you’re not making any money? You can’t even pay your bills. How are you going to save these things?
Gabe: I’m not sure that there is an answer that doesn’t involve like high-level advocacy work and this is where I get stuck, Jackie. It really is where I get stuck. I you know, I don’t know. Marry well?
Jackie: That is one of the crux is of talking, is the plural of crux cruxes? I don’t know. That is a crux, we’ll say, of talking about money in general is that there is no one size fits. All right. Yes. Save more, make more done. Easy. But that is literally not an option for most people.
Gabe: Spend within your means, I love that one.
Jackie: Right? All that bullshit.
Gabe: Live within your means is the phrase that everybody uses, and depending on where you are on the socioeconomic ladder, that might mean to move down. You don’t need four Disney vacations a year. You don’t need a new car every year. Like that’s understandable, right? This could be really good advice for some people. We’re not saying that it’s not.
Jackie: I think it’s bullshit.
Gabe: We can all save a little more and clip another coupon. And we all don’t need to buy the biggest house that we can find. But like you said, it’s bullshit for a lot of people. It’s bullshit for a lot of people. They can’t. There’s no money to save. What do you have to say to those people? How are we going to relieve those folks’ anxiety, Jackie? I am afraid that somebody is going to listen to this and be like Gabe and Jackie said that I’m fucked. Their conclusion was I am fucked and I don’t know what to say to folks. And whenever we talk about money and anxiety and anxiety and money and driving it together, I think that people don’t want to dive deep into this. So they say platitudes like save for a rainy day. You don’t have to get dessert. Clip coupons. I use an app that tells me if Amazon has better prices. I’m not saying that any of these are bad ideas. But does it solve the big problem? For real, what is your coping mechanism for this, therapy guru Jackie.
Jackie: Well, for me personally, I use spreadsheets. I love a good spreadsheet one, because I am terrible with math and the spreadsheet will do math for me. So the way that I handle this is seeing all of the money and I won’t lie. Sometimes when you look at all of the money and all the way it’s being spent and how little money you actually have. It feels worse because you’re like, wow, I really have nothing. But then at least I know what I’m working with. I think in a lot of these situations, people don’t know actually what their overhead is in their life. Right? If you’re living outside your means, how do you know that if you don’t know what your actual means are? So I don’t have any great tips on how to get out of this situation, how to make more money, save more money. If I knew that, I’d be doing it myself. I don’t have that. But what I can say is for me, looking over it does help. Like pretending like it’s not there doesn’t help. Some people, I think, just go. I know that I can’t afford these things, so I just don’t think about it and then pretend it’s gonna go away. And I’m not going to say that’s a bad idea. If that helps you and you can get through your day by just not thinking about it. Maybe that’s the right choice for you.
Gabe: I am going to hardcore disagree with that. I see that as a short term solution.
Jackie: Oh, for sure.
Gabe: It sort of reminds me of, don’t open your bills on the weekends. I dig that. I dig that advice. It was it was advice that my grandmother had. She’s like, look, I don’t bank on the weekends. Weekends are for my family. I don’t open my credit card bills on the weekends. I didn’t want to tell her that, you know, now credit card bills or text messages where they send you every second of every day and maybe that has something to do with it. Maybe there’s a token of good advice in the advice that I just called bad. Which is that you need to have a time and place. Now is the time to manage money and now is the time to be present in other areas.
Jackie: Well, yes, obviously, I didn’t mean ignore it forever. That doesn’t solve anything, but like compartmentalizing what you’re doing with your money.
Gabe: I think that that is really, really good advice. I can get on board with that. Some other hints and tips that I want to give to people are self-advocacy is real advocacy. So often we have this desire to help other people that we don’t help ourselves. And you’re probably thinking, well, how can I help myself? And here’s how. Ask your doctor if they have a sliding scale. Ask your doctor if they have a zero interest payment plan. Google the medicines that you’re being prescribed and see if they have a prescription card that offers a discount. Many of the newer medications do, and it will reduce your co-pay in some cases from $300 all the way down to $10, but almost always by at least 50 percent. And this can make medications more affordable. Google free clinics. You may have to wait longer in the waiting room. In fact, you probably will have to wait longer in the waiting room. And that makes it not available to everybody. But if it is available to you, use it. There are ways that you can lower health care costs or get a payment plan that’s not at 29% interest or 22% interest. Like if you put it on a credit card, you do have to ask. They’re not offering it to people. I believe like Jackie, that taking control lowers anxiety because even if the thing around the corner is bad. I myself am less anxious if I know that it’s around the corner. It’s the things that pop out of the shadow at the last minute and go Boo! Those are the things that scare me the most. And finally, I don’t mean to steal Jackie’s thunder, but I kind of want to. Talk about your money anxiety in therapy. People don’t want to talk about money. Tell the people in your life that you’re anxious about money. Tell your therapist that you’re anxious about money. There is nothing wrong with being anxious about money.
Jackie: Thunder stolen 100%. I did talk about money in therapy last Friday, but I agree wholeheartedly. The idea of asking for help. Nobody is going to help you if you don’t ask for it in terms of reduced rates. I once got a $8,000 MRI for $10 because I asked for help. And then telling people, like Gabe said. I mean Gabe and I got together a couple of weeks ago and had a pretty in-depth conversation about money and he gave me some cool ideas I hadn’t thought about. I probably gave him zero ideas. But it was one of those things where just having a dialogue about money made it less scary to talk about money.
Gabe: We’re taught in our society not to discuss money. I don’t believe in this at all. I discuss money constantly. I discuss money with my family. I discuss money with my friends. And I believe this is why I have a different, and I’m going to say healthier relationship, with my finances. It’s also why I never pay too much for a car, because I know what all of my friends and family paid for their cars. I know the horror. But listen, your family may work differently, but your friends might not. And the Internet absolutely does not. Google the average cost of things. Google places that offer discount cards or lower end solutions. I am as shocked as anybody that I have gotten medical care at Wal-Mart, but I’m not going to lie. I’ve gotten medical care at Wal-Mart. The clinic there is fantastic. And it’s set up for people who need to pay less. And it helped me a lot when I needed help. There are lots and lots of those options. You just have to look around for them because they’re not the popular ones. They’re not the hospitals. They’re not the doctors. They’re not the ones that people commonly think about. All of these things can give you more control. Remember, having more control does not mean that negative consequences aren’t coming your way. It just means that you’re out in front of them. I believe that that’s empowering. I believe that matters. I believe that that will put you in a better position to deal with it. But most importantly, I believe that you’ll feel better when it’s all over. At least the negative thing didn’t get the satisfaction of yelling boo and scaring the shit out of you. And I think I really believe that from a personal empowerment perspective that has just a tremendous amount of value. Yes, the bad thing happened, but at least it didn’t trick you.
Jackie: And I believe circling back to the beginning that this is not going to be the last panic attack I have about money. But to Gabe’s point, I do try to get in front of it. I know what’s happening, which is why the unexpected cost made me lose my shit. But there is something to be said about being in control of it. And much like we’ve said about being a patient in general, nobody is going to advocate for you except for you. So this stands for how you handle your money, how you ask for help when you can’t cover your bills and how you move forward if you’re somebody who is in a position who literally cannot make any more money than they are currently making.
Gabe: Jackie, I couldn’t agree more, did discussing money with me make you anxious?
Jackie: I do not find discussing money with you to be anxiety-causing. And maybe it’s because we’ve developed a rapport based on brutal honesty. But I think this is one of those simple ways to take away the power that money has over us is just to talk about it.
Gabe: Listen up, everybody, we have some favors to ask of you, and don’t worry, it won’t cost you a dime. Wherever you downloaded this podcast, please subscribe, rank and review. Share us on social media. And when you do, tell people why they should listen. And if you have buddies and friends, email it to them. Tell them what to do. You know what? You should make it a full time career promoting the Not Crazy podcast. Jackie and I would love that. Stay tuned after the credits because hey, there’s outtakes and Jackie and I, we mess up a lot and we’ll see everybody next Monday.
Jackie: Have a great week.
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Podcast, N. (2020). Podcast: Panicked Over Finances? Why Money Influences our Mental Health. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 11, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/podcast-panicked-over-finances-why-money-influences-our-mental-health/