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Money, mental health and university

Tuesday, 16 March 2010 Izzi

When my mental health is bad I end up going on spending sprees and ruining everything.

Having completed my Bachelor's and Master's degrees, I am currently a PhD student at one of the UK’s  top universities. I also have had “severe and enduring” mental health problems since my teenage years, which have had (and still have) a large impact on my life and the lives of those around me.

I write a blog called “How to juggle glass” which chronicles my experiences of having mental health problems at university in an attempt to learn from them and to help others in the same position.

University is a time of money worries for most students, but for me it is a source of very real difficulties.

I have problems with impulse control and am vulnerable to going on wild spending sprees when my mental health is bad. I just can’t help myself and feel like I need to spend, spend, and spend. I also have problems with the mathematics of spending and can go vastly over-budget without even realising it. This has led to me getting into debt problems.

I remember my last spending spree very clearly. When my student bursary was transferred from one place to another I was accidentally paid twice for the same month. Unfortunately this was at Christmas time and so I couldn’t resist a spending spree where I spent over £1000 in one day.  Most of the things I spent my money on were presents for others. 

I bought an Xbox 360 for my boyfriend and a cashmere scarf for my mum as well as many other things. I also spent nearly £200 on getting my hair done. At the end of this day I had spent an entire month’s wages and had to live with the financial repercussions.

It’s a catch 22: when I find myself getting into debt problems, my mental health deteriorates, which means I am more likely to go on another spending spree and make debt problems worse. It all goes round in a vicious cycle.

I have had some help from the welfare department at my university.  They have helped me make a detailed budget so that I feel more in control of my finances. This works well when I am feeling ok, but when my mental health is bad then I still end up going on spending sprees and ruining everything.

I have also just started seeing a social worker and he said that he can help me to deal with my money troubles so there is help coming and I just need to hang on and try to prevent myself from going on any spending sprees in the meantime.

I have been in university now for 6 years. That’s 6 years of having not a lot of money; so not being in control of my finances, even for a little while can have a large impact on my life as I don’t have the buffer zone most people have.

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