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Mental Health Mondays – 5. Money worries

I was born and raised in a working class family.

My grandma Eleni used to work as a cleaner at a psychiatric hospital, raising three children on her own. My grandpa Costas was a shephard and after the 1974 invasion a factory worker providing for his wife and their 5 children.

My dad has had two jobs since he was 20 years old, and my mum worked on and off, focusing on looking after us most of her life. They both spent the last 40 years making sure my sisters and I have everything we needed. And they absolutely and utterly succeeded, with no shadow of a doubt.

We might not have had the most expensive cars or clothes, or holidays abroad, but we had a comfortable childhood and teen years, making cherishing memories, holidays in Cyprus with family and friends and endless support, due to their hard work and love. We were always bought new clothes once or twice a year, there was always plenty of food on the table, we were all bought cars to be able to drive to uni and we all studied.

My parents were always stressed about money, as you could imagine, as their parents had no money to help them . They were worried they might not have enough to look after us. My dad still gets anxious about it. We grew up appreciating what we have because we knew first hand how hard it is to get it.

I’d have never been able to study in the UK if it weren’t for my parents. When I finally graduated and started working and looking after myself, I worried about money from day 1. I learned how to prioritise my needs, what I could spend on what and learned to manage, so I didn’t run out of money. I would hate to ask my parents who already did so much for me, I already felt bad enough I couldn’t help them financially as much as I’d liked to. I did waste some money over the years but most of the time I managed.

When I lived in the UK for 10 years, I always paid my rent and bills on time, I got to travel a bit in Europe, I watched plays and musicals, went around the country, bought myself what needed, ate out with friends often, and although I lived a comfortable life, I always worried about money.

Living in Cyprus, earning significantly less than I did in the UK, not being able to save much, restricted to what I can spend on myself and my personal, social, mental and emotional needs, on travel or anything else I’d like, has intensified that worry and anxiety.

What I wouldn’t give to wake up one day and not worry about money, my parents housing situation, about paying the electricity bills or worrying when I’d afford a new car, or go out for fancy dinner, to be able to book the more expensive hotel I’d like or book tickets to Latin America, or buy a new laptop and not having to save up for months (or years) first.

Money doesn’t bring happiness, but only if you have everything you need and you don’t worry about it. It may not bring happiness but it can surely take away large part of (my) anxiety and worries.

When I was younger I felt ashamed I worried about money, I tried to hide my financial situation from friends and colleagues. But struggling or asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of. We were not all born in wealthy families, and for some of us life is harder and things don’t come easy. It made us stronger though, we learn how to live with little and appreciate what we have. So if you also worry about money, just know you are not alone.

A number of different studies have shown that most of us worry about money, e.g. more than three in four Americans reported feeling anxious about their financial situation, which I doubt is different in Europe. Financial stress can also increase the chances of someone commiting suicide (https://www.health.com/money/financial-stress-suicide-risk, https://www.moneyandmentalhealth.org/financial-difficulties-suicide/ https://www.bbc.com/news/business-46428756 etc), and I’m pretty sure financial anxiety has increased even more so during the pandemic.

I hope you and I and everyone who struggles one day we have enough money not to worry about it but even if we don’t, let’s talk about it, share our experiences and help each other, and try as much as we can not to stress about it. Easier said than done, I know… but let’s try anyway!

Namaste

Eleni

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