Content warnings: money, anxiety, panic attacks, suicide
I figured that since I’ve been complaining about money for a while now on Twitter, I might as well elaborate on my problems with money.
I’m from what I consider a middle-class family. We had the basics, my parents made ends meet every month, but not without struggle. Big purchases were scary, and as my sister and I grew up, we learned that if we wanted a Nintendo DS, a Wii, a new phone, a laptop, we needed to make our own money, and our parents would pay for part of it as well, so that we could afford it.
I was a jealous kid. I saw people around me with the newest gaming consoles, laptops and phones and heard them say how their parents got it for them. But, I was usually happy with what I had. My sister and I loved our Nintendos, our Wiis, even if we didn’t have the newest games, and even though we had to help pay for them.
My first job was as a flyer deliverer, and my next job was as a mail deliverer, and my last job was as a cleaner. Those first two jobs were great for me as an autistic person: they allowed me to work at my own time, pace, and in my own way. Mail delivery paid quite well. My last job sucked, as I got fired due to things that are connected to me being autistic.
September 2017, I left my parents’ house and went to live in another province, with supported housing, and study Classics. That didn’t go well. While the supported living was supposed to be oriented toward autistic people, I was constantly overstimulated by my housemates, so I moved out in 2018. I had to quit my studies* and work on my mental health. I had just joined a new mental health care institution and had to fight for any kind of support, because of long waiting lists. But that’s a story for a different time.
*I now study Archaeology
What’s important is that while I lived in supported housing, my caregivers helped me get the right papers in order to receive a student allowance, for students who weren’t able to work.
But then, it turned out this ‘allowance’ is not monthly, most of the time quarterly, with an amount which is maybe enough for me to buy groceries for a week.
Thing is, I get most of my money from my family. My parents support me with a monthly allowance, and my aunt and uncle who went to University themselves and are wealthy provide me with what they call a scholarship each month. I am very happy with this, but it comes with a lot of guilt.
On top of all that, I have my student loans, which I use to pay the rent every month. I now live with three housemates still, so I can’t get housing allowance.
Lastly, I have savings, which consist of the money I made during my last summer job and some of the money from family which I put away. I dip into these savings if necessary.
Hearing all of this, it may sound like I’m well off. I wish that were true. In my mother’s own words:
I’m surprised and proud to see how you make your ends meet every month*
*my parents have access to my bank accounts
It’s great that I can manage to make ends meet, that I have learned both from my parents and by myself how to find the cheapest and best versions of pretty much everything, but it is so very stressful.
The problem is, stress is a big trigger for me. It triggers anxiety, it triggers panic attacks, it triggers meltdowns, it even triggers suicidal thoughts. All of these things are unwanted, all of these require coping mechanisms, all of these make my life harder and require me to work even harder to achieve things.
It’s not only stressful, it also keeps me from treating myself when I want to. Self-care is important, but can also cost money. Spending money on myself comes with great guilt, so I often avoid it.
Last year, I spent a lot of money on myself. No one told me not to, but when I realized what I had done, people did tell me it was wrong. So now, I barely use money for self-care, and that sucks. Because I like buying books, I like buying games on Steam and for my 2DS, like buying my favorite foods, like buying makeup, like going to the movies…
If I’m lucky, my family pays for my self-care. An example of that is going to the movies with them. They’ll usually pay for the tickets, and then I’ll usually pay for the drinks and snacks. That, I can afford.
Of course, self-care doesn’t (have to) cost (much) money, but if you think about it, everything costs money. I’m lucky that my Netflix and Spotify account are paid for by my father (we share them). I’m lucky to have Steam, have games on my laptop, have a 2DS with a few games, have a phone with apps, have a Kindle and Kindle books, have shelves full of books.
But still, everyone likes to treat themselves once in a while, and you don’t want to worry about money when you do.
That brings me to the last part: education. I am very privileged to be going to University. However, my student loans don’t cover my tuition, my parents do. This causes guilt and stress for me, as 2K a year is a lot for my parents to pay for my education.
And yes, I know many Universities are far more expensive, but I do believe those Universities provide scholarships and grants. Dutch Universities only give grants and scholarships to students who study abroad or international students.
We used to have a system in which every Dutch student got a basic student grant and could take student loans if they needed more. Now, it’s only student loans.
In 2017, I used to receive extra student finance as my parents’ income was below a certain number, which gave me access to more money. But then my parents started making a little more money, and now I’m no longer allowed any extras.
So, that’s it. That’s all I have to say about money and mental health. I acknowledge my privileges in being able to attend University and receive mental health care and such, but I also wanted to share the (bad) impact money stress has and has had on me.
Edit: I just talked about my worries with my mom, and she said that my dad is working new shifts and they may be able to support me more financially. All I have to do is ask.
Problem is, I am too scared to ask for financial support. I even feel guilty for sharing my Ko-Fi, which is 3 euros?!
Anyway, things might become less stressful money-wise for me soon, and I’m glad.