The Cost of Mental Illness

Today I was walking home from seeing my psychiatrist and I felt sad and tired. I realised how much my mental health problems have cost me both personally and financially. I know that I am not alone in this but I also feel that the people around me who aren’t unwell do not recognise this.

My illness cost me my childhood and teenage years, I missed out on having pizza party sleepovers and having chips from the school canteen for a treat on Fridays. I missed out on the boyfriend dramas and the residential school trips to Belgium and Germany. I managed to go on residential to France but I didn’t eat for the entire trip and ended up missing most of it in bed because I was so weak and fragile-I was 12! I missed out on sneaking into nightclubs and going to house parties. I think it has had a huge impact on me that I didn’t get all the ‘normal’ parts of growing up because how can you grow up and learn when you haven’t done anything other than be ill.

My illness cost me my education. I was always a bright child, I could’ve got A’s and B’s in my GCSEs but I finished year 11 with C’s and D’s. I missed out on getting my national diploma in dance and then I missed out on finishing the course at professional performing arts school. I didn’t give up, I went back to get my A levels and in AS year I managed to get A, B, C despite missing most of my classes for therapy sessions however I became too unwell to finish my second year of A levels and therefore did not get A levels. I was passionate, hard working and determined to succeed. My mental health problems stole my qualifications away from me.

The number of friends my illness has cost me is almost definitely in double figures now. The people who couldn’t understand, the people who couldn’t cope with it and the people who got bored. They were all people I cared about and loved deeply. Each time I have lost friends it has torn me to pieces, so much so that I generally avoid making friends these days because I can’t handle people walking away when I become too unwell.

Then there’s the financial cost. The cost of all the laxatives, diet pills, paracetamol, razor blades, scales and food to binge on during my struggle with bulimia. Only a couple of months ago did I have bailiffs threatening to come to my house (which is my parent’s house) and blacklist the address because during a very low and suicidal time I ended up very deep in debt. There’s the overdraft charges, the travel expenses to appointments, the list goes on and on. I dread to think how much this illness has cost me over the years. Even when I had a job my money was spent on my eating disorder. It should’ve been spent on going out with friends or coffee with my mum.

Finally there’s the opportunities that my illness has cost me. The missed events and times for enjoyment. The residential trips with Princes Trust or the activities like gorge walking. The family dinners that I have missed out on, eating chips on the beach, auditions, volunteering, going on holiday. All those things that add to life experience and enjoyment were taking from me.

This list is not exhaustive. I have lost so much to my illnesses. Memories, money, qualifications, happiness. The cost of having a mental illness is unbelievable and often not thought about but it is most definitely real.

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