I am aware that this article may be somewhat disjointed and disorganized. I’ll confess I have never written anything remotely like this before and it is a very emotionally charged subject for me, so I haven’t spent a lot of time editing and re-reading each part. I do hope you understand what I’m trying to say. Perhaps I will rewrite this someday if my writing skills improve. Anyway, on to the article:
For the past (at least) 5 years I have been living from day to day, month to month without really planning ahead. It was a case of just “surviving” through my situation and actively not thinking about anything but the very near future. I have heard several people make a distinction between existing and living and I would have to say I was definitely only doing the first.
The reason for this is complicated (things like this always are). It is because I was feeling and experiencing several things which combined and reinforced each other. I was overweight (at my heaviest I was 28st 8lb) and I couldn’t walk particularly far or stand without feeling severe back pain. I was continually exhausted without the energy needed to do more than a couple of light activities in the house each day. I was lazy. I was in debt which was getting worse and worse. I was highly stressed and I was depressed. Each of these things would make the others worse, for example, the more overweight I got the lazier I was and the more exhausted I felt and the more depressed I became.
I have, in recent months, and with a lot of help, managed to reverse this situation. I am by no stretch of imagination particularly far into this journey of reversal but I am making progress. I have my setbacks but the overall trend of the last few months has been positive. I am writing this now partially as an aide-mémoire for myself, partially as an encouragement for myself to see how far I’ve come already and also as an example for other people who may be in similar situations. I don’t expect or want pity from anyone as I got into this situation myself and hold the sole blame for it.
Since my teenage years, I have always been quite overweight, probably because I wasn’t very active and ate too much food. Whatever the reasons my weight grew slowly during university and my first job. It was at my first job that I developed an addiction to Coca-Cola which of course only made matters worse. The company I worked for was a web design and hosting provider. Eventually, thinking I could do a better job of running the company and with my boss talking about retirement I took on the clients of the company I worked for under my own company name and this is where the rest of the problems began. At first, I was too shy, insecure and fearful to call the clients and chase them for money. I would email and send letters which would be ignored or lost or just get a response of “yes, we’ll get that to you” but I would never get it and so I wasn’t getting paid for most of the services I was providing. I sent letters threatening to cut off the service for some of the customers who hadn’t paid and again these were ignored or never received. Because I was too afraid of confrontation and just talking to my clients however I just kept issuing these letters but rarely did I actually cut off a service. The problem was exacerbated by poor record keeping both before and after I took over the clients which lead to me never being completely confident that I had sent the letters to the correct address or that the customer hadn’t somehow paid. Not wanting to incorrectly turn off a customer’s service gave me another excuse that I used on myself to ignore the problem.
However, because I wasn’t being paid by most customers and I was still providing a service my costs were adding up and I had to borrow money to keep the service operating. My fear of communication lead to me losing existing customers who wanted new work doing just because I wouldn’t answer the phone or talk with them. So, the business was not doing well and was going into debt. I then made a poor decision to help the company from my own money so using personal cards and the like I kept the business running. Then the debts started to build up and I became scared of opening my mail unless I was sure what was in the envelope. This caused me to miss a few payments from customers who sent cheques as well as to miss other vital paperwork. Eventually, I missed paperwork for tax returns and company accounts and was fined for late delivery of the documents. During this time, I started to get very depressed because of my debt, my weight and my feelings of inability to make myself do what I knew I should (e.g. I spent many hours just staring at my unopened mail willing myself to open it, but I never did manage to do so). Of course, these behaviours that I felt I couldn’t control kept making the underlying causes worse. Throughout this, I still thought that if I could just get myself to start opening the mail and to call the customers I would be able to recover the situation and everything would be OK. I didn’t want to go to anyone for help because at the time my parents were going through their own financial issues and I didn’t want to add to their load. This went on for around 2 years.
At this point, my parents, who I was living with at the time, had noticed that something wasn’t quite right with me and encouraged me to go and see a doctor which I then did. The doctor diagnosed me with depression and gave me medication for it. After a week or so the medication started to work and it did improve my feelings of depression and stress. However, the medication also gave me a feeling of something akin to a mix of carelessness and the sense that everything was fine (I didn’t worry about anything even when worrying might have actually been a good idea). While on the medication I was able to call customers easier (although still not easy) and I opened some of my mail. The situation improved slightly but the medication didn’t do much to help me fix the underlying issues. After a 6-month course of medication, I came off and realising how the medication had changed my thoughts didn’t go back to the doctor. The issues were still present and quickly brought back all of my fears from before and brought me back to my nearly paralysed state. In fact, I would say that after coming off the medication the problem was worse than before. Shortly after that, we moved and then moved again. I kept my company’s services running but did little else with my time. At this time, I was making such a little amount of income I was able to pay the credit card bills and for the services but had no money left over so anything I bought or needed went on a credit card. I had also borrowed money from my parents and owed them for a share of the rent. I was eating worse than ever, sneaking out to buy biscuits, chocolate and Coca-Cola on a nearly daily basis. All this, of course, kept making the situation worse and worse.
At this point, I then managed to get a job through a friend (whom I attended university with) on his recommendation and without my having to provide a CV or any qualifications. The job was a short 6-week contract but it was in a city far enough away from where I lived that I had to stay there for the duration of the contract. I was able to work well for the company and impressed them with my technical abilities such that they then offered me a full-time position with travel and accommodation expenses paid without ever having asked for my CV which was a blessing for me as, somehow, I imagine having only been the owner of a company with late accounts in my recent work history wouldn’t impressed. I again went to see a doctor about the depression I was still suffering and again went on a course of medication. This had a somewhat positive effect for a while, but of course, it didn’t last for long and I stopped taking the medication and the problems returned as before. I had been unable to deal with more than a few of the symptoms of my problems whilst on the medication.
Eventually, I was able to change jobs to one that paid better and was significantly closer to home. I was now no longer struggling quite so much to make each and every payment. However, my underlying issues were still present and I still continued to ignore my company. I lost quite a few clients because they couldn’t reach me. Eventually, I was not taking calls, viewing any emails or opening any mail regarding the company except the occasional piece. I was building a very large collection of unopened post in several box files. I put the company for the most part out of my mind and didn’t think about it. Every time that something caused me to think about it my mood would drop through the floor and I recall one evening after dwelling on such thoughts during the day I spent hours in the shower crying.
Then one day at the beginning of 2017 I opened a letter which I had convinced myself to open as I thought it didn’t have anything to do with my company. The letter was junk mail as I had suspected but it was a company who were selling services to support you and your company through a county court judgement. Because I had not opened my other company mail I had been fined (for being late with the accounts) and then ignored it for long enough that the company had received a county court judgement.
After I realised that my company had received a county court judgement I felt numb. I spent the rest of the week in an alternating state of numbness and panic. Somehow, I realised that I wasn’t going to resolve this on my own and that I needed help. As much as I didn’t want to burden my parents I didn’t know who else to turn to and so I wrote a letter to them to confess everything I had been hiding from them.
Giving that letter to them was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I experienced such strong emotions as they read it that I couldn’t speak – I just wept. After I recovered the feeling of relief was intense. They helped me sort everything out, do the relevant paperwork and eventually dissolve the company.
I was still in quite a bit of debt personally (near enough £20,000) but, with some more help from my parents, we came up with a plan based on my current income to clear that debt over the next 3 years (by the beginning of 2020).
They also encouraged me to visit a herbalist which I did. The herbalist gave me a herbal mixture to reduce stress, detox and help with weight loss. She also recommended a change of diet. Since then I have been trying to take the advice and I have lost around 20kg. I’ll go into more detail on that in another post.
Financially I am recovering also. I have stuck to the plan that my parents and I came up with and I am already well on the way and in the last 6 months have paid off nearly £4,000. This also has stopped me worrying about how I’m going to pay things off as I am making constant progress.
Just a few weeks ago I got the final notice that dissolution of the company was completed. It’s great to be finally free from the worries about whether I was letting someone down or forgetting some paperwork that I should have done.
I am finally starting to feel a sense of freedom and it is impacting other areas of my life also. I’m starting to make plans for the future as well as taking more of an interest in improving my living conditions. I can do things in the evenings such as writing this article instead of spending all my time reading fiction to escape or just sleeping. It’s great.
Now that I can look back over the past few years I can see the self-destructive habits and tendencies I got myself into and that they operated a kind of negative feedback loop. Each thing would feed back into my emotional state and situation making it a little bit worse. In turn that would make the habits harder to break and caused me to bury my header deeper which of course made the problems worse and, well, you get the idea.
It’s something that I think is experienced by many people although their reasons may not be the same as my own. What I think is important to realise in such situations though is that there will likely not be a better time than right now to resolve the underlying issues. And it is the underlying issues that you need to resolve – solving the symptoms won’t do much as they’ll soon be back. If you don’t deal with them as soon as possible they will continue to get worse and dealing with them will get harder and harder.
In my case, my depression was a symptom of my financial and physical condition. Treating that depression with medication alleviated the symptom of depression for a time, but ultimately did nothing to help. Instead of dealing with the issues facing my company, my growing debt and my weight have significantly improved my depression. I still have the odd day where I feel down, but they are few and far between and definitely not with the same intensity of hopelessness and paralysis as before.
It may be that you feel you can’t get yourself out of your situation and you can’t imagine doing so in the future. Alternatively, you may also be deluding yourself as I did. You may be telling yourself that “all” you have to do is open just a couple of letters or do just one little thing, but if you put it off time after time then you’ll never get there. If you are feeling like that, now is the time to reach out for help. Talk to someone you love who supports you, or your closest friend or even see a counsellor, but talk to someone and you’ll be on the path to recovery.
If you want to talk to me leave a comment and if I am able I’ll try to get back to you.