In our last article we discussed mental health and debt, the response to the article was great. People could relate to Gary Peterson and found the information we shared really useful and comforting. So, we decided to catch up with Gary to see what his life is like since the pandemic lockdown was lifted.
He’s moving on…
If you missed the article, here is a reminder of how Gary was coping during lockdown with a link to the full blog post.
Can you relate to Gary Peterson?
A debt counsellor does not judge a person, they offer advice and a coping strategy to someone who has temporarily lost control of their finances. A lot of our customers are struggling financially and mentally, especially at the moment. Take Gary Peterson for example who has permitted us to share his thoughts.
“I have been signed off work for the last month due to my mental health. I am worried about my future but at the same time, I am numb inside. I feel like there’s nothing much to live for and there’s nowhere to go from here. So many things that made me happy and able to be strong to live my best life have been taken away from me. I understand it’s not permanent but as the weeks go by it feels like it.
I can’t do the team sports that I loved doing and, even worse, I can’t hug my family. Just like many people, the holidays that I have booked are cancelled. I tried to work from home but it proved to be impossible for me. I’m depressed, subdued and I’ve lost motivation to do anything. I have anxiety attacks, mood swings and I’m now on medication.
I have kept exercising but I miss the team spirit and friendships I have at the clubs that I belong to. I have spent more money on food and drink and I’m on statutory sick pay now. I am really struggling to pay my bills and I’m having to use my savings which I have worked long and hard for.
I don’t want to be like this. That’s why I decided to talk to people who can help me.”
Gary couldn’t cope with his life challenges, it was too much for him so he got help from the relevant people. He spoke to his doctor, talks to a therapist and has a support network made up of friends and family who know about his struggles. Gary has started to understand what triggers his negative thoughts and overspending and tries to avoid certain situations now. Things are looking up for Gary but it will take time for him to settle his mind and his debts.
Gary’s situation isn’t unusual, there are a lot of people suffering, especially now. If you are one of them, do what Gary did, talk to someone.
We asked Gary how he is coping now and what has changed in his life since lockdown was lifted, this is what he had to say…
“It’s been an emotional rollercoaster over the last five months. Since lockdown was lifted I have felt free and I can breathe easy again. It’s not as easy as I thought it would be in some respects, whilst I am getting my life back, there is still the threat that we could go into a second wave and I panic sometimes. I try to remind myself that I’m blessed and I can’t worry about things that are out of my control.”
This fear is shared by many and for those with mental health issues, it can be challenging getting a balance between the feelings of elation from newfound freedom and the fear of what may happen in the winter months.
“There have been big changes in my life because during lockdown I had lots of extra thinking time. I learnt what I really needed in my life to be happy and how to control my finances. I had no choice but to review my finances in depth when I was signed off from work and only received statutory sick pay for a while, it was a struggle but luckily I have savings. Also, I realised what was causing me the most stress and with help from a therapist I was able to find answers to questions and create a strategy and plan as to how I could move forwards successfully.”
The big changes in Gary’s life were the ending of his relationship, finding somewhere new to live and deciding that he needed a new career path. Changes that I’m sure people can relate to, in fact, property rentals soared from couples breaking up during or after lockdown. It’s sad but sometimes it takes something like the challenges of the pandemic to show where things are going wrong in your life and what is needed to find peace again.
Gary explained that even though the decisions he had made were so difficult and he had moments of uncertainty, he felt such a relief. That relief allowed him to focus on other things that made him happy. His sporting interests, his friends and his family.
Being able to hug his family again was priceless for Gary, it was a tonic that he really needed.
“As much as I’ve realised that my job isn’t what I want to be doing, going back to structure and socialising in an office has really helped. Meeting my friends, playing sport and visiting family has really lifted my spirits. As for my finances, even though I was on a very reduced income it wasn’t too scary because I wasn’t going anywhere and spending money. I’m so glad I had spent time on saving over the last few years so I had that money to fall back on. I don’t know what is around the corner with talk of a second wave of the deadly virus so I am going to be careful with my money for the rest of the year.”
We asked Gary what his most memorable moments were during the lockdown.
“Playing online games – it kept me in touch with my son, doing short power workouts, jogging and trying to eat regular healthy meals worked for me. I reconnected with old friends online and made time to organise my life. I slept quite a bit and listened to music. I feel like I became a child again in one sense but then I grew up, it’s a bit difficult to explain. What I do know is, I couldn’t have got where I am now without help. To start with I used to think what is the point in getting help if I know my challenges and people are just going to tell me what I already know. Why pay for that? I was wrong, speaking to someone who is trained and qualified outside of your box was just what I needed. They gave me clarity, coping strategies and listened to me when I cried – without judgement.”
What we have learnt from Gary…
It’s an interesting observation, Gary obviously had mental health issues since before the Coronavirus. A virus that is so destructive and deadly has actually created an opportunity for Gary to find himself and get control of things that influence his life. His finances, his emotions and his health. As the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining.
If you are struggling with getting your life on track there is lots of help available. It’s free and it could be the lifeline to get you through your challenges. A problem shared is a problem halved.
Seek help from the NHS.