Life and money for people with depression

Part of getting over depression was finding a less troubled - and more authentic - way of living and working. For some this involved changing their work, reducing work, giving up work or taking early retirement. There were personal and financial consequences, but many felt that depression had given them an opportunity to rethink their lives and identify what was most important to them. As one man said: life is, “Not about success and failure... there is plenty of mid-space between success and failure, there's a huge spectrum, and you're on it somewhere”.

A repeated message from the people we talked to was to be yourself, put yourself first, take time for yourself, and so look after yourself better. By looking after yourself, it was thought you could be of more help to others. As part of recovering from depression, many put their lives into perspective, and changed their lifestyles to have more time for themselves, and to pursue activities that interested them. For one woman, putting herself first meant not leaving things to the last minute, such as paying bills or seeing her doctor. Another pointed out that many lifestyle changes and leisure pursuits are free.

People found different ways to try to change themselves and their lives. Some used a 'mantra' or 'affirmation' that they repeated to themselves over and over again in their heads to try to train their minds to see life differently. An example of a mantra used by one woman was 'I deserve the best.' One man used a technique called 'de-sensitisation' to help overcome his anxieties. Some undertook courses, met new people, or moved to new cities and towns for a better lifestyle.

A number of people had worked long hours and considered themselves 'workaholics' before depression. After depression, people believed that over-working was part of avoiding who they really were, so they tried to change.

Although it could be a struggle financially, some people changed to part-time work or retired to pursue more meaningful activities and reduce stress. A man who was financially secure was able to leave his work to recover from depression and take up a project that suited him better.

Some people found that once their depression had begun to lift, their concentration and confidence was not as good as it used to be. Voluntary work, anything from walking dogs, to part-time office work for charities, could be a way to get back into meaningful work and rebuilding confidence (see 'Distraction, activities and creativity').

Some older people who became depressed worried that their lives were over if they got depression (e.g. they would not return to work and retire). But this was not necessarily the case. A man in his 50s found that depression could result in new life perspectives and opportunities.

Being well off is no protection against depression but financial security has clear advantages. Most people we talked to were not well off and their finances could add to their stress. Some people had gone into debt through over spending, especially if they also had mania. A few declared bankruptcy. People who have to take time off work with depression will usually qualify for state sickness or other benefits, and may have cover through an occupational scheme.

Work provides most people with structure and routine as well as money. Although it can help to stop work, the removal of all routines and responsibilities can be a problem - there is the risk of 'doing nothing' (see 'Hope, advice & wisdom for people with depression'). Some people who were out of work found that having a routine (without too much pressure) could help to get them through this period of time.

Many of the people we talked to had pets that required looking after (routine) and they also provided companionship.

Last reviewed September 2017.

Last updated October 2010.


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