Writing A Money Diary Made Me Realize How Bad My Depression Was

illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Last June, we published a Money Diary featuring a 30-year-old senior analyst making $99,000 per year in New York City. In her diary, she wrote about being unhappy in her job, unsure about her future, and overwhelmed by the hustle of New York City. A year later, we followed up with her to check in on her work trajectory, her mental health, and her feelings about living in a big city.
In your diary, you mentioned how unhappy you were in your job and how you were keeping your options open for other opportunities. What is your current job situation?
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I actually ended up staying at the same company, but I’ve been promoted. I’m a vice president now, and I got a 25% raise.
Congrats! Did you negotiate? What was the promotion process?
Something that is frustrating for me about this company is our promotion schedule is a total black box, so you kind of just show up to your review, and you’re presented with a number. There is no clear-cut way to get a raise or a promotion, you just have to wing it. As someone who is really goal-oriented, the whole process was definitely a source of existential pain for me. I wanted to do the work and check a box. I’m glad it worked out the way it did — I wish I could say I negotiated, but I was just presented with a number that excited me. I was like, okay this is fine, I’ll take it.
How do you feel about your job now?
I like it a lot more. At the time I kept asking myself, ‘I’m really hustling and I’m doing everything I’m supposed to, but is anyone really seeing it?’ Working for a big corporation, it’s really hard to see where you stand in the grand scheme of things. I knew my direct manager liked me and saw my work, but seeing the larger powers that be acknowledge my hard work really gave me the morale boost I needed.
In your diary, you wrote about grappling with depression, is that still something you’re dealing with?
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I wrote my Money Diary this time last year, and I knew I was depressed, but I don’t think I realized how much it was affecting my life until I read my published diary. I read all the comments and read the words I had written, and I was like, ‘Wow, something isn’t right here.’ I remember responding to a bunch of the comments, trying to prove that I was working on myself. When you live in New York, it’s really easy to get caught up in the idea that this city is hard to live in and everyone is hustling all the time. Reading my diary, I realized I wasn’t hustling, I was struggling, I was really depressed. I was trying to have it all and trying to fix everything on my own, when really it was a much larger mental health issue. A few months later, I reached out to my doctor and started looking for a therapist. I also reached out to my close networks, and they told me they knew something was wrong, but they thought I just hated them. That was really eye-opening to me. The diary made me realize how low I was and that I couldn’t fix this on my own.
Was there a specific moment that pushed you to get help?
The final push for me was that my live-in boyfriend, who I wrote about in my diary, broke up with me about three months after the diary was published. He told me that he could see I was always unhappy and that I was I directing a lot of that unhappiness at him. He told me, ‘I love you and I want to be with you, but I can’t do this for you.’ So I moved out, and within two weeks I had found a therapist, talked to my doctor about antidepressants, and talked to my family about it. I just didn’t realize how bad things were until they got really bad.
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Absolutely, that’s kind of how mental health works, isn’t it?
Exactly, and I wish it didn’t have to be that way. Dealing with mental health is unique to every individual, but I really want to help people realize they can get help without waiting for the floor to fall out from under them.
You’ve been working on your mental health for a year now, what are the biggest changes you’ve seen in your life?
I would say, honestly, and this is going to sound weird, but just having feelings. I remember standing waiting for the subway on my way home and feeling like a robot. It was just like another day, another box checked. I didn’t have anything to look forward to, and I didn’t like New York at all. Now after I’ve done all this work, I really feel like my eyes have opened to not only the potential of this city, but the potential in myself and my day-to-day life. I feel like I can get excited about things again. For months on end, I just never felt anything. Now, I feel like I’ve woken up and realized there’s a really great world out there.
In your diary you wanted to leave New York, do you still feel that urge at all?
I have fears about raising a family in this city, but for now I’m loving it, and honestly I regret how much time I spent hating it. For the time being, I want to enjoy being in this city and indulging in all it has to offer.
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Your big “aha moment” came when your boyfriend broke up with you, what is your current relationship status?
After a break of about six months and a lot of work on myself, my boyfriend and I got back together and I moved back in about two months ago.
What was the process of getting back together like now that you have a different perspective on life?
It was honestly miserable, but I had a sense while we were figuring it out that this relationship could be good and healthy and not just something that I relied on for happiness. I moved to New York for the relationship, so the time apart was really good for me to get my bearings in the city and be here for myself. I think that’s where a big part of my new appreciation for this city comes from is that I want to be here for me and not just for the relationship.
Do you feel like your relationship is healthier now?
Absolutely. We still have things we have to work on, as any couple does, but having gone through this and consciously deciding we wanted to be back together, we had to make a lot of active decisions to do that. We didn’t just fall back together, we had to have a lot of really hard conversations about what was and wasn’t working. We really had to question whether this relationship was making us the best version of ourselves.
Have your monthly expenses changed at all since your raise?
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They haven’t really. I’ve been super conscious of my spending. I was really shocked when I got that first paycheck post-raise, but keeping my lifestyle the same makes me feel more comfortable. I wouldn’t be thrilled with myself if I went out and spent my entire paycheck. I am a little more inclined to splurge then I was previously, but I love watching my savings go up and I’ve upped my retirement contribution as well. It feels better that it’s a long-term reward as opposed to the instant satisfaction of being able to get Sweetgreen every day.
Have you had any big purchases in the last year?
I haven’t bought many tangible things, but I’ve been traveling a lot more. My family lives far away (about a $500 flight), so I’ve let myself visit them more. I have the great privilege of getting to choose to spend time with my family because I can actually afford it.
Any other life updates?
I recently learned how to snowboard! As a grown up in a big city, you don’t get a lot of opportunities to watch yourself really learn something new? Like I was really terrible at the beginning and now I’m actually really competent at snowboarding. There was such a sense of gratification in the process. I did something scary and now I’m actually pretty good at it. Also, I’m usually really clumsy, so it feels extra good.
Is there anything else you want to share?
Okay, this is something I’ve really wanted to say. Once you finally decide you want to find a therapist in New York, it is so hard. You want someone trustworthy, so ideally you’d go off of personal referrals, but that gets complicated. Plus, finding somebody who takes your insurance and has availability outside of 9-5, is incredibly difficult. It was even more challenging because I was in such a bad place when I was looking for help, so I didn’t want to talk on the phone to a bunch of strangers even if they were trying to help me. Basically, I would say, don’t get discouraged because it’s a process that takes time. In the end, I found my therapist on ZocDoc, and we’ve really clicked. I’ve been going weekly, but I actually just graduated to every other week! I went home and texted all my friends and was like, ‘Can we have a graduation ceremony for me?’ I’m just really feeling better and more in control of my life and it’s thrilling. Rereading my diary made me so sad to see where I was, but so excited to see all I’ve accomplished.
If you are experiencing anxiety or depression and need support, please call the National Depressive/Manic-Depressive Association Hotline at 1-800-826-3632 or the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.
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