Ssince my teenage years, I have struggled with episodes of mania brought on by my bipolar disorder. Such a fad has led to intense periods of superfluous, indulgent, unnecessary and extravagant spending. From buying endless tours at the pub for friends, to a spontaneous solo getaway to Paris and spending over £ 1,700 in the process, my spending quickly got out of hand.
It was this battle with bipolar that led me to apply for my first loan from the bank in 2001. Unnecessary spending on trivial things led to my inability to cover the essentials – rent, groceries, and utility bills. . As my expenses increased, my credit rating plummeted. The banks stopped lending so I contacted the loan sharks instead. From that point on, I was trapped in a vicious cycle of payday loans to pay off previous payday loans. My situation became so dark and overwhelming that I attempted suicide three times, two of which were in direct response to my financial situation.
It took about 20 years of silent suffering to prompt a formal diagnosis of bipolar disorder in 2009. I was found by a friend in my house, having not left home for over six months and barely eating. They found me curled up on the ground, starving, nothing but my boxers.
At first, my family was not particularly supportive. But having a formal diagnosis gave legitimacy to why my spending had been so erratic and out of control. It showed that I was not to blame and that I was not totally in control of my actions. It proved that my debt should be attributed to my condition rather than my own reckless behavior.
A major turning point in my life was declaring myself bankrupt in February 2014. By that time, I had accumulated over £ 32,000 in debt. Having been encouraged by my then partner to call the National Debt Advice Line, I followed the bureaucracy, paid the fees and declared myself bankrupt. Since I left college, I had a stable job. I also enjoyed working in IT and business consulting, earning above the average salary.
My suicidal thoughts were exacerbated by both the nature, the language and the amount of recovery letters I received. The letters were utterly horrific, but the municipal tax bills I received from the local authority used the most aggressive and threatening language, compared to what was received from private help companies. If a public authority sets an atrocious example, how can you expect a private company to be better?
When you are struggling with your sanity and receive a letter with underlying threats of deportation or justice, it can send you on a downward spiral of destructive thoughts that can potentially be very harmful, even fatal. If these companies were able to keep the mental well-being of their customers in mind and rebuild their models accordingly, the customer might be able to respond or even handle the situation.
By January of this year, I had paid off all the debts I had accumulated. After getting married in April, I managed to completely change my life. But with more government regulation regarding the language and quantity of collection letters received, especially regarding the local authority, I could have recovered and changed my life much sooner.