Shameless plug: When you’re done reading this post, check out the program description (if you haven’t already) for Bloggers Helping Bloggers, the mentoring program I founded a few months ago. The pilot phase just finished earlier this week and, with the help of J. Money at Budgets Are Sexy, I’m revamping the program for the next round (scheduled to begin in January 2013). We’ve got a lot of fun things planned and I hope you’ll join us, along with the other mentors and mentees already on board!
Every night, before I go to bed, I take a 20 mg pill of Celexa. I do it so I can function as a normal, non-depressed, slightly less anxious, and productive person. Deciding that I needed medication was not easy; I didn’t want to become dependent on it and I really wanted to overcome my depression without the aid of pills. But, when several months of therapy and only part-time work, failed to show improvement, I knew I needed to do something else. Even if that method was my last, and completely undesirable, resort. So I went to my doctor (my therapist cannot prescribe medication) and obtained my prescription.
And I’ll tell you what. It’s made all the difference. Within a few days, I started feeling like myself again. Everyone close to me could see it, too, because many of them commented on the change in my personality. I could see, mainly in my ability to write and work and function as a wife and mother and friend. Eventually I had to admit, that yes, the medication did help and I had to admit that I needed it (for the record, this is the third time I’ve been on medication for depression. The other two times, the medication made my depression worse so I stopped taking it. I know now I was on the wrong meds).
It is for this reason that blog posts encouraging people to “choose happiness” bother me. It’s not like picking a breakfast cereal or a car; for many of us, it’s not that easy to just choose, no matter how much we may want it. We can follow all the advice in those posts and books perfectly yet something doesn’t click. And, believe it or not, when you’re trying to choose happiness and it doesn’t work, it just makes the depression worse. No one wants to be depressed (well, maybe some people do. I don’t know) and when we dispense advice that essentially dismisses the fact that there’s something chemically wrong with a person, telling them that they’re just making bad choices, it doesn’t help their situation.
Please trust me on that one.
But what the hell does this have to do with money?
As personal finance bloggers, we tend to overlook the fact that people might not have the skills to just get a job or create a budget or even open a bank account. We take for granted the knowledge we’ve acquired and assume that everyone has that same foundation. They don’t. I worked for years with people who barely knew how to pay their bills, obtain a non-driver’s license ID, or even how to dress properly for court, let alone a job interview. It was frustrating, exhausting, and even maddening to see their lack of skills. But sadly, it’s just a fact.
We have a responsibility to those people, to those who don’t have our knowledge and experience, to give them information they can use without assuming they have even an inkling about where to start. We can’t just tell them “create a budget” or “get a part-time job” or “pay your bills on time”. We have to tell them how and, if we can’t explain it, we need to point them to resources that can. It’s also important that remind them that at one point, we didn’t have that information either. But we learned it through hard work and asking questions and researching and learning. And we must encourage them to do the same.
So, before you dispense generic advice and commands, remember the people who might not have an easy time following them for whatever reason. It might not make a difference in what you say but it might make a difference in how you say it.
And that can be just as impactful.