Blue Monday is finally here. As the date has loomed we’ve blogged about the issues which surround this depressing date.
An earlier post this month confirmed that national charity Shelter stated one in 11 Britons will fail to pay their mortgage or rent this January. A new year clearly does not always bring new hope.
2014 also started with the release of controversial Channel 4 docudrama Benefits Street – where, in between the high debate of people on benefits and not working, some of the life stories on the street are truly humbling – at least for me when I go to bed in my safe,
clean and warm home. Between worrying about the 14 Romanian men sharing a house as they come the UK to send money back to their families; and being impressed by Stephen Smith (Smoggy) who visits the people of John Turner Street to offer them daily essentials for just 50p, I wonder if those of us across the UK who continue to watch our pennies feel lucky when we tune in to this thought provoking channel 4 series.
At ClearDebt we appreciate it’s easy for us to talk about debt and credit and the stresses it brings – but to hear it from someone who has gone through this experience themselves is completely different. Our client, Michelle Clark, talks frankly on camera about her experience with debt, how it affected her mental health and how life is now that she is in an IVA debt solution.
So before the Blue Monday bills drop on your doorstep, watch her story now and be inspired.
Part 1: How did you get into debt?
CD: Can you tell us how you came into debt? How that situation arose?
Michelle: My name’s Michelle. It was an accumulation over the years. I was solvent, I had a good job, debt’s not necessarily a bad thing – it’s only a bad thing when you can’t afford to make the repayments.
What I ended up doing was consolidating a lot of loans that got me into further debt. I was then made redundant and life events took place. I had a breakdown of relationships and that led to me being single so I was managing on my own. I went down the route of taking payment breaks so that led me further down the spiral of debt and it was just an accumulation of all of those things.
CD: Going through that must affect you emotionally – which must be quite a lot of pressure from different areas of your life coming together. Can you explain how that affected you emotionally and in terms of your own well-being?
Michelle: It made me feel out of control. I started to get very anxious, very sleepless at night – it had led to having a lot of anxiety. I felt there was no one I could turn to or nobody that would understand the situation. I thought people wouldn’t understand – that they would think it was all my own fault. But it isn’t necessarily that. Life events can get in the way and you can get into debt and you’ve got to take that first step yourself to resolve that problem.
CD: And were people quite sympathetic to that? When you called the creditors that you owed money to and you explained you were going through emotional problems how did they react?
Michelle: I wouldn’t say they were trained in understanding or recognising someone who was quite distressed – there were still a number of demands coming through. They were stating what amounts I still had to pay every month so I thought the issue was side tracked. They said they understand but then still said, “you owe us X amount” so I wouldn’t have said that was understanding.
Part 2: How did this affect your mental health?
CD: As your debt situation worsened – how did that affect your health?
Michelle: It affected my mental health quite negatively with sleepless nights, worry and anxiety. I was actually diagnosed with depression and anxiety. So I had something else to deal with on top, in terms of recognising I needed help with that too. I went along to the GP and got a diagnosis and obviously medication. It wasn’t as simple as I’m saying – it wasn’t A,B and C. I think people have to recognise there’s only so long in your life that you can go on with worry and stress and it does start having a massive impact on your mental well-being. I just decided I had to grab the bull by the horns and get mentally well – obviously to counteract what I was trying to achieve financially and finding a solution.
CD: The situation sounds like it was quite horrific for you to have to through, is that the point you decided to seek professional help in terms of dealing with the debt? What were the emotions like for you at that stage as you continued to get the bills through?
Michelle: It was a culmination of both – it was the inability to pay hardly anything towards my debt and then my mental health at the same time. I needed to get myself back on firm ground because I did become quite unwell with it. And when you become quite unwell you tend to avoid…and that’s what I did. I avoided the issue. As I got better I started to confront and that’s when I decided I needed professional help to deal with the debt.
CD: To put this into perspective for different people watching this video – being in debt before you asked for help – what kind of situations were you in where you would not be able to purchase something because you couldn’t afford to and how did that make you feel?
Michelle: Well feeling quite unwell your self-esteem goes. I couldn’t even afford a haircut. Six months could go by without me affording something like that. I couldn’t afford simple things in life like a new top. It wasn’t about going out every night as I didn’t do that anyway, but basically purchasing little things in life which will make life worth living – everybody needs to treat themselves. Those things were non-existent.
Part 3: How did you feel when you first called the team at ClearDebt?
CD: you called ClearDebt and asked for help and that’s a big step for anybody in this situation – how did you feel making that call and talking through your situation with an advisor and hearing about the options available to you at the time?
Michelle: I was absolutely petrified! I remember thinking they’re going to condemn me – that they’re going to ask me lots of questions I won’t be able to answer, they’re going to be judgemental – that it would be all my fault. You know, all the things you think about your situation and it was none of those. I’ve never known such a helpful, friendly, non-judgemental response. It was simple. People watching this might think this has been pre-scripted but it hasn’t – these are my own words. My fears were alleviated within three minutes of being on the phone. The woman took me all through the options. Took basic details – You didn’t need to know the ins and outs of all your debts there and then, they just wanted to get a basic overview. It was such a gentle process.
CD: You’re three years into your IVA now – which is an Individual Voluntary Arrangement. Traditionally they’re five years so you’re over the halfway mark, how do you feel now?
Michelle: Still relieved. You can carry that debt along on your back for years – three years on seems like a long time but it’s not because there’s an end in sight. I know when I’m going to be debt free and I know when I can start living my life again – and ClearDebt’s given that me.
Part 4: Have you told anyone that you are in an IVA?
CD: One of the biggest taboo subjects is, do you tell anyone that you’re in a debt solution – so have you told anyone that you’re in an IVA?
Michelle: I’ve told a couple of close friends and my father – he’s my only remaining parent alive. It’s about me at the end of the day. I had five years, I’ve only got two left now. It’s not about feeling negative about it, it’s about the achievements of it. And the achievement of it is that I’m going to be debt free in two years. I wouldn’t say it was any easy process. I felt embarrassed but if you have good friends they understand and won’t put pressure on you to do X, Y and Z that you can’t afford to do. So I decided who I’d tell and who I wouldn’t tell – including my partner. It was a new partner at the time when I took out the IVA and that person had no part of my debt but I still wanted to be honest. It’s still difficult fessing up the fact that I had an IVA but I did it – it’s better to come clean and then it’s one less worry to live with.
Part 5: What would you sat to other people in debt?
CD: ClearDebt are a fee charging debt solution provider and there are free services out there. So what made you decide to choose ClearDebt?
Michelle: I wanted an immediate response. I think with a lot of free services, there’s a lot of waiting lists. They give you the provisional interview but then there could be a six month waiting list. I searched Google and I found ClearDebt – I read a lot of the reviews from previous clients and I thought these are the people I’m going to go with. ClearDebt made the process so simple – they’ve delivered what they said they would deliver and I have got tangible results. I thought the IVA would be really long drawn, long winded and really complicated but it isn’t. ClearDebt sort it all out for you – there’s nothing you have to worry about and I’m really impressed with them as a company. They’re really professional and they know what they’re doing.
CD: Finally, What would you say to other people in debt who haven’t yet asked for help?
Michelle: I’d say if you can’t make the repayments today or you’re having to tell little white lies to your partner like I did in a previous relationship – give ClearDebt a call. I think they’re the two biggest clues that you’re struggling and need help. I couldn’t urge someone strongly enough to call ClearDebt. It’s so easy. They’re non-judgemental. They don’t condemn you. They don’t ask any prying questions. They know what solutions are out there – when I rang up they went through various solutions with me until we found the one thing which was right for me – an IVA. I realised I wasn’t the problem – I was a big part of the solution. ClearDebt has given me back my life, my confidence and obviously my emotional wellbeing. So, take the first step and give ClearDebt a ring!