Stacy London Gets Candid About Going Broke and Struggling With Depression Following Back Surgery
By Zach Seemayer
Craig Barritt/Getty Images
Stacy London is opening up about her battle with severe depression and debilitating pain during her recovery from back surgery in December 2016.
The former What Not To Wear host penned a powerful, candid essay for Refinery 29 on Tuesday, in which she explained how she found herself " burning through [cash] hard and without a second thought," and found herself nearly broke.
"By the time  was up, I wasn’t just almost broke, I was broken," London, 48, wrote. "Because when s**t happens, no one necessarily tells you s**t can get seriously expensive, too."
According to the TV personality, she had been struggling with crippling back pain for several years, and after her show Love, Lust or Run came to an end, she took some time off to rest and decided to go under the knife to fix her persistent pain.
"I was told the recovery time would be about six weeks. I thought, 'I can handle six weeks.' Especially if it would end my chronic pain and set me up for a successful 2017. But the best laid plans don’t always work out," she wrote. "If I’d known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have made any plans at all."
London explained that her post-surgery agony began immediately after the procedure. She had to deal not only with the physical pain that always goes hand in hand with recovery, but with extreme nausea that she didn't know she's endure, as well as a litany of heavy medications that made her feel like she was in a constant mental haze.
"I underestimated the extent to which my cognition would be compromised. Everything was foggy, like I was under water," she recalled. "And even as the brain fog began to lift, I was still in pain and always tired."
London explained that, at the time, she wasn't thinking about her finances at all due to the chaos of her recovery. She'd planned to take a year off from work, and had thus financially planned for that amount of time, but hadn't planned for a second year without steady employment.
The fashion expert revealed that she felt as if she had no purpose and that she began to spend money "almost mindlessly," because she couldn't think of a reason not to. This lead a predilection for online shopping that began to syphon her bank account.
"This sounds almost ridiculous as I type it. I consider myself to be a smart person. Smart people don’t spend money recklessly. There are very few things I consider hard to admit, but this is one of them," she shared. "Like eating too many sweets when you’re on a strict diet, there is a deep shame in spending this way. I’m a grown-up, but surgery, sadness, and immobility had me acting like a child: stomping my feet like Veruca Salt. I want what I want when I want it, dammit!"
Two months after her procedure, London said she began to feel anxious and paranoid. She was afraid to go outside, for fear of tripping and re-injuring her back, and the constant fear made it difficult to sleep, which lead to bouts of unprovoked crying and panic.
Amid the emotional chaos of her recovery, London recalled that her relationship with her boyfriend, Nick Onken, began to crumble, and she found herself "trying to heal two broken things: my spine and my relationship."
In an attempt to rekindle their flame, after she'd gotten her back brace off, London and her boyfriend went on an extravagant trip to Amsterdam, where she said she spent money left and right without a care. But it was after buying a slew of new clothing and wasting a great deal of money on a hotel they didn't end up staying at that she first realized how she was hemorrhaging cash.
"It was the first time I suddenly felt aware of my pattern of behavior since the surgery," she recalled. London and Onken realized during their trip that things weren't working between them, and they ended up parting ways.
Making things worse, London was forced to move in with her mom when her house flooded and major repairs were needed. It was during this time of upheaval that she found out from a friend that one of her ex-boyfriends from college -- whom she'd lived with for several years and loved -- had taken his own life.
"If I wasn’t completely broken before, I was now. Life has barely made sense since then. I doubled up on physical therapy sessions. I hired a trainer. I bought oodles of vintage bags and more Zara coats … Because I was determined to live. I was determined to have a life that made me happy," she recounted. "Why I thought material items had that much to do with it, I can only attribute to wanting things that stay. Because heartbreakingly, people can’t always do that."
In December 2017 -- almost exactly one year after her surgery, London met with her accountant and was told just how little money she had left, and it only took that one meeting "to wake me the f**k up."
London emptied out her closets and began rethinking all of her behavior in a last-ditch effort to salvage her financial situation, and she's facing 2018 with a renewed optimism.
"And I am very conscious of my mistakes and my need to rectify them, not just to stay afloat but to banish this serious knock to my own sense of self-esteem," London wrote. "A lot broke last year. And from all that brokenness, there is no other choice but to affirm life … I don’t know if this new year will be better than the last one. Everyone keeps telling me not to worry. How could things get worse? I honestly don’t want to know the answer to that."
For more on London and the drama that permeates her life, watch the video below for a look at her apparent feud with her former What Not to Wear co-host Clinton Kelly.