Shopping While Bipolar

Ronnie Big 4 : Mental Illness, Bipolar Disorder, Christmas, Credit, Holidays, Manic, Money, Spending, Support, Therapy, Tips 0 Comments

Money management hasn’t always been my strong suit. In fact, I have spent a scary amount of money on the most frivolous thing. At one time my habit was spending countless amounts of money on iTunes for every song I thought I ever wanted. It has transitioned to one thing after another over the years, but I never really understood why I couldn’t kick the habit like all the other adults in my life. I felt immature and careless. I wanted to be better about my money, but couldn’t ever seem to find a way.

Fast forward to my early twenties and I received my first diagnosis of bipolar disorder. To which I was promptly placed in a medication study at Vanderbilt University, but that’s a story for another day. Part of my starting therapy was discussion and exploration. Through a lot of talk and debate over what I thought was wrong, my therapist was finally able to help me see that the core of my spending habits were part of my manic episodes that I had frequently in the beginning.

When I got really manic and felt all the feelings associated with one of those episodes, I felt invincible and that I could make no wrong decisions. I always found a way to justify, in my mind, that the money I was spending was going to help me in some way or another. I got very good at convincing myself that if I bought that album it would somehow save me money down the line and I wouldn’t want another album for a while. If I bought that pair of jeans from that ridiculously expensive boutique in Green Hills I would never need another pair of jeans again. The list goes on and on.

The holidays can be one of the most difficult times when you have spending issues associated with you bipolar disorder. The feeling of invincibility coupled with advertisements telling you that you need absolutely all of the things at super low costs and need to also buy everything else for all your family members for the holidays. It’s like a purposeful setup for failure this time of year.

The most sobering part of my continued work in therapy is that I was so good at convincing myself that I could spend money endlessly and not have any consequences, but I couldn’t convince myself of the safe and healthy alternative, to not spend. I have gotten myself into some major trouble with money over the years, and sometimes still do if I’m not paying attention to my episode tells. But through therapy, I have learned better ways to see the precursors to my manic episodes can attempt to adjust accordingly.

I have set up accounts that I don’t have access to in the most basic circumstances like shopping. I have a partner who I try and let know every time I feel like my episode is about to change and who tries to help manage my money. I have also done away with bank account debit cards that allow me to spend more than I actually have (no overdrafts by extension of money). Look at all the little things you can do when you are in between your episodes. One of the worst things I did was try and plan during a depressive state. My credit is still reeling from the ridiculous amounts of debt I have stacked up in my manic phases, but slowly I am getting back on track with better awareness of my changing states.

What ways do you handle your spending habits while in a manic episode? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.