Why Manic Episodes Are More Difficult for Me to Manage During the Holidays


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 could. 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 20s 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.

When I got really manic and felt all the feelings associated with one of those episodes, I felt invincible and like I could make no wrong decision. 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 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 your 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 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. But through therapy, I have learned better ways to see the precursors to my manic episodes and 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.

Follow this journey on Free From Secrets.

Thinkstock photo by alex kich


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