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How I’m Dealing With Compulsive Spending as a Person With Bipolar Mania

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 6:30 a.m. and I check my phone.

The Facebook icon has a “7” on it, so I press it to see who has written to me while I was sleeping. Before I even get to press the notification icon, an ad pops up in my feed for a great loose fringe sweater with a scoop neck in fall colors. How do they know I love fall colors?! It’s only $29.99? XL, please. PayPal, thumbprint ID. Done. On to that notification icon. Awesome, my mom commented on my post. Reply with hearts and a smiley face. Double click, swipe up, close all apps, gotta get moving for work.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

Lunchtime break.

The Facebook icon says “13” on it, so I press it to see who has written to me while I’ve been toiling away at work. After answering two replies, an ad for a ring with a green stripe in it, for mental illness awareness, shows up in my feed. It’s free? Only shipping and handling? $12… not bad. Size 8, please. PayPal, thumbprint ID. Done. Check on more alerts, reply, reply, heart, smiley. Thirty minutes already? Time to get back to work.

Home from work, dinner is on the stove.

I’m reposting my favorite memes from the day, tagging who they remind me of. Scroll, scroll, scroll… my friends “like” this company. They’re offering a Groupon on the e-book reader I’ve been researching. Never mind that I’m reading just fine on my phone with a book app, but this is a larger screen, lightweight, and it’s on sale! It’s still more than I really want to spend. Think about it for a few days, but remember how long the Groupon is good for. Bookmark.

One day turns into seven. Seven turns into 31. Package after package come in the mail and I barely remember ordering these trinkets and bobbles.

Is anyone with me?

My name is Jodie and I am a compulsive spender (among other things.) It comes with hypomania and mania. It was never really a problem until I downgraded my salary and my husband started paying attention to all of my new things. Looking back before we met, I see how I accumulated an entire closet in my house dedicated to funny t-shirts, and I can justify the need for each and every one. During the decade before that, I was quite spiritual and expressed it with Christian t-shirts and jewelry. The decade before that, I collected watches and had an impressive CD collection. I’m 41. I didn’t have a job before the watch and CD era. But the spending sprees are locked in time and show a pattern.

The spending isn’t ongoing; it is in spurts. The most recent spending spree for me was Christmas 2017. I got a second job delivering food and that salary allowed me to buy Christmas gifts and little things I had been wanting. The combination of a lack of sleep from working 70 hours a week, driving like a race car driver, and the new freedom more money attaches, kickstarted my elevated mood. Hypomania had begun and it felt great. I promised my husband and daughter that the second job was for the holiday only and I reluctantly stopped working it around New Year. Although I wasn’t buying three or four things a week any longer because Christmas had passed, I was still ordering one or two things for myself a week. The packages were still coming in. My husband stopped complaining, and now I started feeling guilty. I needed to stop the “madness.”

I don’t need a solar system bracelet. I don’t need the history flashcards. I’m still thinking hard about the e-book reader because, after all, I’m checking them out from the library and not spending money on them. I do have two of these three things now, but what are my options? What works? How do you short-circuit 30 years of compulsive spending sprees?

Step One:

Change my payment method passwords. PayPal is my go-to. Sign in and have my husband change the password. I could deactivate it, but I want the option of using it in the future.

Step Two:

Remove payment methods from online shopping sites. Not from my online bills, but from the shopping sites. I have not memorized my card numbers, so this should work. If I had memorized them, I would order new cards with new numbers so I can’t input them when I’m feeling weak.

Step Three:

Remove my debit/credit card from my phone’s automatic payment function. Get a prepaid card from my bank and put $10 on it. Use this card in my phone’s auto pay and app store. There are always ways around these maneuvers, but if you really want to stop, you will try.

Step Four:

Delete apps for online shopping. My husband was mortified that I have a folder on my phone with apps for shopping.

If the above steps don’t work… read further.

Step Five:

Freeze cards in a bowl of dyed water. Why dyed? I can’t see the numbers through the ice this way.

Step Six:

Since Facebook is my prime culprit of ads…. delete Facebook.

If these things don’t curb your spending and give you time to pause and stop, you might be dealing with an addiction instead. There is help for that. Good luck to you.

If you or a loved one is affected by addiction and need help, you can call SAMHSA‘s hotline at 1-800-662-4357.

Getty Images photo via Daviles

Originally published: March 23, 2018
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