Bipolar and Credit Cards, Loans and Debt

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Mania for me always leads to overspending. I’ll spend an exorbitant amount of money on useless, meaningless stuff.

Shoes, bags, clothes, collectible toys, lego figurines (yes, really), games consoles, hotel rooms – I could go on and on. I’m not a materialistic person by nature, but with mania I just can’t help myself. It’s an overwhelming compulsion.

Overspending is a common symptom of hypomania and mania. It can have a huge impact on your day to day life, especially when an episode has ended. You realise how much you’ve spent and it can lead to debt, anxiety over money and even not having enough money to cover all the bills.

At one time, during a serious and extended bout of mania, I amassed; four store cards, and three credit cards. I maxed them all out. I found myself in a mountain of debt, thousands of pounds worth. I couldn’t afford the repayments and was threatened with bailiffs. Even though I was earning a reasonable wage, I had to give up my flat. Luckily, I could move in with my parents, but was still paying rent to them and had to try and somehow reach the repayments every month.

What upsets me is how I was preyed on by companies when I was extremely vulnerable and ill. One time, I was in the town centre, when I was approached by a salesperson on the street. I was absolutely wired, full of manic energy and couldn’t stop talking. It was obvious something was wrong, that I was very unwell. They used my impulsiveness against me, and with very little convincing, got me to sign up for a credit card. I starting using it as soon as it arrived. I didn’t check the APR before signing up, which was extortionate. Impulsiveness reigns supreme when I’m manic and I’d sign up for pretty much anything if it was offered to me. Every time I was asked to sign up for a store card, I obliged.

There must be some way of prohibiting people when they’re manic from signing up for credit cards, or taking out a loan. I don’t know how this would work, but it would have saved me a huge amount of stress and worry about money. The stress alone has made me ill, and I’ve become severely depressed because of it. I still overspend when I’m manic. Although now I don’t have access to my credit cards unless I really need to use them. I’ve handed them over to my partner, because I can’t trust myself with them when I’m ill. But what if you have no partner or anyone you can trust and understand the problem? I don’t know what the solution is, but companies and banks should be ashamed at how easy it is to qualify for loans and credit cards.

The Mania Hangover

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The Best Feeling Ever!

When I’m in the grips of mania, I love Bipolar. The euphoria I feel is like no other drug. The feeling is addictive and I never want it to end. The mania is unbelievably epic, like I’m living in a blockbuster movie and I’m the star. The whole universe revolves around me. Continually going through my head are thoughts that instil an enormous, gratifying confidence: ‘I’m the best at everything!’ ‘I can do anything, be anyone!’ ‘Nothing can touch me. I’m invincible!’ It’s a feeling like no other and yes, when it ends I do miss it. Because of course, like any good thing, it has to end. I talk more about mania in this post Mania is…

Here Comes The Hangover

What I hate about Bipolar, above anything else, is what I call my mania hangover. First of all, I realise I’ve spent far too much. Imagine having a big weekend when you’re suddenly buying everyone shots, but that weekend stretches on for months. Or that clothes and shoes binge you’re on when you spend an evening sat in your pyjamas on the internet, but imagine it lasting weeks. I’ve found myself in crippling debt more than once, the first time meaning I had to move back home with my parents. I felt terribly embarrassed and an absolute failure for having to go back to live with mum and dad. Luckily I had that option.

Next, the realisation of my actions set in. I start to see with clarity and I realise I’ve done things that I’ll regret for years to come. I cheated on my ex, whilst I was away traveling in Japan. When I was feeling stable again the memory rushed toward me and I felt dizzy and sick over what I had done. It was completely out of character, and I was remembering it through a haze, as if I had been drunk. I see how much stress I put family and friends through with my unpredictable, sometimes rageful emotions. I’ve made family and friends cry with vicious words that cut them to pieces. I’ve done so many embarrassing, ugly things I regret over the years I can’t fit them into one blog post.

From constantly being full of energy and unable to sleep, now I’ve become emotionally and physically exhausted. I’ve been running on empty for weeks and not even noticed. All I want to do is to become a hermit, hide from the world in bed and eat junk food.

Hello Depression

Then, inevitably depression sets in. I hate the depression, and it’s usually part of the whole mania hangover. The juxtaposition between the mania and depression is ridiculous. I’ve heard the description of ‘it’s like living on a rollercoaster’ but it’s too simplistic a description. Rollercoasters for me are fun, and the lows of acute depression are far from fairground ride fun and games. Depression, just like mania, takes complete hold of you, and won’t let go. I can no longer function like the average person. I stop going outside, I have to force myself to shower and brush my teeth. Everything is an unbelievable effort.

My Hangover Cures

Ultimately, I would not want to be manic in the first place! To do this I check The Warning Signs of a Manic Episode that I have identified over the years. Even though at times it can be a tempting prospect to go back to that feeling of constant elation, it’s not worth the adverse effects. Taking my medication is the surest way to stop this from happening. If I do find myself with a mania hangover, I take the time to look after myself. I’ll take some time away from work and socialising. I’ll keep an eye on my mood and check for the warning signs of depression.

Bipolar Mania and Money – A Path to Debt

Money is a bizarre concept. We all want more of it and often our relationship with it can turn into an obsessive, fear-inducing nightmare. A certain amount of vigilance regarding our money and spending habits is healthy, but what happens when that self control dissipates for months on end?

I should point out that I am far from materialistic. Growing up I was taught the value of money and living in a politically minded left wing home where we often had to make do without I learnt that life and living meant more than the consumption of goods. That attitude has never abated and I find myself ‘needing,’ new clothes for instance, when my current ones are worn out or torn; not how other people ‘need’ that designer bag or the latest phone.

However, during my early twenties certain aspects of my decision making became irrational. I found myself in a wonderful but intense relationship with a person so tightly wound it was doomed to failure. During that time I was a student, then after that earning a measly salary, but I spent like crazy. At one point I had four credit cards and two store cards. The difference here from ‘needing’ things was that I just didn’t think about the consequences. It became impulsive. For example, my laptop screen cracked. Rational me would have weighed up whether the current laptop was still usable and if not, could I live without one or could I afford a new one. At the time I couldn’t afford to replace it but I marched into town and bought the first one I saw. The relationship I was in was difficult as neither of us had much privacy – so I would book hotels for the weekends. I paid for us both for a week away in the Cotswolds. This spending stopped very suddenly and I found myself in a deep depression.

A year or so later, still with credit cards to pay off and earning slightly better I was at it again. Out of the blue, I booked a flight to Japan. I spent time travelling in Tokyo and Kyoto and loved every minute of it. Again everything went on the credit card – the hotels, nights out, presents for friends and family…I wasn’t concerned about the money I was spending, I was driven by this compulsion to do whatever I wanted.

Continuing along the same vein, when I returned from my holiday I decided I would rent a flat by myself. I couldn’t afford it, but somehow I had enough bravado to convince the estate agent and my family, that I could. I ended up hardly eating and spending one of the coldest winters I had ever experienced in a freezing flat as the gas meter forever needed topping up. I was still remarkably happy though, until the confidence and euphoria left me again.

All of this extortionate spending meant I would eventually have to deal with the consequences. The aftermath of the spending whilst I was manic was desperate. I have had my cards declined, forced to move back in with my parents’ and threatened with bailiffs. The amount of debt I had accumulated was eye watering. Nine years later I’m still paying off debts, and new debt has been added when I have had further episodes of mania.

Although I regret the inevitable stress I put myself through when I eventually gained perspective and the debt I accumulated, I do not regret the experiences I had. I find it difficult to explain why I continued to spend. I was not in denial, I knew what I was doing. I just didn’t care or worry. I knew that everything would turn into sunshine, lollipops and electro rainbow kittens. Looking back on these occasions now I was unwell. I exhibited other behaviours that were not me or I felt that my personality – my passions, ambitions were amplified. In short I was not my usual self.

Since then, I have become much more self aware. Sometimes I need others to be aware for me. That is easier said than done, as when I do spend excessively I am in high spirits and I believe that none of my decisions could possibly be wrong. Parcel after parcel will appear on the doorstep, my partner feeling exasperated at the amount of money I’m spending yet again. I have gone to extremes such as cutting my credit cards up and then shredding them. I have given my partner my cards so I can’t spend when I go into town. I have thought about closing my PayPal account as it makes it far too easy to spend money online.

Over spending during mania is often overlooked; it’s seen as not as harmful as other symptoms. In my experience, it has exacerbated stressful situations when I have returned to some form of stability, or become depressed. It can have lasting effects on the way you live your life.