I have spent an awful lot of money while manic. Almost all of it on things I later regretted buying.
When I was younger, before bipolar disorder roared into my life, I had a successful career in business and saved a ton. Then came the rapidly changing moods and periods when I thought I needed the craziest stuff.
I flew around the country and bought art and rare books. There were the best restaurants and overpriced wine. And I paid for everybody.
One day, driving back to work after a lunch with drinks, I saw the sexiest black Acura on a riser at a car dealership. I had to have it. So I waltzed in and bought it. With my American Express card.
After a long hospitalization I ended up working at a coffee shop. But I kept spending. There were expensive dates and the best of everything for the carriage house I lived in. I was probably the only barista renting a room at the Four Seasons when on a vacation I took on a whim.
Then the credit cards cut me off, and I raided my retirement account. I didn’t stop, I couldn’t stop, until there was nothing left to spend.
With all of the grandiose thinking and poor impulse control that comes with mania, we with bipolar disorder often express ourselves by overspending on stupid stuff we can’t afford.
I would take up a hobby like fly-fishing and buy all the gear, and never cast a line into water. If at night I looked up at the stars I had to have the best telescope. But I live in the city so there’s nowhere to set it up, and too much light pollution anyway.
Sometimes I managed to return the stuff later, but most of it just gathered dust.
Then I got some control over my life and came back. I was able to exercise some self-discipline and save again. But even in the hypomania that still assaults me the urge to spend continues.
So I institute the two week rule.
Whenever anything tempts my wallet today, if it costs more than a good lunch or a couple of books I wait. I wait for two weeks. If after that time the item is still alluring I’ll buy it.
But I rarely still want it.
Yes, this takes an enormous amount of self-control, especially when my mood swings to exuberant. Two weeks seems like eons when manic. But over the years I’ve learned to predict and temper my mood swings, so when episodes really swell and it begins to feel like I can’t live without things I never before considered, I can give the credit cards to my wife and live without the passing whim that I’ll only regret later.
I’ve had to give up some independence. The accounts are set up so that my wife can cut me off when necessary. And the retirement accounts are off-limits. When I’m stable I feel a bit like a financial child.
But I’m not always stable and I have a family now. There’s too much to risk by leaving all of the money access up to me.
The two week rule works. I think it’s a good idea for everyone, even those not roiled by occasional flights of mood.
Marketers are so good at making us want their stuff that we often purchase before thinking. In mania there’s no stopping the promises made by products we don’t really need.
Or even want.
The more I think I have to have something the more necessary it is to wait two weeks before buying it. I’ve built back my savings and my future looks secure.
I’m not about to blow it on some gadget that will sit there unused when I return to my senses.