“The Glorious Scattering of Money”


“Mania is not a luxury one can easily afford. It is devastating to have the illness and aggravating to have to pay for medications, blood tests, and psychotherapy. They, at least, are partially deductible. But money spent while manic doesn’t fit into the Internal Revenue Service concept of medical expense or business loss. So, after mania, when most depressed, you’re given excellent reason to be even more so.”   -Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness *

Bunny and I talked about this, today. My excessive spending is something I’ve ruminated on, lately.

When I’m hypomanic, I’m not even always aware that I’m doing it. At the time, it seems perfectly reasonable to use some of my college savings to buy my boyfriend a car. Or spend $5,000 (of borrowed money) on a hypnotherapy course that will, I’ve convinced myself, change my life. And buying 200 vintage jello molds on eBay? Seems pretty reasonable. As does a trip to the ATM to take out my last $200 and giving it to a complete stranger who stopped me on the street to tell me about her sick child.

She had a binder, ya’ll. With medical bills, and pictures of her sick kid!

When I’m hypomanic, there are no consequences. The money will come from somewhere, right? I’m usually paying if forward, and that’s what we’re suppose to do. Jesus (or Maimonides, or Buddha…) said it, I’m sure. It’s good karma. It’s a mitzvah.

And it feels good.

When I sense a depression is coming on, I’ve self-medicated with shopping, or generous charitable giving, in an attempt to ward it off. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on cosmetics. And home decor items are a particular weakness for me (damn you to hell Fab.com!).

If Michael knew how much I spent on throw-pillows a few months ago, he would probably drive me to the psychiatric unit, himself.

This “glorious scattering of money” (I would attribute the quote if I could remember who said it), has gotten me into a lot of trouble, over the years.

I’ve over-extended myself to the point that I’ve neglected bills, and let tax debt pile up. I’ve completely wrecked my credit, and have no real savings to speak of.

Over the past two years, I’ve worked really hard to repair some of the damage that I’ve done, but I do not currently have any credit cards in my name. This is because I can’t  have credit cards in my name. I don’t trust myself enough, yet. And that’s humiliating to admit.

Michael and I agree that we should not combine our finances. At least, not yet. I felt like a big loser when we had that conversation, but I can see it preventing some arguments, down the road.

He’s also indicated that he would be happy to help me talk through any major purchases I’m thinking about making. The problem is, I’m not usually thinking  when I’m about to make a big purchase. It’s almost always impulsive.

Bunny says I need to be careful about allowing myself to fall into a child-like role where I let him make decisions for me. She suggests talking to him about setting up one shared account that is for household expenses, and household expenses, alone. That way, once our food and shelter needs are taken care of, he can do whatever he wants with his spare money, and I can do whatever I want with mine.

That’s not a bad idea, but I do need to find better strategies for coping with this occasional urge to give all of my money away. Right now, not having credit cards is helping. And even when I was in crazy-hypo-wedding-planner mode, the only major purchase I made was a dress–yep, right after he proposed–which I promptly returned when I came down off that manic high. Mostly, the urge hasn’t been there, and even when it is, I’ve been able to fight it off by squirreling away money into our wedding account.

So far, so good.

Baby-steps, I guess. But I really do think I need a plan. And being able to shake some of this shame I experience whenever I dwell on it, would probably help, too.


*If you haven’t read Kay Redfield Jamison’s memoir, An Unquiet Mind, please do so. Immediately.




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