Bipolar Bankruptcy.

I do my best to take responsibility for the wrong doings and choices I have made. With a lot of help from my mental health provider, I have come to accept that mental illness gave some of those bad choices a very large push. A simple purchase turned into a mountain of debt. A rash decision turned into a car loan I can’t get out from under. I am drowning in the ruins of my financial mishaps, from my spending sprees. I still fall off the wagon so to speak. Bipolar is forever ❤️.

In all seriousness, bipolar has ruined my life. It has taken away my teenage years and filled them full of hatefulness and blatant disregard for those I care for’s feelings. It filled my twenties with larger than life shenanigans that I am now spending the beginning of my 30s trying to navigate. I am days away from calling the finance company to come pick up the car that I voluntarily accepted with a 28% interest rate on. Honestly, I feel a weight on my chest that I cannot breathe under. I try to stay positive. I will say that I am angry. I am angry that I can be so impulsive. I am angry that I made these choices. I want someone to blame. I want someone to tell me to suck it up. I want to lay in bed and call out of work. I want to cry.

I really just want to fix what I broke. I should be grateful for what I have salvaged. My life, my relationships (some), my career, my education. Tonight I am ungrateful and consumed by my disappointment.

 

 

(Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

Money IS The Answer

They say that money doesn’t buy happiness, but I want to challenge that notion. I like to think that I think differently than most people, analyze things differently than others. To me, money could solve all my problems. My mother says that money would just bring more problems, and she may be right. I don’t want power though, like most people want with money, I want experiences. When people look at a lifelong career, they might see fulfillment, food for their family, a home, vacations, things. I see a shackle, a ball and chain for forty years that you can’t shake no matter how hard you try. If I were to suddenly win the lottery, I would pay off all my bills, give some money to my family (so they can do what they want with it) and I would travel the world, go to space, really LIVE life. I feel that so long as you’re working just to pay your bills, you’re not living. You’re a slave, we are all slaves to the bills we pay. We all want money, so much it drives people to do horrible things. They do these horrible things either to get money, or to keep the money they have. What if, just spitballing here, someone with money only did good things. They didn’t buy houses, cars, things, they helped people. They experienced life to its fullest and helped everyone they could along the way. That’s what I want with my life.

My mother also says, very often as a matter of fact, to look at all these millionaires that have everything they ever wanted, more money than god (her exact words) and still deal with mental health problems, or get divorced, or arrested. The thing is, they’re living their life for things. No matter how hard you try, things are finite. You could have all the money in the world, buy everything ever made, and yet you still won’t be happy. There are a limited amount of things in this world and they all mean nothing. But, experiences, living life, going out and doing things, helping people. That is infinite. You won’t ever live long enough to experience everything that life has to offer. You won’t ever live long enough to help every person that needs it. Yet, you have to do the best you can, with the life you’ve got. I just don’t see how you can do that if you’re tied down with bills and a job. Although, so many people strive for their dream job, like it will make their lives so much better. I think that is what makes more problems. I would be able to solve all my problems and then some with enough money. Which is why I think that money does buy happiness, so long as you do it the right way. Not only living for yourself, but living to love life.

Yours,

Wolfgang

Money and Mania: Managing Spending While Bipolar

As a young twenty-something, many of my friends and fellow Millenials have credit card debt.  We live in a culture of fast spending, fast cash, and consumerism.  Add on student loans, how easy it is to max out credit cards, landmark purchases like first cars, student loans, and rent, and my peers and I can find ourselves in a world of debt.  The media contains the narrative of a materialistic lifestyle, and with internet stores cropping up everywhere you see a Facebook ad, a culture of online shopping, and Paypal making it easy to buy from indie stores, compulsive shopping is a problem that plagues not just neurodivergent, but neurotypical consumers as well.

However, one of the hallmarks of bipolar mania, when the mood is elevated, and delusional thinking pursue, alongside grandiose thought patterns, high energy, insomnia, and good feelings on the apex of the roller coaster can all lead to manic spending.  Kay Redfield Jamison, the author of An Unquiet Mind, considered the hallmark book on bipolar disorder amongst many psychiatric circles with Jamison herself an expert clinical psychologist and academic that suffers from the disorder, ended up spending over $30,000 quickly in her autobiography on such lavish expenses as fox pelts from the Plains, Virginia and other unnecessary, erratic objects early on in her diagnosis.  This is sadly the norm for many bipolar individuals, and overspending is, unfortunately, one of the characteristics of the disease.

As someone that suffers from bipolar type 1, OCD, and anxiety, when my mental health dwindles, or my hormones make me a monthly roller coaster, I tend to overspend.  A Ph.D. Health Communication candidate and teaching assistant on a very modest stipend (think minimum wage thereabouts), my purchases tend to be small, but when I was at my worst, they were constant small purchases, and on my very small income, with a mortgage to pay and groceries to buy, lipstick from Sephora or jewelry from Etsy is simply something I cannot afford right now.

Back when I made a much higher salary in my early twenties on Capitol Hill, I could easily save thousands of dollars a month and still afford manicures, makeup, and beauty purchases.  Now, freshly full-time in university as a student, professor-in-training, and running a household, luxury items are simply not something I can afford if I want to stock my fridge, pay the house off, and have a little extra for copays for my mental health medicine and a nest egg for car troubles or technology issues like shattering my phone screen.  Unfortunately, I have a small amount of credit card debt carried over from the summer and fall when I was manic and developed unhealthy spending habits.

So how to solve this?

Quit cold turkey.

I decided to start from scratch, cancel my credit card today, and switch to using a debit card and cash system on groceries and gas, instead of spending money only that is in the bank and not racking up purchases on credit.  I decided to come up with a budget: cancel my Etsy account, limit personal purchases to less than $200 a month, including going out to eat only once a week, social activities with friends that cost less and or nothing at all, spending only necessary clothes or food, and completely cutting off online spending.  I am only going to purchase items in storefronts alone.  Etsy and Amazon were huge money-suckers for me when I was manic and would impulsively spend credit cards online on perfumes, cute decorations, beauty products, and movies or TV shows or Kindle books on Amazon.

This safeguards me against manic spending in the future.  I am giving my backup credit card to my fiancee for safekeeping and will pay off my debt (it’s $2500, not too much, not too little) at increments of $200 a month, funnily enough bettering my credit score with on-time payments.  I am much better off then most Americans, who on average carry around $6,000 of credit card debt, and if you’re a Millenial, the debt is on average $42,000, with most of it on – you guessed it – credit cards.

So how to prevent manic spending, pay bills on time, and build a nest egg?  These tips might help you!

Budget, Budget, Budget:

I like to draft up a budget for each month: my half of the mortgage, how much I’ll spend on groceries (if Aldi is around you, it is a gamechanger!), and a small amount for personal purchases such as getting my nails done or going to the movies with friends. The goal is to have about 30% of your income before taxes going to rent or a mortgage, but that’s not always feasible if you’re a graduate student or just starting out your career.  I end up spending half of my income on my mortgage, so I budget accordingly.  I aim to spend about $100 on groceries every two weeks and utilize coupons and circulars to get discounts and shop at affordable grocery stores like Aldi or if I want something in bulk, Costco.  For fun, activities, gas, clothes, and eating out, I aim to spend $200 a month.  For the most part, I meet that.  That gives you $50 a month of play around money.  Also, budgeting allows you to build a nest egg in case your mania gets out of hand, and you do end up making big purchases.  Aim to save 20% of your income as a rule of thumb, 50% towards necessities, and 30% towards discretionary items.  The 50/30/20 rule of thumb!

Let’s say you had a bad spell, and you made a big purchase like Kay Redfield Jamison’s stuffed fox.  This has happened to me before.  Remember this: keep receipts, and return!

Keep Receipts for Returns

The truth is, if you experience mania or hypomania, you will probably experience overspending during a bad spell when you feel elevated.  That is why you should always keep receipts so you can return items!  Avoid linking your credit card to websites that usually don’t allow returns like Etsy.  Trust me, there is nothing necessary you need on websites like Etsy!  Amazon is good about returns, as are most brick and mortar stores.  Usually, you can return items within 30 days.  Have a folder or wallet where you organize your receipts by date, and never take tags off if you are unsure about a purchase.

Get a Loved One for Backup

I’m young.  I’m 25, fresh out of college, and am still learning how to budget and run a household and live on a very modest income (and I mean VERY modest!).  It’s okay to ask you’re significant other or parents to help monitor your spending if you ever feel unstable.  Many bipolar individuals give their financials and control of their credit cards over to their parents if they’re young, or husbands, wives, or partners if they are older.  There is no shame in that!  Talk to a loved one if you are struggling, and come up with a backup plan!  Debit cards are great because you can’t overspend, and a cash system (I sort my monthly allowance into envelopes!) ensures you are working with something tangible, something you can hold.  If you really need to, like me, disconnect your credit card from all online stores and give it to a loved one, who can make small purchases for you paid off in time to keep your credit score going.

With these three simple rules, manic spending can be minimized, reduced, prevented, and maybe even eliminated.  If you are a loved one is struggling with manic spending, remember, most Americans are in debt, and there are always options.

There is always hope.

photo credit: Sharon McCutcheon

If Only, a poem about motherhood

“If only, if only,” the young mother sighs, “I did all the chores;” there’s hope in her eyes.
She washes and foldses and relocates toys.
She vacuums and bleaches and separates boys.

“If only, if only,” the young mother shouts, “You’d not kill your brother when I’m not about.”
She wrestles and time-outs and wait till Dad’s homes.
She chastens and kisses and picks up her phone.

“If only, if only,” the young mother frets, “I didn’t buy takeout whenever we’re stressed.”
She hustles and buckles and drives to the queue.
She searches and scrounges and pays for the food.

“If only, if only,” the young mother fears, “When I spent the money, the money was there.”
She saves scraps and worries and checks the receipts.
She eats less and coupons and admits defeats.

“If only, if only,” the young mother pleads, “You’d all go to bed so that there’s time for me.”
She chases and washes and brushes their teeth.
She last-drinks and stories and wishes sweet dreams.

She closets and darkens and blocks all her calls.
She’s lonely and hopeless and sees only walls.
“If only, if only,” the young mother cries, waiting for change till the day that she dies.

If you feel trapped like this, send me a message. At the very least, we can swap diaper stories.

daiga-ellaby-699188-unsplash

Daiga Ellaby

Mental Health Matters

In my last post I talked about the importance of living in a way that promotes the positive, that celebrates the good, because frankly people / this person with mental illness NEEDS that.  That extra dose of sunshine that sometimes we just don’t get. Over the course of the last few weeks, for my sins, I have in South Africa been engaged about our National Health Insurance, about the provision of services, particularly mental health services.  Ok, I just read that back and laughed out loud.   Literally. No, we don’t have a great frame of reference.

In the one meeting a healthworker suggested that another strike be held to demonstrate what they thought.  What they believed.  Now as I’ve become increasingly Bipolar, my ability to have a poker face has become near to completely impossible, and I showed my disgust.  I mean, isn’t the basic premise of working in the health system that you’d rather not have people die?  That patients needed to stay alive to be treated, and when they did, you’d offer them the best possible service that you could manage within your constraints?   Wouldn’t that be what anyone wanted to do?  I’m not a healthworker, but I thought that was important.  That I wouldn’t want the healthworker I’d need when I was vulnerable to not be there, on strike, or otherwise predisposed.  And that’s pretty much what happens to people with mental illness whether the clinic / hospital is open or closed.  We don’t receive services because sometimes we don’t know we’re ill, sometimes we’re pushed to the back of the row, or triaged as “ok” unless you were slightly more important i.e. dying from a suicide attempt.  Awesome.

From everything I listened to – another person calling our health system – in a conference – Schizophrenic.  I stood up.  I said please don’t say that.  That’s racist to me and everyone who has a mental illness – who my good people – will exceed the number of people living with communicable diseases in the all to near future. Unfortunately.  So I have a better idea.  Let’s start a new conversation.  Let’s start a loud and proud new narrative that brings about fundamental changes to the mental health system the world over.  Let us find the money to provide the kind of mental health services that everyone needs at some point in their lives.  Because actually, people with mental illness in the world are no longer a minority.

Because as much as I have witnessed crumbling health systems, I have also witnessed political will, harnessing of philanthropic interest, a new energy to change things, make things that exist better.  And I firmly believe that where there’s a will, there’s a way.  And not only that, but that we can do it with kindness.  That we can smile.  And we can make mental health – for everyone – matter.  Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t. I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.