We have all heard of the term “shop till you drop”, well my manic bipolar phases, especially in my earlier working years, gave this term a whole new meaning.
When the squirrels starting raving, the shopping started happening.
I would head to an upmarket mall with the intention of just buying something, just one thing. But then I’d buy one, even two or three of the same. I’d then move onto the next store and the next store and the next store, all the while feeling exhilarated and on a stupendous retail high. One single shopping spree would exhaust every cent I had and then I’d progress to accounts, credit facilities and loans.
I’d buy things that I didn’t need. Things I would never need. I’d buy gifts and luxuries and clothes and shoes and handbags and bric-a-brac and jewellery and linen and curtains and everything I could literally lay my hands on.
What a mess!
I had accounts at every store that offered credit, but I couldn’t always pay the accounts and so the vicious cycle of spend and regret took hold of me. In a mania I’d spend, in a depression I’d regret and in my stable phases I’d attempt to fix the mess.
In desperation I would return unused goods to stores. Most of my purchases were either duplications or of no use to me, and so they could be returned or exchanged for something that I would actually be useful. I would also attempt to pay what I owed or at least negotiate with my creditors.
In the mania I would neglect to pay important expenses like rent, insurance and utilities. Once I had come to my senses I would take on second or third jobs, to make extra money and pay what was due. It was exhausting. It was also downright embarrassing and humiliating.
After I got married to an even more financially irresponsible and selfish man, I started to learn how to manage money and apply discipline when the need for a spree arose. I then fell pregnant and into my sixth month of pregnancy found myself alone and penniless. Fortunately my family helped, but I knew that once my darling child made her appearance I would be solely responsible for her wellbeing and material needs.
My priorities changed, my bipolar didn’t. Instead of spending money on myself, I spent it on my precious angel. She had everything a child could dream of. I rationalised this by convincing myself that she really needed all these things. Fortunately I didn’t rack up much debt this time round, but I did work harder and harder so that I could earn more and maintain the excess without the added stress of angry creditors.
Once my child started school, I just couldn’t shop wildly and sustain her genuine needs. I had to face the reality that my shopping mania would have to end. In all honesty, my daughter was my saviour. I loved her more than I loved shopping and I began to channel my bursts of energy into more productive efforts. I played with her, taught her, read to her, danced with her, made music with her and gave her my full attention. She thrived and so did I.
Occasionally I still feel the need to shop up a storm but I am able to limit my spending to important and necessary purchases.
Consequently I am able to acknowledge the fact that my spending sprees ultimately fuelled my dark places and caused me much anguish and remorse. I was irresponsible and out of control.
Also, I now can’t walk through a shopping centre without experiencing a full-blown panic attack ….. it’s just as well!