*addiction, compulsive behaviour, and any other symptom can be substituted for the one I’ve chosen to write about. Pick your poison.*
How does one make amends for all of the horrible things that they do in a day? How does one recognize when their actions are underhanded? Is there a line between succumbing to your symptoms and being malicious?
Bipolar comes with some very unique symptoms, some of which are compulsive spending, and habitual sneakiness (I have refrained from using the word lie, because it insinuates a conscious decision to deceive). Usually accompanied by these symptoms is regret, self-loathing, and sometimes, thoughts of suicide and/or self-harm. When you are involved in a partnership, you are expected to, and want to, contribute to said partnership. Whether it be a roommate, a spouse, an employer, you want to succeed at being normal. You hope and pray and beg yourself to make this the partnership that changes everything. You set your sights high, and you start out with a clarity you’ve never experienced before. More often than not, that clarity is delusion. Your glorious brain telling you that it’s finally got a grip and is going to behave itself.
Everything is hunky dory until your first regression. A trigger, known or unknown, presents itself, and you panic. The light switch is clicked off and you are left in the darkness of your disease, groping for anything that will help pull you out. What’s the first thing you grab? Your debit card.
Impulsive spending is a very slippery slope that destroys more than your credit; but how do you curb it? How do you avoid these destructive behaviours that can cause myriad problems for you and the people you love? You don’t do it on purpose, it just happens. For those around you who don’t live with bipolar, this is not a good enough excuse. How can spending money be a symptom of anything, aside from vanity and arrogance?
Unfortunately for all, this is a well documented and very real problem that the majority of us don’t know how to deal with. We don’t know why we do it, how can we possibly ask for your understanding and forgiveness?
So we hide it. We find ways to bring things in without notice. We shop online, we overspend on things we consider necessity, until we get called out on it. We don’t have the forethought to cover our tracks. Hindsight is usually found on the way home from a panic shop, when you have to consider how everything will get in the house undetected. When the panic has passed, the guilt comes knocking. If you don’t catch us we feel the guilt of being dishonest, but we’re also afraid of having to tell the truth. What will be the straw which breaks the camel’s back? If we do get found out, we have a very quick decision to make, though it’s not entirely conscious decision. We must decide if we will defend, or amend.
If you are in defence mode, it turns into a battle royale. Our magical brains come up with excuses at the speed of light. It is expert at telling us why you’re at fault. Why you’re the one causing our problems. If we decide to make amends, we must admit freely that we are wholly in the wrong, and that even though it is a symptom, it is not an excuse for destructive behaviours.
The wish of those struggling with compulsive/impulsive spending is of course, to permanently stop those behaviours. The knowledge that we cannot completely eradicate ourselves of these short comings amplifies the self-loathing, which can lead to harmful thoughts and behaviours.
Mental health/illness is a cycle. You are the hamster running on the wheel of illness, powerless to stop and get off. You are exhausted, you don’t remember why you’re running, but here you are.
So you keep spinning the wheel, every rotation presenting a new obstacle. Sometimes the hardest obstacle is progress. The longer you succeed at ‘wellness’ the more steep and rapid the descent becomes. Every few rotations you slow down enough to ask yourself if any of your triumphs have been worth it. Is anything worth it? Is continuously punishing your loved ones worth it? You know that you’re ruining their lives.
Like many of my posts, I don’t have the answer for how to fix this. I struggle with this symptom almost daily, and there have been many low points where I’ve had to defend or amend. Luckily for me, I have an unreasonably understanding husband who refuses to give up on me. Does that make our rows over finances any easier? Hell no. More often than not I would prefer if he yelled, or threw in the towel. The self sabotage finally works, and I am left alone to deal with my psychosis. That suicidal grey area that tells me he’s better off without me is a very scary place. It doesn’t tell me that I don’t love my family, it tells me that if I truly loved them I would free them from the burden of my existence.
However, as of right now, I have chosen to accept my defects, make amends, and work with my loved ones to be an effective and valuable partner. I won’t ever stop running on my wheel, but I think the struggle is worth it, and I would rather be their burden in life than their burden in death.