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How Manic Phases Effect Finances When You’re Bipolar.

Melany was diagnosed with bipolar disorder years ago. This is her story, in her own words……

Why would mania be a struggle, it’s the “happy” part of bipolar disorder right? Essentially, yes. Words synonymous to mania are passion and enthusiasm- unfortunately, lunacy and craziness are also synonyms. Deep in the throws of mania, I’m an emotional “yes man”. My inhibitions are lowered and I’m craving socialization, so nothing sounds like a bad idea. I am incapable of checking myself. Mania can create some of the saddest moments of the illness.

My journey through bipolar disorder, especially the manic stages, has had a lasting effect on my functioning relationships and has become the biggest struggle of my life. Mania creates hardships for your support system: family, friends, and coworkers, because it burns people out. I obsess over things, make too many demands, spend too much.

Mania can create some of the saddest moments of the illness.

– Melany Gatzke

When obsessing, I’m needy and pour myself into others, thinking they are as needy as I am, and will enjoy the attention. Usually they don’t and feel like I’m smothering them: It pushes people away.

Another major symptom during one of my manic phases is overspending (That slithery snake). The finances are one of the hardest areas hit. It starts with new and more expensive groceries. It’s food, right? I feel if we need it, the extra expense is justified. It snowballs from there….

             ….I move up to household items like decor. Then purchases for the kids and me.

At the beginning of these personal purchases, I buy useful things. Bedding, books and outerwear. Groceries, clothing and storage……

     ….But, magazine subscriptions, tattoos, photo albums, and other useless things follow.

When this spending isn’t enough, I start gifting to people; any people. In fact, to just about anyone that smiles at me. One memory is still fresh in my mind…..

In a pub, years ago, during one of my highest points ever, a man said he was AWOL from the US Army. He ended up in Canada & wanted his family to be with him. His wife couldn’t collect benefits, obviously, because the government cut them off when he ran. “Living here in Canada and sending money back home!?” I thought, “Tssk, terrible story!” I wrote him a $100 check, which cleared, and I never saw him again. It’s deathly embarrassing to me to this day. In my manic state, I would have fallen for any story, and often did- even his.

Another example: 

I was in a mental health hospital to be treated for my bipolar disorder, while in a manic state. Although I didn’t smoke, I bought 3 packages of cigarettes for patients that didn’t have any, a stuffed animal and chocolates for another patient that never received visitors, and flowers for the nurses and a new friend. I spent over $150 (!!)- All while being treated for an illness with a massive side effect: overspending. (Ironic, isn’t it?)

Know the signs.

Overspending has been hard on my family and my mental health, almost devastatingly so. Sometimes the effects are felt for months or years afterward.

I worry how it will influence my two daughters. The spending my kids witness is painful to think about and I know they receive a warped image about the proper handling of money, from my example. When I’m well, I budget and comparison shop. In the frenzy of mania, I spend recklessly, aware that the kids are learning by bad example. I detest the thought of encouraging these behaviours in them!

The most important person in my life is my husband: my support system, my best friend, and our home’s breadwinner. All the symptoms of mania, and their repercussions, are his as much as mine. When things like a maxed-out credit card happen, he’s stuck with the payments through no fault of his own. As you can expect, this creates tension between us. And still, he stays.

Because of my amazing husband,  I’ve known the luxury of being a stay-at-home mom for years. It’s helped me heal, but also causes me massive guilt. Although I don’t contribute financially, I’m good at getting us into dire financial situations. Over the years, this causes a parent/child relationship, rather than a husband/wife relationship, with our finances. I understand that this shift in our relationship was necessary.

When I’m well, I budget and comparison shop. In the frenzy of mania, I spend recklessly, aware that the kids are learning by bad example. I detest the thought of encouraging these behaviours in them!

– Melany Gatzke

The frustration my husband feels is completely valid. While manic, I’m offended if he puts limits on my spending. Solutions and compromises have been made: we’ve changed my access to bank accounts, I live on a cash allowance, and my husband has had to stand firm with those decisions. I realize the importance of the limitations when I’m doing well.

 It’s a process to explain my illness and symptoms to my husband. He tries, is supportive and is still here! Even when he doesn’t fully understand what is happening to me or why. He is the best partner and I really do understand how fortunate that makes me. With 14 years of marriage under our belt, he now recognizes my manic signs and questions me if he sees them.

The saddest part of mania is feeling stable and healthy, but still having to take seconds every morning to check that it’s “only happiness”. It’s a daunting task. Through my experience with the illness, and its seemingly inevitable fallout, I start to hold back my true emotions. For fear of becoming too giddy, too happy, or too involved- for fear of becoming manic. It’s sad.

I am an intelligent woman, yet that means nothing when mania starts to take over. I know this affects other people with bipolar disorder, too. Often, we rely on support systems or doctors who notice indicators. That’s the only way we can begin to heal- with help.

In a manic phase, you have a high and mighty “God complex” of sorts. Then, you can step off of the high pedestal that is mania and fall into depression. With bipolar disorder, a slip into depression can be harder, faster, and last longer. For some time, you may feel it will never end.

Therefore, I know that medications, therapists and support groups are to be used with zero guilt. It might sound like a cocktail, but, if my 8 pills a day, plus therapy (always use therapy) can keep me stable, happy, and healthy, it’s beyond worth it. My life and all its branches only function peacefully when l am well.

If this resonates with you because you have bipolar disorder and feel happy today, but you’re doubting yourself, or scared, ask someone you love if they think you’re in mania. If they say yes, you and your support group must learn how to handle it to the best of your abilities. But if the answer is no, go and bask in that sunshine, because it IS​ true, pure happiness you’re feeling, and it is the only thing we should ever settle for.

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  • H T October 14, 2019 at 17:59

    I can relate. The only difference is I have no better half to check my habits. I am the person who sees my mistakes and regrets them after the fact. My financial state can best be described as complete chaos. I work hard but spend freely and have nothing in savings to protect my kids and myself if something were to happen. Then, after spending money that should have been designated for bills, I feel horrible and worry sets in followed by a seemingly endless bout with depression.


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