Astramillie’s Weblog

Just a girl who’s bipolar trying to figure out her world

Mania, money, and me May 18, 2008

Where did it go wrong? So, so many places.  Now, this isn’t a therapy session where I’m going to place all of the blame on my mother.  But, I learned quite a few habits from her, or what I thought were her habits.  Let’s start at the beginning, or at about age 13.

My problem with money has two parts.  Manic spending, and bad money management.  So, its illness related and situational – if you can understand the distinction.  When I was a kid my dad would go on and on about how tight money was, then the next Saturday my mother would take us shopping.  Here’s the catch – My mother had her own job.  I didn’t put that into consideration.  Next – we lived on a ranch and I was a big time 4-H’er (I’ll take a second here for you to laugh and get it out of your system) OK, so I raised cattle.  I needed to be able to buy alfalfa, grain, etc. And have a place to put the money I would earn from selling a steer or what have you.  So, at 13 I opened my first checking account.  Not a joint account, my own.  BAD IDEA.  I kept getting overdrawn.  I have this idea, that I guess started then that I can keep a tally in my head.  Well, I can’t.  Well, mom would end up giving me the money I needed to cover the overdrafts.  So, their big plan to teach me responsibility actually taught me that money comes from the sky.

I still have that theory, because in the worst of times I’ve been able to figure something out.  Yes, at times its been my parents bailing me out.  But, more often its been something more inventive (always legal, so wipe that thought out of your head), like getting an advance on financial aid checks sent to me even though my school only gives them to people who live on campus, etc.  Used to drive my ex-boyfriend crazy when all of a sudden I’d find some weird temp tutoring job right in the nick of time. 

 Yet, it doesn’t always work.  I might find enough money to keep the lights on and to be able to eat, but I’ve had three checking accounts closed and I filed for bankruptcy about 5 years ago mainly due to pay day loans (evil things).  I don’t write things down, I don’t keep receipts, paycheck stubs, tax returns, bank statements, or any of the other things you are supposed to.  I have this fantasy that I can keep it all in my head.  Why I still hold on to this fantasy I don’t understand after 25 years or so of this you’d think I’d learn.

When I’m manic, and if I have money, or some type of access to money, I generally head to Target, I get a cart and just walk around the store in a sort of daze and throw things into the cart.  In these cases I usually can keep a tally of how much I can spend.  If I realize I have too much, I’ll choose something to take out of the cart and just put it on a shelf wherever I happen to be.  As I head to the register its a rush.  While the cashier is ringing things up I’m crossing my fingers that I didn’t go over.  I rarely do.  Its almost better than sex.  When they hand me those bags, I don’t know, it must be what smoking that first hit of crack must feels like.  Then, when I get it all home, I crash.  Hopefully, I did buy something I really needed or wanted.  If I’m well enough I can do what my previous Psych doc used to tell me to do.  Take things back.

Therein lay the problem with ebay.  You can’t return items you win.  You can try and resell them.  Which I did try.  But, I bought a lot of crap that no one wanted.  That’s why I won a lot of stuff, no one else wanted it. 

After my parents realized I had pretty much hacked into our joint account to set up paypal so I could go on ebay, they were furious (obviously) and scared for me and for themselves (I had put them in financial jeopardy).  I was starting to feel better, the new meds were finally stabilizing, and realizing what I had done.  With this realization I knew that I needed someone who was tougher to watch over my money.  I also wanted to take it off my mother’s shoulders, it was killing her.  She was angry as hell, but in deep pain because she saw how ill her daughter was.  I didn’t want to inflict this on her anymore.

I’ve talked to a group of lawyers who act as conservators and money managers mainly for elderly clients, and they set up exactly what I need.  I only need a money manager, I’m in no way in need of anything as serious as a conservator.  They aren’t going to take my case because they are too expensive, but are going to help me find someone who I can afford – they already have a few names for me.  My mother acts like she doesn’t mind doing it.  But, I know once I set this up a huge weight is going to be lifted off her shoulders and our relationship is going to improve ten fold.

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5 Responses to “Mania, money, and me”

  1. Greybeard Says:

    over-spending is probably the most pernicious of addictions. our economy is dependent on it. it is in essence “the american way of life”. while your addictive tendencies are more glaring they aren’t too much different from my own. mine are pretty much identical to my substance abuse issues. as long as i don’t do it i’m relatively okay, financially speaking. as soon as i make a purchase, needed or not, as sort of craving develops and i end up going way overboard. every time i give in to desire that desire is then increased exponentially. i’ll never have a handle on it. the only people that seem to be able to manage money effectively are people who aren’t interested in anything.

  2. astramillie Says:

    You’re exactly right! Once I give in, I think I can make it go away by, say, going to buy a couple of cat toys and a t-shirt. Once I’m out of the store I’ve spent over $100. Each thing I throw in the cart I’m sure I NEED. Yes, I do take some things out at times when I do have a spending limit. But, its like smoking. I don’t understand people who can have a pack of cigarettes in their house and smoke 2 a day. I just don’t get it. I have to smoke them all. Or at least my habit of a pack a day. I hear them calling my name. Just like the room deoderizers. Or the six cans of Ajax I bought once because there was a sale. When I was on the vicodin train I couldn’t understand people who could (still can’t really) have a full bottle just sitting in their medicine cabinet for a month and not take a handfull. I guess therein lies addiction. The only person I really know who really manages money well is my grandmother (who is forever lecturing me, like that’s going to help. It usually sends me straight to ebay or the dollar store) and that’s the depression baby coming out in her.

  3. 90nights Says:

    Thanks for sharing! I know to compensate for my spending and financial mismanagement, I always tried to keep a cash “cushion” in my account so I didn’t have to worry about balancing me checkbook. Clearly that only works for so long, though…

    Thanks again!

  4. astramillie Says:

    You’re welcome! The choice to turn over my finances was not an easy one, but it was the correct one.

  5. Jane Says:

    I have had some of these same problems with money before

    “So, at 13 I opened my first checking account. Not a joint account, my own. BAD IDEA. I kept getting overdrawn”

    Come on girl! Cut yourself a little slack, you were 13! You are not supposed to be a finance executive or a banking manager at 13! You are suppose to be a teen! You are supposed to overdraw. That is part of the lesson.

    I grew up dirt poor and never had anything expensive or valuable growing except a bike. When I got a job at 14 washing dishing, yea I went shopping, when I was working fulltime in a factory at age 18, yea I took my paycheck and went shopping.

    Yea I caused myself some problems with bills too.

    My problems were, A, I was very bad at math, B, I loved shopping, C, I had never had enough, D, I had poor impulse control when it came to buying *stuff*

    All of it was a learning experience and lessons I had to learn through behavioral adaptation. I still am not the best household budgeter, I still suck at math and I still love shopping, I learned to deny myself money and allocate financial stuff to my spouse who is much better.

    It’s ok that not everyone is a master of balancing a checkbook if you have some support and it sounds like you at least have a family to help. Mine gave me up because of the Bipolar.

    I am not sure you can call being a poor numbers planner a symptom of a genetic incurable disease, that’s quit a stretch,

    There are work arounds to the whole, ‘omg im manic and i got my check today and I smell a shopping trip coming on’.

    It took some time but I learned a lot of coping mechanisms for that over the years and none of them have to do with meds.

    Go easy on yourself girl,


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