Concerns about money are both the biggest cause of stress for me, as well as a byproduct of being stressed out.
I have talked before about how I like to spend when I am manic, but I also spend when stress levels are high, even if my mood is normal. When I am stressed out I like to go out to eat or buy a lot of fancy groceries to eat away my stress. I buy a lot of liquor, often expensive Scotches, or craft beer to drink away my stress. I go buy clothes or tools or concert tickets to stop thinking about my stress.
But, I think the biggest culprit is that I go buy a lot of stuff for the house that we may or may not need right then. It is like my stress level is so high that I cannot deal with my shoddy old rake, so I buy a new one. Or I wanted to upgrade my barware, or felt like I needed some cooking gadget. It also helps that I can almost justify these purchases to my wife, ‘hey, we really needed this new vegetable roasting pan for the grill’. Whereas coming home with a new guitar pedal or video game system won’t cut it in my house.
Of course, it is a self-feeding circle. The more stress I find myself under, the more willing I am to buy my way out of it, and when I look at my credit card statement I freak out even more.
It eventually burns itself out, when I simply don’t have the money to spend anymore. And then I am just left there with the stress.
In a lot of ways, I believe the spending staves off depression for me. I can spend away my worry, and then my worry won’t turn the corner into full blown depression. Of course, depression doesn’t always go as planned. Sometimes it comes on anyway, sometimes there was nothing you could do, sometimes it skips the worry altogether. But even so, in the lighter ranges of depression, spending can feel pretty good too.
It doesn’t help any that bipolar is expensive to manage. Even if you have good mental health coverage, which I do, you are seeing a counselor once a week at your co-pay rate, say $20. You are seeing a shrink once a month or once every other month at the same $20. You take several medications that can cost you $50 a month. Right there, you have $150 out of pocket, every month. Inpatient hospital stays can cost upwards of $3500 a week. If you go through ECT it can cost the same again. It is easy to drop $10,000 a year on medical costs for mental health services, with good insurance.
I used to have insurance that was not very good, and my therapist (who charges on a sliding scale) would cost me $75 a week, that’s almost $4,000 a year! And there are many millions of people who need more attention then I need. They will see a therapist two or three times a week, and they will spend a week each year in an inpatient psych ward, and maybe several more weeks in an outpatient facility after their discharge.
It is expensive. And it is easy to feel lost within the shadows of those towering bills.
And when you can, it feels so good to spend your way out of it.