The relationship between debt & bipolar
The trouble with depression, bipolar and any other mental illness is you are fighting your own battles. When you’re very ill, you are unable to get out of bed, go to work, and everything is an absolute struggle. When it gets to the point of despair, and you can’t cope, everything is affected, even money.
What causes debt in bipolar disorder?
To give an idea of debt can happen in bipolar I’ll share my personal story. I hope this can raise awareness of debt in bipolar disorders and help to eliminate social stigma in my own small way.
My debt story
Before my bipolar diagnosis at 39 years old, I thought my rapid cycling extreme mood swings were part of my personality. That the mood swings were just me.
Debt in depression
Half the time I hated myself, I mean really detested every atom of my being. My thoughts would only be extremely negative about myself. I would not talk to anybody, and to those I did, I would be short tempered. When driving, I would see myself not braking for a bend and driving at speed into a wall or building, even other vehicles.
On the way down to deep depression, I would spend money on frivolous things as the act of buying things would make me feel slightly better at that moment. It was only short term though.
When I was self-employed and ran my own small property maintenance business, I would buy tools I may not have needed. I would spend lots of money on alcohol to self-medicate when depressed to try and give my mood a lift.
Debt in bipolar mania
I said before that half the time I hated myself. Well, the other half I thought I was the most incredible person in the world. I would feel euphoric and believed I was invincible. My driving would be incredibly reckless. I would drive too fast for the conditions and overtake when it was far too dangerous.
At home, i’d run around the house jumping around on the furniture singing ridiculous on the spot made up rhymes. Now, jumping around on the furniture might sound ok. But try to imagine a guy who’s 6ft1″ and weighs 16 stone laughing his head off, with tears streaming down his face, singing at the top of his voice, jumping from one piece of furniture to another. I can barely imagine it now!
Overspending when manic is extremely common in bipolar. I would spend very frivolously. I would go to the supermarket and buy way too much and then end up throwing out of date food away. Because I was so euphoric, I wanted everyone to see how happy I was so I would forever be in pubs and bars spending money on alcohol. I would buy people I didn’t know drinks. Taxi drivers would be tipped way too much. I would buy things on the spur of the moment and not worry about the cost.
33% OF BIPOLAR PEOPLE ARE IN DEBT COMPARED TO 9% OF PEOPLE WITHOUT A MENTAL ILLNESS.
Because the overspending caused my bank balance to be in the red, I became reliant on credit cards. Then I would overspend on these. The mania would have me believe that everything will be alright and that I will be able to pay balances off in no time.
The problem is that at the end of a manic phase I would descend into depression for sometimes 3 or 4 weeks. This meant I couldn’t work, and as I was self-employed I couldn’t pay the credit cards. Sometimes the utility bills wouldn’t be paid off. Although luckily we never had any service cut off, mentally ill people are five times more likely than those without a mental illness, to have a domestic utility disconnected.
My bipolar diagnosis
After more than 20 years of switching between the person dancing around on the furniture to, driving one car into a tree and another in a hedge, I was given the diagnosis of rapid cycling bipolar. That’s when I slowly concluded that the over the top actions, and depressive episodes were not my fault. It was all because of the Bipolar disorder.
I’ve begun to accept my diagnosis and live with it; I see a psychiatrist regularly, have medication which at the moment is a good fit for me and hope to have some therapy coming up soon. Although I know my relationship with Bipolar will always be difficult, I’m always going to love and hate it.
Cure for bipolar debt?
Household bills and other debts become impossible to manage and has a vicious circle effect. The debts may have piled up due to the depression, and the mounting bills become a trigger for depression.
There is free financial advice available from charities such as Stepchange in the UK. Banks and other financial institutions fund Stepchange. They take over your debts and deal with your creditors on your behalf. They will go through your income and expenditure and ensure that any payment plan is affordable.
Personally, I have used Stepchange and have found them to be brilliant, but there are a couple of other debt charities available also. Whoever you choose make sure they don’t charge you for their services.
Although this doesn’t cure depression or bipolar, it means you can focus any energy you have into getting well.
Citizens Advice Bureau is also an excellent free resource where you can get face to face advice.