When I was in my last huge manic episode, I was completely unable to resist the urge impulse and ended up maxing out seven credit cards to the tune of around $2,500. I was actually lucky that I didn’t have more because I am certain I would have maxed out 100 credit cards. I would shop if I was happy to celebrate whatever had made me happy; if someone made me (you notice the “made me” in that sentence?) angry or hurt my feelings, I would shop. If the sky was blue and the day ended with “day” I would shop. I would buy anything from pink parachute pants to Wonder Bras; ceramic masks to luggage sets. It didn’t matter what I was buying, it was just the whole experience of retail therapy. I thought that by going with these impulses, I would find a way to happiness. Never mind that I was setting up a financial nightmare for my future, non-manic self. Why think about tomorrow when you can spend freely today? Besides, I had to buy these things. The world would stop spinning, I would stop breathing and all would turn to darkness if I didn’t. After all, that’s what the voice inside my head was telling me and if you can’t trust that voice inside of your head, who can you trust?
Of course, nothing lasts forever and thank God for that. After the madness had passed and I had returned to the reality of debt, I was deeply depressed. How would I ever be able to pay off all those cards? What did I have to show for all those thousands of dollars? Well, the parachute pants had long since gone out of style, the Wonder bras surely didn’t add up to a couple thousand and change. Oh and the other thing I loved to do was give things away. Almost as soon as I had purchased something, the impulse to give it away usually followed. Sometimes I could bargain with myself and give away something that old, that I had already bought months or years ago. That’s also why I had nothing to show for it. But, as my dad used to say, the hardest lessons are the ones we most need to learn. Or something like that.
Today, I still have that urge to go shopping and buy whatever catches my eye or my fancy. However, I have no credit cards and if I overspend, I go hungry. This makes it much easier to put things down and walk out of the store empty-handed and not feel cheated. Also, since people aren’t making me anything, I can’t use that excuse. If I have made choices that lead to me being angry, I now understand that no amount of retail therapy will make that anger go away. I now understand the difference between therapy that helps me to deal with difficulties and therapy that enables me in avoiding them. One doesn’t have to be manic to be a slave to impulses or to engage in behavior with no limits, no boundaries. I am constantly working on disciplining myself against those behaviors that hold me back from realizing my True Self and exercising those actions that bring me closer. I will go shopping and if I find something that interests me, I will put it in my basket or carry it around with me for a while to see if my desire for it can last more than 15 minutes or so. You’d be surprised at how many things actually leave the store with me. It’s little tactics and tricks like that I use to save me from myself. So far, it seems to be working.
Now I’m off for some Friend Talk Therapy over coffee and to celebrate my independence from credit cards, mountains of debt and the end result – debilitating depression.
Happy Independence Day!