I bought a new pair of running shoes and I’m not a runner. I could go on here about the fact that I used to run 5ks just a few years ago, what a huge accomplishment that was for me, that I stopped after my worst manic episode on record, and now after a few years I want to get back to a healthier physical regimen. (I’ll follow up with a post on all that later.) But instead this is about the guilt that comes with spending the money on shoes that I actually do need.

Why do I need the shoes? The last pair of trainers I bought ended up being dog walking shoes and the treads are now worn off. The other two pair of shoes I have are hand me downs from my marathon running sibling. They are a step away from being yard shoes. So I figure it’s valid to purchase a new pair of shoes, even if my goal to start mildly trotting around the neighborhood doesn’t actually come to be.

But the guilt. It still blindsides me from time to time. After managing to survive the financially devastating storms of mania, not once or twice, but numerous times, I still feel guilty sometimes for purchasing something I need. I always have to validate my purchases to my spouse, because after so many years of embarrassing financial misadventures, the trust in me is shaky at best.

Let’s reflect. One manic episode was twice weekly packages from Victoria’s Secret for an entire summer. Another episode, literally one closet full of vintage clothes–all from eBay. And then there was the insistence that I could make a living selling crafts online–no specific craft really, just a list of about twenty different ideas–and all the purchased supplies to make said items. Hobby Lobby either loved or hated to see me coming in the door. My basement looked like a continuous craftermath.

There were many more manic spending sprees, and then of course all the little hypomanic ones that seemed to slip by unaccounted for, brushed off as “but I needed that new shirt (pants, shoes, book, garden plant, etc.)”

So, yes, sometimes there’s still guilt, and then I tackle it.

After working for years with my therapists, I’ve learned quite a lot about the mania/hypomania correlation to finances, but that there are so many other things that can affect fiscal apprehension, misuse, and flagrant irresponsibility.

  • How your parent(s) handled finances and the example they set
  • How you are treated by your parent(s)/partner/spouse when you make purchases
  • Dissatisfaction with other areas of your life
  • Depression
  • Trying to keep a feeling of control over your life through spending
  • “Retail therapy”
  • Spending as action towards a goal, rather than taking appropriate steps towards a goal; (example: if I buy 30 tubes of acrylic paint, 20 brushes, canvases and studio supplies, this means I’ll finally meet my goal of becoming an artist)

I’ve also learned that not everyone who has financial woes has Bipolar. And not every Bipolar person ends up having financial episodes. There is a tangled web of hurdles and issues that intertwine with the bipolar chemistry. Working with your therapist through your own account of personal emotions, past life events, mood history, and habits is the only way you will begin to make positive changes that lessen and avoid future financial mishaps. Their extensive knowledge will enable the two of you as a team to become aware of triggers, evaluate current habits, establish an action plan, and execute new behaviors and routines to empower you financially.

For me, most days, I’m handling the financial maize pretty well. It’s taken a lot of hard work to get here. I am aware of my triggers and always have to be on the lookout for even tiny changes in mood. But I still have my slip ups, too. Sometimes just one step higher on the mood scale, and I’ll obsess about why I suddenly need a new set of bath towels.

Just remember that working the above steps with our therapists are part of the puzzle in lessening feelings of guilt. Forgiving ourselves for our past and strengthening our financial abilities for our future helps us to tell guilt “It’s time you left me. I’ve got better things to think about.”

And I do have better things to think about. Like lacing up my new trainers and shuffling around my neighborhood pretending I’m winning a marathon. Because each day we have a small success, the guilt gets left further in the distance.