Buried way back in my FaceBook statuses, I think from 2010 is a status about dreaming I overdrew my checking account buying a Vitamix. Now if you don’t know, a Vitamix is a very fancy blender. It can cook soup, grind flour, reduce nuts to powder, etc. It’s also fantastically expensive: $409 2014 dollars for a basic model.
I remember noticing the Vitamix for sale in the coop grocery store where I shop but I did not remember the strength of my longing for one. Last winter, I was reading back through my facebook feed – like you do – one night and came across my status about waking to discover my overdrawn checking account had only been a dream. Per FaceBook, a few fellow FaceBook users had liked this status and one had shared it. As you might imagine I had written it funny. I could vaguely remember writing the status. I could remember the Vitamix in the coop on a high shelf near the produce section. I could not remember the dream.
Regardless I instantly could imagine my anxiety ruled sleep until I woke and then logged into my bank’s website. No purchase of that amount or anywhere near it. My bank balance precisely what I was expecting. The instant relief. I could instantly imagine this anxiety because I know about mania-induced spending. I would always buy categories of things I could justify in some way. Nice clothes for school or work. Extra money on the bus pass. Things for my apartment. Groceries I barely ate. Fortunately, never a Vitamix. Unfortunately we’re certainly talking about more than $10,000 total over the years.
I never was a bit concerned about the money as I spent it. It was always for a ‘reasonable’ purchase. Whatever I was buying I needed. I needed to iron my clothes. Buy an expensive iron. I needed clothes. Buy so many clothes a roommate (also a dear friend) once told me that “I thought I had more clothes than you when I moved in. I was wrong.” I needed to read, and I was so certain this or that book would fill in something I was working on. The book would enlighten me, would bring out my higher self. If I could only find the right book I would never crash into a depression again. Therefore I needed the book. I had to have whichever book immediately. No way could I wait to buy it from the used bookstore even the next morning. Of course, I couldn’t wait even longer to borrow it from the library either. And so I would buy it. And buy another, and buy another, and buy another.
These were my weaknesses. Books, clothes, food. Some jewelry. In the last six months I was worried because I was overspending slightly in some categories of my budget. I told my psychiatrist; he asked if I had spent thousands of dollars on something like a flat-screen television. I said no, and reminded him I had no interest in televisions. I could not imagine any justification for a flat-screened television. A television was not clothes, jewelry or fancy food. It was not a book.
Budget, noun: Something I never had at my most manic. At my most manic I would almost never look at my accounts. I had spent so quickly and thoughtlessly that I had no clue how much I had spent nor where. I thought there was no point attempting to reconcile the unknown. And so, in those worst years, I would spend until I crashed into depression or my family intervened. I was functioning sort of for awhile. I was in school. Had a job. Then I didn’t. Then I had an internship. Then a job. Then I didn’t. I always thought of mania as high spirits, as the best relief in the world, as a chance to not care if I didn’t sleep so I could read more, as a counterpoint to the fog that ruled my depression. Of course, there could always come the moment when it slipped past high spirits into restlessness, into an inability to read, into impulsiveness so grave it would frighten me. ↩