In my all too rare barely manic episodes, I have to be very careful about money. It ceases to mean anything to me and if I’m not vigilant, I can get in a lot of financial trouble. Three main things happen when I’m what’s called hypomanic (a low level mania): I don’t sleep much, I develop distinct obsessive/compulsive tendencies, and I go shopping.
Now it’s funny, but one of my worst episodes involved a clock radio. I wanted to get a new clock radio for my husband. His had broken and he relied on his watch alarm to wake up in time for work, which didn’t always succeed. The new clock radio needed a digital display that did not glow red, because red glowing things in the dark freaks me out. Guess how many that eliminated? Bear in mind this was before Internet shopping. I had to go out to the store and physically look at all the clock radios. On a sane day, I would have chosen a store with a good selection, picked out the best for my needs, and gone home. But it wasn’t a sane day.
So, my mind buzzing and whirling from lack of sleep and whatever else goes on when I’m manic, I got out the telephone book and made a list of every electronics store in the city. I had about two dozen stores listed. Then I organized them so that I could visit one after the other in a largish circle rather than driving haphazardly around. I started this at 7:00am and timed my departure from my home so that I would arrive at the first store when they opened at 9:00am. I had a spreadsheet I’d drawn by hand (and ruler – to get the lines straight because what good is a spreadsheet with crooked lines?) so I could “comparison shop.”
Yes, that’s right. I was going to visit every single store and evaluate all of the clock radios and once I’d seen every available one, I’d choose the best and go back and get it.
Do you have any idea how long it takes to visit two dozen electronics stores over a ten-mile radius? I finished, exhausted, well after dinner. I had ruled out every clock radio I’d seen for one reason or another. But I did come home with a new answering machine, a new telephone, and a really nice mini-cassette recorder. None of which we needed, and none of which we could afford.
I love the energy I have when I’m hypomanic; I hate the behaviors. And I use the word hate sparingly and purposefully.
On the flip side, when I’m anxious or depressed, I’m constantly stressing about money. Constantly stressing that we never have enough. I know probably all of you stress about money too, but I really think this is different. At the first sign that we might not have quite enough money to meet our financial obligations, I am immediately certain that if we spent less on food, we’d come out ahead, or at least break even. So I will solve that problem by not eating. If I don’t eat, that’s one less person to feed and that much more money for our other commitments.
I’ve been doing this for over twenty years and I can’t stop. As a teenager, when my depressions first started and were severe, I had to be force-fed because I’d lost 25 pounds in two weeks, dropping me to 80 lbs. My relationship with food is completely messed up, because it’s both a luxury (when I think I can afford it) and a consolation (when I’m so tired and depressed and I detest myself anyway so who cares if I eat an entire pint of ice cream?).
The fear of not having enough money, even before I sit down and figure out the numbers, is enough to drive me to panicked tears, feeling overwhelmed and hopeless and looking for any reason – any reason at all – to punish myself for not making sure we had enough.
My youngest (so far) is ready for preschool. More than that, he needs the socialization and physical and mental stimulation preschool can give him that I simply can’t at home. During the day, it’s just the two of us. We looked into preschool and as anyone who’s sent a child to preschool lately knows, it’s expensive. Even the most accommodating cheders are still not free and I wouldn’t want a charity education even if it were available because, in part, I know there are others who need it even more than we do.
We will work the numbers and try to make it fit and meanwhile I will try to do everything I can to not panic or starve myself or bawl my eyes out unnecessarily. It is hard. It’s hard for anyone; it’s a real feat when wacky brain chemistry turns a financial challenge into a feast or famine, walking that thin line between inner peace and inner punishment.
I try to remind myself of the hopes, the promises. I try to remember Yaakov avinu, whose story strikes such a chord in me. He left home under less than desirable relations with his family (like me), and years later found love, wealth, and reconciliation. His encounter with and promise from G-d is profound, and his realization that G-d is here and I didn’t know it – these at least open the door to me for accepting that all will be okay, if only I let it.
Does trust negate fear? Does belief overcome doubt? Can reliance upon G-d eliminate so much dependence on money in today’s world?