Where Did All My Money Go?
Prominent psychiatrist Jan Fawcett has instructed spouses of those in manic episodes to “close the bank account and wait it out.” I wish I could have had someone to close my bank account.
I first bought a starter home. It was really all I needed, because I was single. But I obsessed about having a garage for some reason. And a paved driveway. Those two things would make me happy. A house with a garage and paved driveway went on sale just down the street, with beautiful maple trees, and right around the corner from school.
But the house didn't end up being my dream. When I purchased it, I really couldn’t digest the problems with the house on the inside, because it was so beautiful on the outside. Then my manic problems began in that house, and so did my crash into depression. I wanted so much to get away from my problems, I wanted to move another town away. And there was this gorgeous house in a nice neighborhood nearby. It had a two car garage with automatic door openers! I really couldn’t digest the problems with the house on the inside, because it was so beautiful on the outside. It actually was a good price for what the market seemed like at the time. I bought a car to go with my pickup truck, just to put in the two car garage.
As I believed at the time, and I certainly wasn’t the only one, real estate is always a good investment. They don’t make more of it. And the prices of houses were exploding. Then all of a sudden, the demand shriveled up. Houses were not selling. By now my manic phase was ebbing, and my stint as a landlord was about to begin.
To pay my mortgages, I had to rent out my two surplus houses, one the starter home and one my third home, the one with the two car garage and automatic door openers. I lived in house number two, the one that was mid-range compared to the two others. I lived in the nice one for a while, but I couldn’t afford it. I needed the higher rent I could get from the nice one. There was one crisis after another. Rent payments got missed. My property got damaged. One tenant let the pipes freeze and burst. Another just let the toilet keep running. Another had kids who would flush toys down the toilet. And one had a boyfriend who liked to get drunk and punch out walls. Evictions were expensive. And forget about the security deposit. Renters have a way of not paying rent the last couple months before leaving, an amount that would equal the security deposit. With the damage done and the lost equity, I sold the houses for a net loss of $62,000. I had spent six years of my life stressing and pouring money into an abyss. Expensive lesson. But, really, what had I learned? Not to be manic?
The house I live in now has all the memories of my manic episode inside it. And of the problems I had leading up to my major depressive episode. Briefly I thought maybe lead poisoning from the house had caused my issues. It can cause mood disorders. But I don’t drink the water. Nor do I eat paint chips. But I have noticed the interior paint is chipping, and I might be inhaling dust. I took a blood test for lead poisoning, though, and I was in normal range.
I have rules now about spending money. No credit cards. One debit card. If I leave my card at home and carry just $20 in cash, all I can spend is $20. With major purchases I ask myself: How much do I need it? How long have I wanted it? And no more houses.
Wild spending is associated with manic behavior to be sure, but depression can be detrimental to one’s finances to a degree also. Sitting up and paying bills requires more ambition than I have when I’m in a depression phase. That means late fees and damaged credit scores. Some people in states of depression shop excessively as a way of self-medicating. Retail therapy it’s sometimes called. We can repair our damaged relationships with apologies and explanations. That sometimes works. But it never works with our credit scores.
Compulsive shopping is its own disorder. Some 6 percent of the population is afflicted with it. It differs from bipolar overspending in that it doesn’t stop after a period of mania. It just continues. Some individuals with bipolar disorder have attempted crowdfunding to wipe out their debts. The results so far have been mixed.
The real estate crash claimed many victims. You didn't have to be bipolar. But I am. And it made it worse.