My Manifestations of Bipolar Mania: Crafting and Frugality

Different people have different manifestations of bipolar mania, but they tend to be consistent. Hypersexuality, overspending, not sleeping–all are symptoms and manifestations of mania. When I’m manic or hypomanic, I have two different types that appear most frequently: a desire to craft, and an obsession with frugality, both of which go hand in hand more often than not, but can sometimes conflict each other. Let’s take a closer look.

I love craft projects. Paintings, wreaths, cross stitch–you name it. DIY is my cup of tea.

Unfortunately, I am also bipolar. I’ll bet you can tell where this is going. One of my first signals that I’m going hypomanic is a burst of creativity. I get delusions of grandeur, and think I can handle any DIY regardless of my skill level. I tend to rush through projects, not using the right tools or waiting for paint to dry, and the crafts end up looking terrible. I’ll also stock up on tons of unneeded craft supplies “just in case” I think of a future project.

spray paint
Credit to user Daniel Naish. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

That’s how I ended up with a massive shelf of spray paint in my garage, with many, many colors ranging from navy blue to black to forest green. Nobody needs that much spray paint. Nobody.

During a recent hypomanic episode, I purchased four more cans of white spray paint, as well as other painting supplies and a second hot glue gun, for a total of $111. This might not seem like an exhorbitant amount compared to other people’s manic spending sprees, but the items were all unnecessary. I didn’t have a project in mind; I just wanted the stuff.

Another reason I think that’s a large amount to spend is the other manifestation of my mania: an obsession with frugality. I normally read personal finance blogs and keep a tight rein on my spending, but when I’m hypomanic, I’ve done things like Dumpster diving for an infant’s room decor (using items broken beyond repair) and hoarding food to the point of rotting.

I even grew my own container “garden” from seed out of soil I bought at a farm for pennies, planted in sauce cans. While I was manic, I overwatered the plants. After the mania ended, I sank into a huge depression and didn’t water them at all. Nothing grew, of course, except for some tiny, shriveled carrots, which at the time was devastating. Despite my husband’s high-paying job, I was convinced that my family would starve because I failed as a gardener.

All of these thoughts–from my thinking that I can handle any craft project to my worries that we would starve–are irrational. I know that now.

But mania is a hard dragon to slay. I used to get wrapped up in crafting to the exclusion of anything else, like eating. I decided when my second child was born to keep myself from crafting entirely in order to prevent my neglect of her. She’s a toddler now, and I’ve realized that this idea of mine turned out to be a mistake. Crafting feeds my soul, just as much as writing, and I’ve missed it just as much as I’d miss a missing finger.

So what did I do? I decided to try to have both a healthy amount of parenting time and the ability to craft DIY projects. With her in the room, I glued burlap and pinecones to a wreath form. This project only took ten minutes, and I was pleased with the result. The week after that, I wore her in my Ergo front-pack baby carrier

A painting of cherry blossom branches on a teal background, by Cassandra Stout. Protected under a Creative Commons license.

and painted a large canvas with some cherry blossom branches, which took thirty minutes.

So I’ve found a way to strike a balance with crafting. In the future, I’d like to continue to work on projects and be frugal without going overboard. So I’ll set alarms on my phone to take a break every twenty minutes during a craft project. I’ll set limits on how much¬† I can get done per day. I’ll stop reading personal finance blogs when I’m hypomanic, and wait until I’m on a more even keel to look over budgets. I’ll repeat self-affirmations to control my urges to craft or engage in overly-frugal activities.

And I’ll keep taking my meds, keep a good handle on my sleep, and try to nip delusions of grandeur in the bud, before I commit to buying anything or spending an inordinate amount of time. All I can do is manage my bipolar disorder, and try to prevent hypomanic episodes. Wish me luck.

How does your mania manifest?