Sometimes traditional therapy just doesn’t cut it!

Lets face it.  Having bipolar disorder can give us some symptoms that are really, really hard to control, like trouble with our spending habits.  Not all of us face it, but a lot do.  Some call it spending sprees, others refer to it as retail therapy.  Whatever your pleasure, its still the same.  Mine used to be going on my lunch break and walking around the stores, gathering all the things that I thought I needed or wanted.  Then, I would either purchase them and return them the next day because guilt would wash over me, or, at the end of my stay at the store, just before hitting the line for the checkout, I would look at each thing and give a reason why I SHOULDN’T buy it….. thereby leaving EVERYTHING in a heap near the checkout line and walking out of the store empty handed.

BEFORE THOSE OF YOU THAT WORK IN RETAIL START YELLING……  I used to work in retail.  I worked at Walgreens for 2 1/2 years, then during holiday seasons when I was back in Chicago from school, I worked at a clothing store (yes, during Christmas time at a large chain clothing store attached to the closest mall for several miles, with varying departments), most seasons working in Men’s Furnishings where I spent many Christmas seasons folding men’s silk ties after being torn through all day by the customers filled with their holiday spirited rage!   SOOOOO, YES, I would feel HORRIBLE leaving it all there because I have been the girl who looks at the pile of stuff and goes “WTF!” and rants and raves about how people are too lazy to put things back and why did they have to leave a whole heap from every single department in the store in MY department for me to clean up.  SO, yes, I would feel horrible.

There was a girl I worked with who was a paralegal and was going to school to get her masters in Psychology, and her office was next to mine.  She took a great interest in my behaviors, not in a judgmental or weird way, but because she was interested in seeing first hand the behaviors of some of the illnesses that she was learning about.  She would always ask me what I did on my lunch break.  When I would tell her I went to State Street (my work was 1/2 block off of State Street in Chicago) or Water Tower Place, she would always ask what I bought.  When I would reply,  “Nothing,” she was always confused.  I would explain all the things I had wanted to buy and then gave her all the reasons I didn’t buy it.  Or, if I had bought something, the following day when I would tell her I returned it, she would be so confused.   My reasons were usually that it didn’t fit right, or I realized I had something at home just like it and I should use the money for something else, etc.

Yes, it always appeared that I had shopping bags and that I was a huge shop-a-holic, but if you ever looked at my actual bank statements, you would have seen otherwise.  I mean, I’m surprised I was still allowed to shop at some stores because I was always back returning the things.  Don’t get me wrong, there were some things that I would keep, if I could truly justify them (I needed the dress because I had an event to go to and my weight gain/loss had affected the ones I already had, the white sweater could be worn over almost every one of my outfits during the summer at work, so I could keep it at the office, so it was practical, etc.)

Retail Therapy The Bipolar Hot Mess Way 2

So, yes, in a sense, I had a shopping addiction, but not in the same traditional way that most define it.  The more I was accused of spending all my money on shopping, but in reality knowing I didn’t spend anywhere close to what others thought, made me think more about changing my habits.  (Plus, once I went on disability, I wasn’t so close to State Street and Water Tower Place anymore)  I am a huge reader and LOVE a few magazines.  I love reading Vanity Fair, Vogue, and Elle.  I used to read Shape, but found that reading magazines that focused too much on food, calories, weight loss, etc. were not helpful in keeping my eating disorder in check, so I had to steer clear of those.

Perusing through those magazines allowed me to not only read some pretty interesting articles (which some of my future blogs will be based on), but I got to see the advertisements and all the latest fashion trends and styles and the prettiest of the collections right at my fingertips and not having to walk through the crowds at the stores and worry about how much time was left on my lunch break and what I would wear it to or what excuse I would have to not buy it or why I would return it….. I could just look at it, and admire it GUILT FREE!  It didn’t matter how much it cost either!  My bank account was going to remain the same no matter how much I admired it!  Suddenly, I had a huge stack of pages ripped out of magazines stuffed in a few folders.  I went through the pages and found that some were articles I wanted to research and write about and some were just pretty things.  Some of the pages had things that I found to be not so pretty anymore too.  That’s when I had my own little epiphany.   YES, YES, I know its scary when I have those, but this one was really good and cost effective too!

I decided that instead of going to all those stores, looking at the pictures of the shoes, purses, dresses, jewelry, etc. was giving me the same happiness of retail therapy without spending a dime (or making a mess for the poor workers at the stores!) and I didn’t even have to enter a store and be tempted to spend the money!  Even better, when I decided that I really didn’t like something anymore, I could just throw away the page or clipping and not feel guilty at all because I had not spent a penny to purchase it!  The clippings took up far less space than the actual items, and I didn’t have to worry about them fitting me if I gained or lost weight, or having things to match.  Ok, so it may sound a little  weird to just admire the glossy pages of magazines, BUT, the reality was, if I had gone through the stack a few times and STILL thought that the item was amazing and still gave me the happiness it did the first time I viewed it, then I would consider purchasing it.  Granted, most of the items were either Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Tiffany’s, Burberry, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, and all the other names that are easy to say but each letter of their name is like a zero added on the price tag of their collections, so I would keep my eyes out for items similar to that in the stores that I could afford.  When I would find an item that was like the one in the magazine clippings, and it was affordable, I would buy it and feel soooooo much better about the purchase because I knew I had wanted it for a while and I knew I would not be taking it back and that I would be using it for a while too.

Retail Therapy The Bipolar Hot Mess Way 3

THAT became my Untraditional Retail Therapy.  Its soooo much more cost effective because it satisfies the urge to shop in the times that hypomania rears its head.  Just head to the local drug store when you pick up your meds and go down the magazine aisle and pick up copies of Vogue, Elle, InStyle, Vanity Fair, Lucky, etc….. A few issues of those are a hell of a lot cheaper than a full blown shopping excursion.  Heck, I had subscriptions to Vanity Fair and Elle and so once a month I get a surprise at my door and I let them sit until the urge arises…… THEN, I pick them up and shop!Retail Therapy The Bipolar Hot Mess Way 4


Since this is Mental Health Awareness Month and I promised you guys that I would be posting my favorite things that help me manage my illness, this is just another way.  Curbing the maniacal spending by magazine browsing.  I hold on to the clippings though and when I am feeling down, sometimes just flipping through all of them help me feel better too.  I may not have the items, but thinking about what I would wear it with, or what I would do with it, or where I would go with it, brings me to happy places!

So, here are a few of the clippings I have right now… I made them into little collages….  and while this may be a girly thing, Guys, you can do this with anything!  Car magazines, electronics, any type of hobby.  Women, you can do this with other hobbies too, not just shopping!  This is just MY way of curbing the urge to shop and spend!


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  1. Love this idea!! I honestly can’t really “see” my spending habits, so do not know if this is a trait I have. I like to think I’m too broke to be the spender, but looking at my credit card I tend to think otherwise. Pretty sure I NEEDED those items when I charged them (you know, like toilet paper or something), and it was fully justified. Yet I just don’t know.

    My more noticeable bipolar traits (the giddy high and the cry-all-day low) are pretty well managed with one simple med, so I feel pretty lucky. Yet there are still those days I feel the roller coaster is still THERE just not as big, ya know? Might be interested to ponder ways to find therapy for that slight disruption in my week.

    Thanks for the article!

    1. I’m glad you liked it! 🙂 Sometimes we have to think a little outside of the box to help make our therapy methods effective. 🙂

  2. This is awesome. I love to shop and window shop as a type of self care/therapy. I used to spend a lot of money when I was young and single and it didn’t matter if I had debt except to me. but after getting married I started the window type shopping where I try on all kinds of things and walk out with nothing or one small item for $10. I’ve also recently discovered thrift store shopping as a form or therapy. I think you’re really onto something here.

    1. YES! Thrift storing is great! Especially since my weight fluctuates so much, I hate spending a lot of money on clothes that probably won’t fit by either the end of the season or by next season!