“The next one, that will be the perfect shaped thing…”
If you’d walked into my 20 year old self’s tiny student room and seen my collection of 23 bibles stacked on boxes, on shelves, on the corners of my bed, you might have reached any one of a number of conclusions. But top of the list probably wouldn’t have been that I was experiencing one of the episodes of depression that have been with me for the past three decades.
It needn’t have been bibles.
Over the years it’s been stationery, DVDs, backpacks. It happened to be bibles in this case because I was half way through a Theology and Philosophy degree, and that’s what depression does. It takes something that’s a tool for how you live your life, the good part of your life (I’m a writer, film buff, and ultramarathoner, hence the other examples), and it whispers to you. A dull, insistent earworm that says “here is the perfect shaped thing to fill the dark, empty space where your feelings used to be. Here is the switch that will turn the light back on.”
You fight it for days, but still the whisper is there.
And so is the emptiness.
And the whisper tells you this is what will make the emptiness go away.
And you forget the times it has lied before because what if this time it’s telling the truth? What if this time you deny the voice and your world stays dark forever? A world that could have returned to colour so quickly.
And so you stand in the shop, shaking, turning to the door and turning back and pacing to the door and pacing back. You hold it, and it’s almost as though you can feel an energy coming through your fingers, working its warmth into your system, confirming everything the whisper told you. And you are helpless, and you almost run home, and you excitedly remove it from
the bag and you tough it and you stare and sometimes the feeling you get back is so intense you end up stimming to disperse the adrenaline.
And then, in an instant, the light goes off.
And the whisper returns, and promises “the next one, that will be the perfect shaped thing…”
It’s been more than a decade since I have crisis spent.
I have spent much of that decade unpicking the damage done. Breaking the cycle was incredibly hard. It was made harder if depression comes with a side order of mania because the crisis spending is just as bad but functions differently, does not slip under the door as a whisper but bashes it down at 2am dressed in full-on sparkles shouting “time to party.”
Manic spending is not about a lack of feeling but a lack of filters. Depressive spending is about longing for the consequence of what you know is a choice you cannot really afford to make (but cannot, emotionally, afford not to make). Manic spending is about “consequences, what consequences?”
Both are damaging.
There are ways that banks could help.
Enabling someone to take over your accounts temporarily, placing temporary limits not on the amount of your money but how you access it, helping you to learn from one episode so that the next time you are both more prepared.
But like so much with mental health, the real answer is time. Time to learn. Time to get to know the early signs, to prepare yourself, to put safeguards in place, to know both the whisper and the lack of filters is a lie.
Dan Holloway is a novelist and performance poet. Dan has worked with Mind, Rethink, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists on a number of projects relating to debt and mental health. This blog reflects his personal views.