My Experience Only. YMMV.

We lose a lot when we live with bipolar disorder – function, memory, friends and even family.

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But we also lose something more tangible – money. Or at least I did, and I know that a number of others have experienced this as well. Here’s how it went for me.

Work. I quit my full-time office job (possibly in a fit of hypomania). I had a new boss and had told her about my disorder. Her only question was, “What will that mean?” My answer was, “Sometimes I’ll have good days and bad days.” (It caught me by surprise.) Immediately after that, I began receiving bad evaluations, which I never had before. Was my performance really declining? It probably was, as I was heading into a major depressive episode.

But I wasn’t out of work quite yet. For a while I worked freelance, and pretty successfully. Then my brain broke, and there I was – unemployed. I had savings in a 401K, and we ran through all of that. Then my husband had a depressive episode and we ran through his 401K as well. And the money we got from refinancing our house.

Disability. Sometime in that stretch of time, my husband realized that our money was going to run out. He asked me to file for disability. Many of you know that story. I was denied. I got a disability lawyer. By this time – years later – I was able to work freelance again a bit, and my lawyer told me shortly before my appeal hearing was scheduled that the hearing officer’s head would explode when he learned what my hourly rate was.

Never mind that I could work only a few hours a week – maybe five, in a good week.

Insurance. Then there was insurance. As a freelancer, of course, I didn’t have any. My husband’s good county job had covered us, until he became unemployed too. I’m sure a lot of you know that story as well. No insurance. Huge pharmacy bills, and psychiatrist and psychotherapist, and doctor visits and the odd trip to Urgent Care.

Meds. Then my doctor put me on Abilify – $800 a month. I got a couple of months free from the drug company – just enough to discover that it really worked for me and I didn’t want to give it up.

Then, with remarkable timing, the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) came along and we were able to get insurance again. It wasn’t really affordable, though, costing only slightly less per month than the Abilify. But it covered all our other prescriptions, too, so we came out a little ahead.

Budget. Since then, that’s the way it’s been going – month to month and disaster to disaster. My work is irregular and I never know how much I’ll get in any given month. My husband’s pay is steady, but meager – minimum wage. We have managed to make our mortgage payments and keep the house, which my husband doubted we’d be able to do when I couldn’t work. I know in that respect, we’re way luckier than many families struggling with bipolar disorder.

Our latest disaster came this week, when our only remaining partially working vehicle (no reverse gear) blew out second gear as well. The money we had borrowed and put aside for major dental work that the insurance wouldn’t cover disappeared with a poof – and still wasn’t enough. We had to borrow more from an already fed-up relative. I don’t blame her. She never expected to have to keep bailing out her grown son and his wife when she herself was past retirement age.

Our Future. I don’t see anything changing. My mental disorder is under much better control, but I know I’ll never be able to work in a full-time 9–5 job again. Job opportunities are few for people our age anyway, despite anti-age-discrimination laws. And I’ve never tried applying for a job where I must ask for accommodations to offset my illness, but I’m sure employers find lots of reasons not to hire people who need those. Again, despite the laws.

So why am I telling you all this? Am I just whining and feeling sorry for myself? Well, yes, I am, but that’s not the point, really. Bipolar disorder takes a brutal toll on our emotional lives, our families, our relationships, and more. It can also put us on the brink of poverty, or in our case, one paycheck and one more disaster away from desperate straits. I know that there are bipolar sufferers, including some of my friends, in much worse straits.

It’s stressful.

And we all know how stress affects a person with bipolar disorder.

Badly.

P.S. Aaand the well pump just gave out.

Comments on: "What Bipolar Disorder Has Cost Me" (8)

  1. I can totally relate. I find that I have so much guilt because “I cost so much”, between meds and doctors appointments. It really doesn’t help with getting better… just another demon I have to slay.

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  2. I can relate to this post, as I’m sure many can. My disability check is about $40,000 less than what I use to make in a year. And that was about 15 years ago. I can only imagine what I’d be earning at that job today. Being one check away from homelessness is a horrible way to live. I hate it.

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    • I am meeting with a vocational rehabilitation coordinator this week. The program is specifically for disabled people who can’t work, but really want to. They take your disabilities into consideration, your work experience, etc., and help get you into a position where the employer will be understanding. I’ve been this whole route; losing income, homelessness, despair. Now I have hope. Good luck to you. God Bless.

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  3. In addition to the guilt and hefty bills for meds & doctors, there is the matter of the loss of confidence and self esteem. For quite awhile it was brutal. It’s not as bad now but it’s still there.

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  4. Opal jefferson said:

    I can relate in some ways I had lost my home my job and my family all because of my bipolar disorder I have been homeless for about 6 years now let me tell you it’s even harder then I could of ever Emagine having bipolar disorder on the streets it make life even harder for me I do wish all of you the best

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  5. I left my job under a “mutual agreement” thingy, so I got a package which carried me and my husband for 2 years while he climbed the ladder and now earns enough for us to be okay each month. But yeah I lost my house, sportscar and had to get used to having no money for anything nice. And yes the med aid does not cover everything so towards the end of the year, we start eating at our folks… But like journeyupward said, the biggest loss is the loss of self-esteem…

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