There is a significant difference between being irresponsibly impulsive and being adventurous. On the outside, they look the same. To tell the difference, I take time to reflect, recruit someone I trust, and listen to my heart.
We often hear about bipolar disorder and how it can result in impulsive shopping, but what about other kinds of impulsivity? Many people have experienced damaging spending in excess due to bipolar, but I desire to take the conversation a little bit further into overall decision-making since I have personally had some bouts of impulsivity in my life—but, luckily, they did not always end in disaster.
My Personal Story of Acting Impulsively
I felt severely depressed in June 2018 and started experiencing those little coincidences that tend to occur in times of hypomania. Numbers from different sources matched up, words in songs playing in the car and lined up with my thoughts, and all things seemed to flow in a type of flawless harmony. However, depression often presents as a different beast altogether, and those coincidences, or what I refer to as “God Winks” are usually nonexistent.
During this particular depressive state of mine, the country of Singapore continually blipped on my obsessive travel radar, whether it appeared as a place for a prospective job among random postings in my e-mail, or in Facebook photos, which appeared continuously on my feed, from a friend with whom I had not connected in over ten years. I had barely known about Singapore, but I found myself impulsively purchasing a plane ticket in a matter of days. I do not have a lot of money, but I make a decent amount, and—like many people with or without bipolar disorder—I have credit cards. It seemed like a reasonable travel adventure, and it had always been a dream of mine to travel on my own. Yes, the trip was impulsive, but that was nothing compared to what came next.
From “God Winks” to Worldwide Travel
On a Singaporean dance floor, I happened to
dance my way into the arms of a handsome Englishman—and, in a matter of weeks,
I was planning a trip to Manchester, England, to visit him. Besides our first encounter,
I had talked with Jake for only a handful of hours over three weeks of phone calls.
I offered to come see him, and he was shocked, but he actually accepted my
offer easily. It seemed natural, so I booked another $1,000 plane ticket and
was determined to see him in three months’ time.
The upcoming visit gave us something to
look forward to, but, upon reflection, reserving tickets for another trip was a
significant risk since I did not really know this man at all. My father was
irate and terribly worried about me booking a flight to meet a man I had seen
in person for a mere seven hours. I assured my father that if I did not take
the risk, then I would regret it for the rest of my life. Yes, it was impulsive,
but, in my own mind, it was also my opportunity to take a chance and seize the
One of the Best—and Most Impulsive—Times of My Life
During that impulsive one-week journey in
Manchester, Jake and I fell madly in love. My trip to England led to an
agreement for him to apply for a Canadian work visa so that he could come and
live in Canada with me. That week in Manchester was one of the best times of my
I also booked a two-week holiday to the
Canary Islands with Jake and sixteen of his family and friends, whom I had
never met before. Eventually, I also accepted an invitation to stay with him
and his family for three weeks over the Christmas holidays four months later. We
talked for 1-2 hours a day leading up to this time. Subsequent to the purchase
of two more $1,000 airline tickets on my credit card, Jake came to live
permanently in Canada in January 2019. My pocketbook was burning from impulsive
travel spending; but now—a year after our official meeting in Singapore—we are
engaged to be married on that same day in the year 2020.
Reflecting on Whim and Risk
I recognize that in 2018 I bought several
plane tickets, plus much more, to see a man across the world and whom I had met
only briefly. In the end, I met the man of my dreams. But, realistically, it
could have easily gone the other way.
I realize that these were impulsive actions on my behalf, even though I was quite stable when I made these decisions. I admit that I allowed my emotions to take over my decision-making process, and often I feel that my bipolar heart beats in extremes, overtaking my logical brain in many situations.
However, I also often ponder about how boring
my life would be if I did not seize the moment and take risks such as traveling
on a whim and then visiting a wonderful man who stole my heart in three weeks’
Tips for When You Are Feeling Impulsive with Bipolar Disorder
Even though risk and impulsivity have
negative connotations, it’s okay to be “impulsive” and seize the moment. However,
it is very important to be aware that people with bipolar disorder may
experience the urge to be impulsive more frequently than others, depending on
When the feeling of impulsivity indulges you, it is important to gauge the following points when making a significant decision:
Take time to sit on it, and then sleep on it, too. And then think it over—more than twice. When you have an important decision to make, do not rush it.
Consider how you would feel if you took a chance on something and it did not work out the way you had hoped. Would you be devastated? If the opposite outcome is something that will detrimentally harm you emotionally or mentally, then the risk may not be worth it.
It is imperative to look within to determine if there are signals, or “signs,” that are trying to warn you that maybe it is not the best decision to follow through on your adventure. Really explore that gut instinct of yours. I often feel that we have most of the answers that we need inside of ourselves when trying to make a decision. It is our choice whether we want to stop and listen, or just choose to be ignorant.
Do you have the necessary funds to embark on an impulsive adventure? Credit cards are a quick way to get what you want, but be reasonable in knowing that you will have to eventually pay them off (plus possible interest charges).
Assess your mental health and be sure to get an opinion on the level of your stability from a trusted person. We often consider ourselves to be in sound health, even if that may not be the case.
“Healthy Risks” for Adventurous Living
I love living an adventurous life, and I do
not always make decisions that people support. Many folks, including my family
and friends, think I am absolutely ridiculous for taking such significant risks
in my life. I call these risks “healthy risks” because I do follow my own
advice (above) the majority of the time. If I had ended up in Manchester alone
because Jake had changed his mind at the last minute, it would not have broken
me. Of course, I would be hurt, but I would have been able to heal from the
I always say, “To risk is to live.” However, please be mindful about your decisions because they are often life-changing; if you step back a little, you will know in your own heart what is the right decision to make. There is a significant difference between being irresponsibly impulsive and being adventurous. Maybe I have just been blessed, but I do know that I would not want it any other way.
Andrea Paquette is founder and Executive Director of the Stigma-Free Society, formerly the Bipolar Disorder Society of BC, and she is also known as the Bipolar Babe. She is a mental health speaker, published author, advocate and above all a Stigma Stomper. She created the Bipolar Babe Project in May 2009. Andrea has reached over thousands with her message of hope and resiliency in schools, workplaces, and throughout various community organizations and events. Her Bipolar Babe persona has reached great heights locally and internationally as she is a 2016 Bell Let's Talk Face for the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH). Andrea is the B.C. Provincial 2015 Courage To Come Back Recipient in the Mental Health category, the winner of Victoria’s 2013 CFAX Mel Cooper Citizen of the Year Award and the 2013 Winner for Mental Health Mentorship given by the National Council for Behavioral Health, Washington, D.C. Andrea has also received the prestigious Top 20 Under 40 Award for Vancouver Island's Business and Community Awards.
She is grateful for having the opportunity to share her personal message that “No matter what our challenges, we can all live extraordinary lives.”
Feel free to visit her website:
Bipolar Babe. Connect with Andrea on Twitter @Bipolar__Babe and Instagram @bipolarbabe
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