Over the past several months, people have said things to me in the realm of “you’re so strong” or “you are handling this so well” or “you have inspired me.” Most of the time I feel undeserving, bandaged together by medication and therapy, hardly like I am handling this “on my own.” Lately, I have felt particularly undeserving. I have been using retail therapy to counteract depression, mostly since February, and finally acknowledged that I needed to stop.
Many years ago, as a couple, we accumulated some credit card debt. I’m not proud of it, but I am proud of the fact that we worked very, very hard to pay it off: including moving into a smaller apartment. We paid off everything before buying our house, and I have been diligently monitoring our money ever since. Anyone who knows me knows the extent of my oversight.
After losing Nelle in September, I went on a small “I don’t care” kick. A lot of it was related to pregnancy weight – I had quite a bit to lose, did not want to wear maternity clothes. So I bought things that made me feel comfortable. Then I was pregnant again and I stopped. Then I lost Iris. And went on another “I don’t care” spree.
I didn’t even feel guilty. I knew exactly what I was doing. In my head, I justified it because I should have been paying for child care for a baby, and I wasn’t. It was like “finding money” in our budget. I accumulated no debt, but I spent money that was not “mine” – it belonged to our household, and was not allocated to my personal spending. That’s not the way we operate as a couple.
The only guilt I had came from knowing I was deceiving Ger and that he had no idea. It came to the forefront when he started working from home, therefore present when deliveries came from my online orders. He made an offhand comment when three packages arrived in one day from Zulily and I knew I had to tell him.
So I told him about my betrayal. He was disappointed. But we agreed that we are both flawed in different ways, and this is my flaw. I then talked to my therapist about it. I also equated an increase in spending with attempting to wean myself from anti-depressants. She said that compared to what I could have done, this was relatively harmless, and praised me for acknowledging the problem and wanting to fix it. I felt like she was too easy on me. I almost needed someone to yell at me – to make me feel bad for what I had done.
I told Ger I was done with spending, but it wasn’t true. Some Memorial Day sales got me. I told him; And then decided on a self-imposed spending hiatus for the entire month of June. Other than Starbucks and going out with my friends for dinner, no “stuff” will come into the house. I included buying anything for the house, or anything for the kids – so that I cannot substitute one type of shopping for another. I am hoping that will break me of the habit.
In preparation, I am working on a substitute: painting. I really enjoyed painting the other evening at a wine-and-paint event, even though I’ve never really painted. My aunt is an artist and I was inspired at her house. So as my last “purchase” – from my own personal spending allowance, I bought canvas, primary color paints, and brushes. They arrived from Amazon before we returned from our trip. I also got a sketchbook. I want this to be the new point of focus of my energy, instead of admiring a new pair of yoga pants, or turning to a more destructive outlet. Maybe at the end of my 30-day hiatus, I will have some art to show for it.