So I am seeing a new therapist, who is great, we have good rapport and I am getting a lot out of our relationship. I’m also still taking Celexa, which has been a game changer for me. I’ve been feeling stronger in general, and I decided to tell her something that I haven’t told anyone before.
I’m a compulsive shopper. I have been incredibly ashamed about it for a long time, and for awhile I justified that my issues with spending money weren’t *that bad* because I do not have an absurd amount of credit card debt. However, I do have more clothing, shoes, cosmetics, books, housewares, et cetera than I could ever reasonably need, and I fight really hard against this gnawing need to get more, more, more. I feel momentarily high when I buy something, and deeply ashamed the next day or even within the next hour.
Lately I have become a lot more aware of how out of control and lost I feel when I am spending money on stuff I don’t need, and how it’s almost always to soothe some kind of pain I am feeling. I broke up with my longish term boyfriend last month, and I hit the skids hard. I definitely self soothed by shopping...my entire sephora wishlist, and new Amazon boxes every other day, and more. I’m embarrassed, and I spent money that needed to stay in savings, because I was hurting.
I’m taking a child psych course right now, and one of the things that I’ve learned about is how kids who grow up in abusive/neglectful homes often feel a huge drive to acquire material things, because in a way they are preparing for the next disaster or lean time when they won’t get their needs met, and that resonated with me a lot. I went to schools growing up where everybody around me seemed to come from families with a lot more money and status and I got teased and stared at for wearing thrifted or out of date clothes. I was neglected at home a lot and forced to do most everything on my own, but once in a blue moon when my grandfather’s shaky business seemed to be doing well, he would give me money and tell me to go buy myself something nice. That was a huge rush of excitement in the midst of a lot of loneliness and lack of resources, and I loved getting attention for having cute clothes or jewelry or makeup or fill in the blank. I felt pretty and interesting and like I looked like somebody who people would want to know or like, and I desperately wanted that, to be liked and noticed. Also, being out at the mall or wherever else, out to dinner with my friends, seeing movies, etc felt like a luxury vacation in comparison to the eggshell walking hell that my house was, so I kept it up, and always entertaining myself outside of the home meant I was always spending money.
Then, more people started paying attention and asking me for makeup or fashion tips, and it kicked my desire to buy things up even higher. Then, I got a job where I made a decent amount of money for a 19 year old without a college degree, and...yeah. It kept going like this. Some of my family have made comments over the years about my spending habits, and they were always deeply judgmental and shaming...which honestly just drove me to hide it and do it more, but quieter. Now I feel completely overwhelmed and sickened with myself when I find piles of receipts, check my bank statements or see clouds of empty shopping bags, or when I try to clean out my closet.
So I opened up about all of this to my counselor and she was nothing short of awesome and supportive. Basically she said that it makes perfect sense that I was going out shopping as a way to gain a false sense of control and create a different kind of space in my life to counteract what I wasn’t getting at home. She says I’m developing good awareness around why I do it and what’s going on inside of me that has driven me to self-soothe like this, and I had a small victory last week. I had an awkward situation with my roommate and I got completely freaked out and went to H&M. On my way to the checkout stand I was struck by what I was doing, put my basket down and walked straight out.
I guess my task now is just to become more conscious of where, how, and when I spend my money, and start drawing firm lines around wants vs. needs. I’m going through my house this weekend and getting things together to donate or sell. I’m super skeptical of 12 step programs, and I’m already in a kind of support community, so I am going to open up to a couple of my friends this week about it and ask for emotional support...but I’m not totally shut off to the idea of OA I guess. I’ve started blocking emails from places like ModCloth.
Anyway, I wanted to share this here as I move forward in my quest to be self aware and transparent. Thank you all for reading. I am glad I am moving forward.