I spent most of my twenties in a state of constant anxiety. Money was always tight. My ex had a habit of losing his job the second we got things settled. Something would happen with our son. I always felt like we were on the edge of a complete disaster.
Now, my life is stable. I married a dude who has a stable job, and would rather sell organs than not work. My son is no longer in and out of evaluations. I got promotions, so money is now very stable.
This week, something happened to bring all those feelings back. Basically, we were cut off from all of our funds. We couldn't buy so much as a pack of gum. Our checkings, our savings, our cards... Everything. We had access to almost nothing.
I'd forgotten what that felt like. I woke up every hour, and I felt like someone had touched me with a live wire. My skin felt electrified, and not in a good way. It hurt. This feeling would rush through me every hour or so, fading slowly only to come back again.
I spent every waking hour going over what money I'd been able to scrounge up. We had some gift cards that I'd never used. There was some cash in a vacation account that I was able to pull down and put on a card that we could still access. My next paycheck would go on that card, as well (but not for another ten days). I had part of my advance coming within the next month, so I made sure that went to that card as well. I prayed that my husband's HR would let him send his paycheck to my account as well.
I ran across a Christmas card that had some cash in it, and I let out a whoop of joy.
I took stock of the food in the house. Could we skip groceries next week? For two weeks? More? We have plenty of meat, but what about lunch stuff? Veggies? Fruit? Snacks? The kids are home for a month and a half, so I need stuff for them to eat during the day. I could bake some cookies, and maybe even something salty to snack on. I thank my stars that we didn't toss the remainder of the baking ingredients I bought for Christmas cookies.
I realized we were out of toilet paper and paper towels, and was suddenly eternally grateful for that found twenty.
While this is going on, I'm still working full-time. I smile and chatter with friends and family. The kids ask to go out to a local Mexican place. I dance around the reasons why we're not going out to eat like we normally do on Tuesdays, and why there won't be a delivery pizza night on Friday. "It's healthier!" I tell them, because I can't stand to tell them that we need every penny I can scrounge. My mother invites us over for a cookout, and I'm careful to only offer to bring something that I can make out of what I have.
In other words, I pretend everything is okay.
It shocked me how easily it all came back. I'm seven years past those horrible times, and yet the instincts hadn't faded a bit. I'd forgotten about the visceral reaction of being in a constant state of panic. My husband keeps telling me that it'll be okay, that everything is under control, and that things will be fine by the end of next week. I nod and nod and nod and think no, I'll never really be fine, will I?