“Mrs. Cooper, how do you manage stress?”
“Ummm…well I shop? No wait don’t write that down!! I meditate, yeah that sounds much more responsible.”
I haven’t always been a compulsive, emotional shopper. I didn’t have money to spend on frivolous things when I was growing up, however, I did go shopping a lot with my grandmother but it was mostly window shopping and just being together. I assume that’s where the tie between happiness and shopping comes from but I’m no psychologist so who knows. But I can say that some of the happiest times I’ve had were spent walking our local mall with my grandmother or my best friends.
However, that pull, that little devil on my shoulder that whispers, “It’s okay you’ve had a rough day/week/month/year/life you deserve a little something just for you”, that has only been around since I started making my own money and of all the lies that little pain in my butt tells me, this is one of the worst.
It’s sad to say that I feel completely out of control, I mean how hard is it to just not spend money? Well how about I put this in perspective, my inability to control how much money I spend when I’m dealing with emotional trauma is the same lack of control that an alcoholic would feel. I’ve done my research, I’ve looked for support groups and I’ve talked to many, many, counselors. The behavior is anything but a joke and while I approach it as such it’s mostly just to take some of the heat off of me and to make myself feel less guilty about it.
As most of you know I’m currently working on changing my lifestyle by not spending any money on non-essentials (gas, bills and groceries) for the month of June; with a plan to extend this through Labor Day 2018. So with that goal in mind I’ve been fairly good. I’ve purchased a few items for my blog in order to review and give feedback to the companies (definitely non-essentials but important for my business), I’ve purchased some game credits for the game I play on my phone (also not necessary at all) and I got my toenails done (I have no excuses for that one). Other than those slip ups I’ve been on the straight and narrow. However, over the weekend I was in a bit of a fender bender. Completely my fault. And even though I’m staring at a $500 insurance deductible my initial reaction was to go shopping. I can hear the “SERIOUSLY!!” remarks from everyone as they read that last sentence so here’s a glimpse into my inner dialogue:
Little Voice (LV) “Well now that you’ve successfully drained your savings by hitting another car you might as well just go to Target and buy that cute shirt you saw in their ad, oh and shoes you definitely need some new sandals.”
Me “No, we have enough in our savings to deal with this without it draining us. Plus I don’t need a new shirt I just cleaned out my closet of shirts I don’t wear. AND don’t get me started on the shoes you know if I bring another pair into the house Danny will lose it!”
LV “Actually, you do need a new shirt, remember?? You spilled sauce on that cute shirt the other day. Just get the shirt. Plus your birthday is next week so just use that as an excuse.”
Me “I won’t be derailed by your nonsense!”
LV “Whatever, you already got derailed like 5 times this month so obviously you can’t do this. Plus no one thinks you can do this either so why are you even kidding yourself?”
Me “F-Off” [massive feelings of guilt as I have this crazy conversation with myself and feel defeated…]
So there, I probably seem full on crazy to you after reading that inner dialogue but this is the shit that happens when you are addicted to something. You make excuses for why you won’t accomplish your goal, you tell yourself no one believes in you anyways and then next thing you know you’re walking the aisles with a cart full of stuff you don’t need.
My favorite emotions to go shopping with are: sadness, loneliness, anger/frustration and scared.
- When I was working on the cruise ship in Hawaii (circa 2006) and had no friends to hang out with, I literally shopped any store within a 5 min cab ride from the dock. I estimated I spent about 55% of my paychecks on things I didn’t need.
- On the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 I spent $90.37 at Target.
- On the day I found out I had to have radiation I spent $58 at a nail salon getting the most expensive pedicure on their menu.
- During my off weeks between chemo’s I would wander the aisles of Target just to keep moving, sometimes not spending a dime and sometimes spending around $85 a trip.
- Every time I’ve felt depressed since than I have gone to the mall.
- When I was in the hospital after my last surgery, I went on an online shopping spree, high as a kite on morphine, and came home to days of packages being delivered at my door step.
This thing that I do, this shopping habit, hasn’t been funny to me for years. It’s not funny to lie to your spouse, your family and your friends about your finances and shopping habits. It’s not funny to write these words and look back at the poor decisions I’ve made because I wasn’t mentally strong enough to just walk away from the store. None of this is funny. All of this IS ACTUALLY in my control…even though I desperately want to blame something else and say I’m not in control of it. I feel like I’ve lost so much trust, not just from those around me that I love but in myself. I cannot be trusted to not spend money when I’m going through emotional trauma.
Yet I know that with my stubborn personality if I make a promise and goal to end this madness, rebuild the trust I’ve lost and to prove to myself that I can do this, I will…so stick with me on this journey as I recount the many struggles and how I am using mindfulness apps, meditation apps and chronic fatigue apps to help me redirect my emotions.