This will come as no surprise to people who know me, but there are times when I can be quite manic.
I am not at my best when operating at either end of this manic spectrum. It does not bring out the colour of my eyes, or my even skin tones or the lusciousness of my hair.
It just makes me a bit bonkers.
It is fair to say that this week I have been a bit bonkers.
One of the things I get bonkers about is money. I really am not good with money. I should never be allowed to be in charge of it, ever. As with cake, I have no concept that I cannot eat all of it, at once. I have the brain of a rich person and the earning capacity of a tramp in the gutter. This juxtaposition is not easy to juggle.
For weeks now I have been working hard on reining in my tendency to spend the lot, turning clay and cloth into cash on EBay to support us while Jason’s cash flow situation remained complicated at work. I had impressed myself at how disciplined I had been. I set myself a target and worked to achieve it. Knowing that if I didn’t have some kind of reward I would probably go bananas I made a pact with myself that for every X amount I made, I would be allowed to spend Y amount on nonsense. I was quite proud of myself for dealing with things this way. I felt that for the first time in years I had got a handle on money and was dealing with it in a grown up way, paying bills, putting food on the table, not spending it all on stuffed mice riding tiny china ponies etc.
I let this sense of confidence go to my head rather – which, as it turns out was unfortunate.
Then last weekend Jason’s finances pulled straighter and he suggested that I might want to dial back on the earning, because it had gotten rather all consuming, and now there was no need, as things were not brilliant, but much better.
My brain, it is fair to say, did not cope well with this situation.
I had been used to five weeks of flat out panic mode earning, and my adrenalin was flowing. It turned out that despite the odd hiccup I was quite good at this earning thing, and I liked the fact it made me feel useful in our home, and that my husband was thrilled with my help, and I liked the fact that for the first time in a long time I had buying power of my own. All of these things made me feel important, and rather less like a burden to the rest of my family.
Being brutally honest, I feel like a burden to my family a lot of the time. I am fairly unhinged most of the time, I am poorly lots of the time, and I am utterly unable to sustain reality for more than short bursts of time without going off my rocker, thus making me woman less likely to ever have another proper job. I feel, for the most part, that they look after me, more than I look after them. I am not cut out for real life and I feel that every time I do manage to do something real and competent, that it is a trick, and sooner or later I will be found out and/or it will all go wrong and I will return to being thought of as a bit shite, but fairly harmless by everyone I know.
I feel particularly reliant on my husband. He is my rock. A lot of the time I feel really guilty about this. I feel I should not need a rock. I feel I should be able to do everything on my own. I feel that I am inadequate as a person because he is so important to me.
The last five weeks, when he has been away have shown me that I can do it all without him, which should be a good thing, and has done good things for my self confidence, but it has also shown me how hard it is, and has led to long periods of feeling unhinged but having to get on with it anyway. Making money however, turned out to be something I was really good at, much to my surprise, and therefore was something that was propping up my shaky sense of self where other things weren’t quite cutting it. When he said I didn’t have to do it any more I really panicked. What if, when I stopped making all the lovely money I went properly bonkers, and became more needy, and more of a burden, and eventually ended up in the basket weaving department of the local mental hospital, for example? This is what flitted through my mind. What if he thought less of me because I wasn’t earning money and helping any more? What if he left me?
The logical part of my brain told me that for large parts of our married life I had earned fuck all and he had not left me then, so he was hardly likely to leave me now, but that didn’t really help. I was full on into money madness and my own self esteem issues. I brushed this thought aside and kept panicking.
It was not easy to articulate all this, mainly because I didn’t understand it fully myself and was all jumbled up and swirled around, and when we talked about it I got rather tearful and incoherent.
Despite this, we persevered and reached an accord. I thought we had talked it through reasonably and that I would be alright about the earning less, turning money making into a pin money hobby thing.
Unfortunately it transpires I was not quite ready to let go of this.
Jason suggested I not sell any more of my pottery. I panicked.
It had taken quite a lot of emotional chutzpah to start selling it. I had all kinds of weird obsessive collector/emotional shit attached to it, it seems. Stuff that was clearly not healthy, but compelling nonetheless. A lot of it had been tied up with our dreams of emigrating and some of it I just loved and had a hard time letting go of. When I actually steeled myself to do it, it was painful at first, and then became weirdly cathartic and rather like a kind of therapy. When he said I didn’t have to any more, I was brought up short by it and resisted quite strongly.
We talked about it, and I realised that throwing the baby out with the bath water was just as weird as all the hoarding, but in a different way. I agreed to stop.
But my brain thought about all the lovely money, and how more shiny things could be purchased if there was more lovely money. Because on top of all the ‘I can be a bread winner and earn more love and respect from my family’ shit, I really, really love stuff, and my greedy pig owning things and more things compulsion started kicking in like an angry mule. Plus I reckoned I could buy more things because I could always sell them later, so I was really investing in the future, rather than just indulging my desire to have stuff.
So for part of this week I went out and bought tons and tons of things from charity shops, so that I could EBay them, because that would solve everything, right? I got a kick out of buying the stuff, and then a kick out of thinking how I could sell the stuff, and a further kick out of imagining all the lovely things I could buy with the money I got from that. It was just high, higher, highest as far as my junkie money brain tendencies were concerned.
And worse than that, my brain also decided that because Jason had said we were alright now financially, I could switch off the usually ever present feelings of guilt about buying things because there was spare money lying around, and that would be fine because nobody really needed it, right? The guilt feelings usually act as brakes to stop me from the worst excesses of my own manic behaviours, but this time I had managed to turn them off completely, for the first time ever, and it was brilliant. And I figured I could definitely buy whatever I wanted, and as many things as I wanted because after all, I had just proved to myself that a) I could handle money for the first time in years and b) if things got too difficult I could just sell it all, so actually buying was really, really healthy and helpful. Right?
And I had worked hard, and I deserved treats.
And that sense of deserving things tapped into old stuff where, when life was completely unmanageable and I couldn’t cope with all the things that were going on, shopping allowed me to go out of the house, away from the unmanageability of my life, and forget all about it. Buying things made, and still makes me feel better about all kinds of things, temporarily. For me, it is like having a cigarette, or a glass of wine. I buy something and there is this little ‘aaah’ of release. It does not last, and it is not healthy, but there it is. And this time I was running away from the fact that I was not coping well with the absence of my husband, the fact that if I sat with those feelings of loneliness and sadness for too long they made every hour stretch like gum, and every moment seem like an eternity of me being utterly useless because I couldn’t stop missing him and it wasn’t getting any easier and I am hating myself for being that weak.
So I started the week buying small things, and the buying gathered momentum to become lots and lots of small things, and then progressed to bigger things, until, by Thursday I had scared the living snot out of myself by making enquiries about buying a couple of things so costly I made myself feel a bit sick while thinking about it.
And that scared me to death.
As did looking at my bank balance and realising that I was already on my uppers a week into a new financial month because I had spent so much money there was hardly anything left.
And that made me sit down and look at my behaviour and think: ‘Woah!’
And also ‘Shit.’
And then I had to talk to Jason about it. Which also made me feel sick and scared me to death, because I am not good at talking about money due to the huge guilt feelings attached to it, and I always feel totally panic stricken when I have to talk about it.
And then there is the crushing sense of shame that I had failed, yet again. I had failed to be independent, failed to be successful, and failed at money. And money was important, and not failing at money seemed the only thing between me and the yawning chasm of self loathing that has been seething around my feet for weeks.
And now I was neck deep and sinking fast.
So that was horrific.
And we talked about it, and unlike most times we were able to talk about it calmly. And unlike last weekend where I thought I had cracked it and hadn’t, I think we have come to a point where things are clearer and I feel calmer and less manic, and he doesn’t want to leave me for a doughty German lady in a Tyrolean hat.
And I’m not saying for one second that I have solved all the festering, weirdness that swirls around me and my money issues, because I am not that naive, but I do know that I woke up yesterday morning on a massive come down, which was very unpleasant, but heralds the end of the manic phase and which means that for a while I can grasp the nettle again and be less insane and things might even out.
I cannot not spend money, which is one of the problems that makes any problem with money so hard to deal with in the first place. I still have to buy food and petrol and the paraphernalia of every day life, and I learned long ago that with me, it does not matter what it is I am buying, so it’s not like I can avoid certain places and all will be well. I also cannot give up EBay right now, which might help a bit, because a) it is actually fine to want to earn money of my own, I just have to find a way to make it less nuts, and abstinence, in this case, cannot solve anything and b) I now have an entire house full of things I don’t really want or need that I must shift onwards or become a mad lady hoarder, which is almost as bad as being a mad lady spender, so you know, I’ll figure it out.
And I have been wrestling with writing this post, because it is never, ever easy to tell people about what an utter hash you have made of things, and how contemptibly you have behaved, and how utterly mad you are, especially when sometimes you are able to create the illusion that you are not actually mad, and then you have to confess that you are. It is never easy to talk about stuff you are ashamed of and that you would rather put a large blanket over and go ‘la la la’ about, but it is important to talk about it. So I have.