Joy lies in the fight, in the attempt, in the suffering involved, not in the victory itself


Saturday, April 11, 2009

True Confessions of A Shopaholic

I'm Lil and I'm a shopaholic. Not one of the cute and stylish shopaholics like you see in the movies. It's rare to find me with anything designer, and being a 250 pound-plus woman means that teetering high heel shoes are not something I would ever buy. But nonetheless, one of my main binge impulses is to overspend. I may never have owned a pair of Jimmy Choos but I have in the past owned 7 pairs of Crocs in one season. In every colour and style imaginable. Now, even I know there are very limited occasions when it's appropriate to wear Crocs...

One of the difficulties I've had in getting an official diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder is what I perceive to be the "inanity" of my impulses. Rather than starve or binge/purge, I like to eat. Too much. Too often. With detrimental effect on my health. Rather than sleep with a different man each night, I like to go shopping. Too much, Too often. With detrimental effect on my credit rating. Rather than cut myself, I like to pluck my eyebrows. Too much. Too often. With detrimental effect on my facial expressions LOL. I know intellectually that having the impulse control problem is the illness, not WHAT I do with the impulse. I'm not "less" BPD because I abuse carbs instead of cocaine. It's the fact that I use or abuse anything in an attempt to regulate my emotions or subvert unpleasant feelings.

Sometimes I think my personal choices make it hard to differentiate between "benign" behaviours and "dangerous" behaviours - after all, everybody has to buy things and everybody needs to eat food. But I've always known that what a non-BPD considered shopping or eating did not compare to the sheer volume and velocity of my consumption of both. The food thing is for another day, another post (and probably my other blog). But in the last few days I've found the spending demon to be rearing its ugly head again, and hopefully it will help me to blog it out! Although I've been pretty much housebound, since Wednesday I've managed to spend $200 or thereabouts - Ebay has a LOT to answer for. CDs, DVDs, clothes, shoes, electrical goods, books, books, books...these are my passions and Ebay means I don't even have to shower or dress or leave the house.

My Ebay addiction started in 2003 when I was severely agoraphobic and could barely leave the house. I was out of work for 18 months, supported by Mr Ex, and as a comfort I started obsessively collecting memorabilia from one of my favourite TV shows. These purchases (sometimes $300 a week on crazy things like magazine clippings, yoyos, photos, props from the show) were in addition to my existing credit card and store card debt, and in conjunction with me and Mr Ex having spent $30,000 profit we made selling our house (mostly on an overseas trip). Stupid, reckless decisions - I take the blame entirely as Mr Ex was floundering, dealing with an increasingly mental wife whose only joy was in buying junk and eating (hence the weight gain of 60 pounds during this time).

Eventually I started on Zoloft, had some great counselling and EFT and returned to work. Unfortunately, I worked in Australia's most fabulous department store so the shopping was not curtailed - my next obsession was Barbies (I worked in the toy section), but I also bought a lot of linen, clothing, perfume, jewellery, CDs, and yep books. I spent almost all of what I earned, and as well had spare time to browse other stores in the mall and spent a huge amount of money on junkfood ($30-40 some days). Mr Ex and I had to get a consolidation loan to close out all our store cards and credit cards (I think I maxed out at 6, Mr Ex had a few of his own - and this while we were both barely earning minimum wage). It didn't help, as soon as we had them paid out by the loan we put the limits up again and went on three interstate trips we couldn't afford. You see, it's not just buying things, with me it's general misuse of money. I feel joyous and happy and briefly "okay" when I'm spending money, and holidays are even better because they fill the "obsession" gap as well - planning them becomes my focus and I obsessively research and plan every detail.

Fast forward to now, and my credit rating is so bad I have been knocked back for even the smallest of credit card limits. I can't qualify for a new mobile phone contract unless I switch to prepaid. I have to have one of those VISA Debit cards, which is attached to my savings account - so if there's no money, there's no buying. It's a smart idea, and one that is just what I deserve after the binges I've had, but crikey it's embarrassing. Other people my age have assets (cars, houses, bikes, stereos, tvs), whereas I have a PC that I rent and people's secondhand electronic castoffs. I don't have the excuse of alcohol or drugs having consumed all my money. I don't have kids I'm putting through private school. I don't have ANYTHING to show for all those thousands and thousands of dollars I spent (and some I stole to spend, but that's not for discussion here). The food went to my hips, and then took $18,000 of my superannuation (retirement fund) in weight loss surgery to shed. The books have been read and reread (and sometimes exchanged for others), the TV show memorabilia is hidden in boxes (yes, plural) in my closet so I don't have to face the shame. These days, after binges I re-sell what I can on Ebay. And if I feel I can't distract myself from shopping/spending binges I try and go to thrift stores and dollar stores.

So there you have it. My name is Lil and I just LOVE to shop, in person or online. I love the rush, I crave the feelings of bags heavy in my hands, I love the smell of new stuff. I love the potential that each new "thing" has for developing my latest image or obsession. Combined with a new "hyperattachment"/crush, and the desire to be like them, or have them love me, shopping is the ultimate high. But, like all impulses, the rush is fleeting and afterwards I'm left with the horrible darkness again, except with the added feelings of guilt, fear (of being bankrupt, creditors, etc) and the realisation that I will never wear or use a large percentage of what I've bought. So this is why I know that ordering a few things on Ebay is not just that. I have to be vigilant, and watch out for warning signs - especially when I can recognise my mood is low and my stressors are high. Which is now.


Anonymous Drifter said...

I feel for you. Like you, I've also had to contend with mismanagement of money. My inability to be responsible with money landed me in bankruptcy, not once but twice. The second of which I just finished with now.Mind you, I've also had some nasty bad luck that caused untold debt as well. I'm not a shopaholic but I need to learn to manage my money wisely. I understand what you're going through

Anonymous said...

Lil, I so wish you could find some relief-- real and lasting relief. I have had a few times where I 'overshopped' my budget, but nothing like what you describe. I so well understand the impulse control problem-- oh so well. Here's to better days! (There will be better days for the both of us.) xo

Anonymous said...

Funny, I can totally relate to this even though i'm incredibly frugal these days. I have overwhelming urges to spend money I don't have, always justifying that if I just get this new craft kit or such and such a book or outfit, I'll be on well on my way to super-success and fulfilment. Also the buzz of spending and heaving all that new stuff home is a great 'numb-er' like booze or drugs. I've learnt to control it mostly. I still have boxes of stuff I haven't used, clothes I never wore which I mostly keep within sight to remind me to hold back the next time I find myself surfing ebay or amazon. As with drink and drugs - there's always the next day hangover and guilt which, for me, often sets in minutes after I get home and empty the bags and realise my life is still just the same - lonely and meaningless most of the time - despite all this stuff. One thing that really helped me was when I was lucky enough to have a small plot of land where i lived in france. I learned to grow all my own veggies and lots of flowers and I found that not only was the activity absorbing and kept me fit, there was also the buzz of wandering up and down between rows of beans, tomatoes, melons and flowers, filling my basket with whatever looked prime. I did become a little obsessed and cultivated over 30 different heirloom varieties of tomato one year, but I think it was a mostly healthy obsession.I don't have much of a garden these days but I try and grow a few things in pots and I try and do simple craft projects when i feel capable which really curbs the desire to spend and is way more satisfying.
I really feel for you because even though your posts always have a humorous, light-hearted tone, I can tell that beneath there's a lot of pain. i really admire that you can still joke about yourself but I wish and hope you can find a way of working your way out of these traps and chains that so unfairly keep you shackled.
You are a lovely person. You deserve to be happy!

Wandering Coyote said...

Great post, Lil. I really appreciate your honesty.

I make impulse purchases, too, but I keep them small (I just bought some CDs from Amazon...pressed the "purchase" button without even thinking about it...) and since I live on a VERY small income, I worry more about feeding myself properly than I do anything else. I feel incredibly guilty when I buy luxury items that are not necessary, and that guilt keeps me in check most of the time. I ended my marriage on the cheap side: he kept all our mutual debt and the debt from my culinary school adventure, and I kept my student loan debt, which was later cancelled due to my being on disability. The student loan was upwards $30K, and when I got the paperwork saying the loan was cancelled, I almost went on a huge spending spree! I didn't though, and I never want that kind of debt hanging over me again, so I watch it.

My BPD doesn't really have an impulsive side, though I do impulsively eat every so often - I am currently eating my way through a bag of Cadbury mini eggs!

Just Be Real said...

Lil, thanks for sharing. Even though I cannot really relate to the impulse buying, I can understand the desire at times. Blessings dear one!

Dreamwriter said...

This is one bipolar tendency I never inherited..LOL! I just don't..I am more irritable, moody, horny! LOL!!! But never a shopaholic

Jena said...

Oh, Lil! How do I ever understand! Well written and heartfelt. I'm sure your words could be echo'd by hundreds, thousands of others like yourself. I'm sorry you're having a hard time with your shopping and eating right now. Moderation (my word of the week) seems to be a non-existent word for those who are good friends with impulsion. I just love your honesty and also your insight into what goes on for you. It seems like writing in this blog is a very therapeutic activity for you. *hugs* Love, Jena xoxo

preciousrock said...

WoW! Shopping can be one of my obsessions also, but only once in my life did I reach that level of spending and that was when I was miserably unhappy in my 2nd marriage. The spending sprees during that disaster of a marriage left me $30,000 in debt with a child to raise. Needless to say, I went bankrupt and lost the roof over my head.

Thanks for being so transparent and so desperately human and for sharing your experiences with the rest of us. I pray you'll get this shopping addiction under control before you dig yourself into another hole.