The day of reckoning

I figured on some level that I knew it had to be coming: my day of reckoning. I got it today but it felt worse than I was expecting.

I told my husband at least a month to six weeks ago, after I saw my therapist, that I knew I was using online shopping as a coping mechanism. This was really a new behavior that went into overdrive as the pandemic started. Feeling especially anxious? Just click “add to cart” to make that feeling go away for a while. I’d feel more anxiety relief when the packages would show up, though with each one that arrived, there’s another tick on the clock that indicates the moment of reckoning is coming closer.

Somewhat ironically, it was the degree of messiness in our house that seems to have pushed my husband over the edge. I say that that’s a bit ironic because he is often as messy as I am, if not more so. He has piles of stuff that he leaves on the counter—even old inconsequential mail that he’s already read and doesn’t need anymore—for months on end. He, too, has more books than he can fit on one bookshelf and just bought a new guitar despite already having several.

Another big part of it, in my weak defense, is that I’ve been bulk-shopping at Costco and our house isn’t really set up for bulk storage. So I ordered some shelves and J got them put up yesterday, which got a good deal of the mess out of the way. (To give some idea of the amount of the mess that was on the floor, we quickly filled all eight shelves with it.)

I guess that’s why it felt like I was blindsided when he called me to task over the degree of my shopping: we had just done something to organize the house the day before. It’s kinda funny in an again ironic sort of way that he says that having a really messy house makes him feel anxious. I’m doing so much shopping as a coping mechanism for my own extreme anxiety. I had my anxiety pretty well under control before—I could mostly deal with his cancer. It was like I had a pressure valve and as long as I could have an ugly cry a couple times a month, I could get through the rest.

But then Covid hit and I’ve felt a complete loss of control ever since. I figured out that my therapist wasn’t helping me anymore because all her suggestions of ways to help myself were to come up with alternate activities I could do that were more productive than shopping. I haven’t been able to do a single one of them, even though they’re things I want to do: exercise, read, color in a coloring book, learn to play the bass (which I noted sadly that my husband had finally taken out of my office, realizing that I wasn’t getting around to using it.)

Yet I don’t know why I can’t get around to doing any of these other things that I want to do, things that would be more productive. I haven’t even turned on my TV once since this whole pandemic started. I have no coping mechanisms other than online shopping. Just trying to exist and work without curling up in a ball is about all I can handle. Even though I feel like a failure and deeply unashamed of not learning how to play bass or exercising, both just sound completely overwhelming to me now. I can barely function as it is; I’m hardly in a state where I can work on personal development, too.

My husband pointed out that he can’t die because he “takes care of everyone.” I’m already very well aware of how vulnerable I am by being on disability. Yet I find full-time online jobs that I think I could do and he talks me out of applying for every one of them by saying how much I would hate them. That feels like a catch-22, like it’s a burden to take care of me yet also discouraging me from doing work that could lift some of that burden.

I can’t think of another time when I’ve been like this at all. The pandemic has me literally afraid that my husband or I—or god forbid, both of us—are potentially facing death any minute. I know, statistically the odds of dying from it are small. But statistics are hardly a good comforter.

I knew the online shopping would eventually have to come to an end. There are only so many Kendra Scott necklaces and unnecessary new purses and home decor items that you can buy, anyway. But knowing that it had to end just leaves me sitting alone with my fears with nothing to distract me. If I was already a total wreck with the shopping, how much more of a wreck will I be without it?

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