Money is a serious trigger for me. I spent years counting pennies, not knowing where the next bill payment was coming from, asking family for help, praying some government agency or church would come through with a few dollars towards the cut off notice or already turned off utility, moving every 6-9 months to avoid the eviction notice that would eventually come because we couldn’t stay caught up on rent.
This often meant trips to the grocery store started with me trying to add up everything in my head while I was shopping. When I put things on the belt they were separated into need and want. And when it was time to pay there were times where a card was declined and I had to play the “what can we go without” game until the card finally went through. This happened while the people in line behind me got increasingly pissed off, and I got increasingly more embarrassed and worried about how we were going to make it through the week or the month on what was left. In some of the worst cases where I really miscalculated, the account was overdrawn and I left with nothing. Some bill cleared that I wasn’t expecting, leaving me in the negative (and paying the compounding fees that go along with that).
I’ve left stores without diapers when Draven was an infant, left without much needed tampons, left without milk or meat, and all of those are things that you don’t find very often at food pantries.
Even worse is having a card declined when someone you know is with you. It’s one thing to play that game when there are strangers behind you in line, it’s another thing when you’re standing beside someone you know.
I’m thankful that for many reasons I haven’t had that problem in awhile now. I’m slowly getting better with money, I’m getting better with budgeting and I have more help to make ends meet. I’m not in danger of being evicted, having the lights shut off or running out of food. I can buy what I need and if I get into trouble I know I have places I can go for help. I really am okay now.
Unfortunately, the fear is still ingrained deep inside me and today it was reactivated with a simple message on the credit card machine when we were checking out.
“There is a problem with the card.”
I knew there was money in the account, or at least I thought I knew, I started wondering, where did I miscalculate, my thoughts started racing as I ran the card again.
The card went through that time, it was only a problem with the machine and not my card, but it was too late, I was already panicking and spiraling and having an anxiety attack.
I realized that every time I swipe my card somewhere I hold my breath waiting to see if it goes through. Even if I know there is money. Even knowing that I have emergency savings and places I can turn and that I’m not where I was, I still hold my breath every single time I go to pay for something. The amount of anxiety that goes into shopping, it’s like the reverse of playing the slots, instead of hoping for a win, I’m praying the card doesn’t get declined. Except it’s just bullshit anxiety that has no basis in reality any longer.
When money comes in, I feel like I have to pay for everything that needs to be paid, I have to buy everything I need, and sometimes even everything I want, because eventually, that card will start getting declined, the account will be overdrawn. That isn’t true anymore, but I have to resist the urge every single time I get paid. I have to fight not to spend every single cent before it’s gone.
Until you’ve been there for years and years and years, it probably won’t make any sense, how can money be gone without spending it, and if I’d just stop spending it, it wouldn’t be gone so quickly . . . but when there are more bills than there is money every single month, you sometimes learn to spend it all as quick as possible or it’s gone before anything gets done.
Unfortunately, then I end up making really shitty decisions which just restarts the cycle.
And today, I was afraid I had done it again, even though I’ve been so careful and tried so so hard to unlearn old habits. I was afraid that Wonder Woman would be the one standing there while a card was denied. I remembered all of the times that I was left making decisions about what I had to have in order to get that card to go through.
But I’m not back there, and it’s all still okay, and I’m not broke or broken. And today I was reminded, yet again, that I’m not alone while I heal from all of this.