I didn’t realise this for many years, but I’ve been struggling with depression for the majority of my life. I remember, as a little girl, being so unhappy with my life that I wanted it to end. I never spoke about it to anyone because my understanding was that it’s normal to feel sad and that thinking about death is just something everything does when they’re feeling sad. Now, as an adult with diagnosed depression, I realise that that’s when my problems have started.
I didn’t have any understanding of what depression is until I was about 17, when I was at my deepest and darkest low. Learning about this illness made me realise that along the way I’ve developed some coping mechanisms, and it made me realise that they started taking over my life and my mind.
I’ve struggled with disordered eating patterns since I started my A Levels. For months I would starve myself, then in a day I shovelled in the amount of food I would have eaten in that time, then I tried to purge and punished myself if I couldn’t do it and for the lack of discipline in the first place.
I am a little better now. I still restrict and binge occasionally, but not dangerously. It’s just something that I automatically reach for when things fall out of place and I can’t put them back in order. It’s still a cause for concern, but no one is concerned.
Until last night. And oddly enough, my binges are not what brought about the concern.
Last night I was consoling my mum who is unhappy at her job. It just so happens that I too am unhappy at my workplace and I’ve been job hunting the past couple of weeks. I was in very high spirits when I received three interview invitations over the course of one week, two of which I was REALLY excited for because they were actually close to my interests.
I went to the interviews and I’ve done my absolute best. I was really happy with myself for how I’ve done and I gave myself a good pat on the back and went home feeling hopeful. I never let my expectations get too high, so getting the call back with a rejection from both the places I was excited for left me feeling a little deflated, but ultimately I was okay. I had done my best, the interviewers told me they loved meeting me and that they’ll hold on to my details if anything else crops up.
But I wasn’t okay. Somewhere deep inside, beneath the layers of thick skin I’ve grown over the years, I cracked. I very tiny paper of me was devastated that I had done so well, the people I met loved me so much, and STILL I wasn’t good enough. It was a truly miniscule part of me that felt this pain, but it hurt so strong that I felt it on the surface too.
I felt I lost control of something that I was handling really well. For a year I’ve been wanting to change my job and my constant state of depression was stopping me from making that move. Now I took charge, went out there and got the results I was after, and in the end it all backfired. There was nothing else I could do; I was rejected for reasons I could not control.
Control is a significant element of coping mechanisms. The loss of control in personal life is counterbalanced by the creation of control in one’s behaviour. One dangerous example is eating patterns, as I had developed as a teenager. Now, as an adult, I’ve translated this to shopping.
So here’s my confession: I have a shopping problem. When things fall out of place in my life, I spend money. Last year I spent 4 months spending every single spare penny I had, and it was in things like makeup, clothes, books, food (so I could binge), and many other things I did not NEED, but WANTED there and then.
Fast forward to my heart-to-heart with my mum last night. I told her that these recent job rejections have really deflated me and made me feel helpless, and I started getting the urge to spend. Not to shop, not to buy something nice that I will enjoy, but to spend. It’s an itch that I can’t get to to scratch it away, and ignoring it doesn’t work as it keeps nagging at me day and night.
We concluded that I have the shopping equivalent of bullimia – the urge to buy more makeup and skincare than I can store and ever use up when I feel a loss of control in my life. It was the first time I ever spoke about it out loud as a coping mechanism and I realised that it’s not just a bad habit I have; it’s becoming a problem.
I’m not sure what to do about it now if I’m honest. But knowing that my mum is aware of this, knowing that she’s acknowledged it as a problem that I might need help with and knowing that I can talk to her about it is a huge weight taken off my shoulders. Therefore, if you have a similar problem, I urge you to reach out to someone or find a community that will make you feel understood. I’ve learned a lot about eating disorders from Mia on What Mia Did Next. The community she has created over the years is amazingly admirable and lovingly caring. Her videos have opened my eyes to so many things in this world, and not just from the point of view of an eating disorder sufferer. I highly recommend visiting her channel to everyone, regardless of the difficulties you’re facing in your life.
I wish you all strength, courage and perseverance in battling your inner demons. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, please reach out to someone. You may talk to me if you feel comfortable to do so – I would love to help, even if just by saying you’re not alone in this.
Until then – you are not alone in this. You can survive anything. And you will. Stay strong.