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Money anxiety

Posted May 17 2012 11:14pm
I've been freelance writing full-time for almost two years now, and I'm finally getting used to the financial rhythm of working for myself. I have one steady gig that pays really well, and a variety of other things that fill in the gaps. For once, I actually have a small amount of discretionary income that I don't have to spend on hospitals and copays.

The irony is that this terrifies me.

Being broke all the time sucked, I'll give you that. I don't miss it, not one bit. What's hard for me is not so much having extra money but figuring out how to spend it. I went to college in a really small town that had limited opportunities to spend money, and I was too busy studying most of the time to buy anything besides the occasional latte or ice cream during my late nights at the school newspaper. Then, too, the ED kicked in full force.

The restriction mentality went far deeper than just food. I restricted food, yes, but I also restricted money. I was afraid to eat and didn't feel I deserved any nourishment. I also didn't think that I deserved to spend any money on myself. That mindset has been very hard to break.

It was, I must confess, rather useful when I was flat broke. I really didn't notice all that much since I didn't really spend anything anyways. Now that I'm working through this mindset, and now that I have at least some money to work with, I'm finding it really complicated and scary. I have to be very careful to have a substantial emergency fund on hand since I don't get any disability insurance through my job. As well, my income can vary widely from month to month, so again, I have to be careful.

But now I'm getting to a point where I don't have to be as careful, and the fact is that I'm not sure quite how to deal with that. The restrictive financial mindset was less anxiety-provoking because I knew what my decision was going to be before I made it. The answer was no. I would spend money on ED stuff without much anxiety, simply because I was thinking that having said items would decrease my anxiety. I could justify it as a "necessity."

I feel very guilty when I spend money. For instance, I went to a young professionals happy hour thing tonight since it looked like a good way to network. So I went. I was an anxious wreck for many reasons, especially the whole meeting-new-people bit. But I was also nervous about spending money on food and drinks, and on gas as well. I nearly backed out about 80 bazillion times just this morning. The group was....okay. I got a drink and a snack, and it really didn't set me back all that much.

For me, spending money has two different anxiety provoking components: deciding what to buy and then actually spending the money. Being nice to myself still causes nearly traumatic amounts of guilt. I can pay my mortgage and car insurance with nary a twinge because I know they're necessary. If I want a place to live and a car to drive, those things have to be paid. Okay, fine. But then there's all of the things that aren't strictly necessary but not really ridiculous, either. Like yarn. Or a new book that I can't find at the library (or has over 100 holds, so the library may as well not have it since I won't actually be able to check it out any time this millennium). Or even something at the grocery store, like the crumbled goat cheese that was on sale. I didn't really need the cheese, but it looked like it could be fun and I loves me some goat cheese.

I couldn't bring myself to type "I wanted it." I hate that I want things. I feel needy and greedy, and neither of those things sit well with me.

Needing and wanting are part of being human. It's not something I judge other people for, and yet here I am. I'm like that with a lot of things, though.

I don't know what the solution is. I don't know how to get over this hurdle. This thinking is so ingrained that it's hard to shake it off. I just wish it were easier to loosen the hell up.
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