Each January, the promises were the same: this is the year I will clear my credit card debt, this will be the year I stop living on my overdraft. Except it never happened.
Aged three, my parents divorced acrimoniously. Both had jobs, but money was tight. Forget ballet lessons, but we were clothed, warm and fed. Life was good, except for the conversations around money – those were always negative. Mum didn’t have much money, but even as a child, watching her get dressed up for work, I understood the transformative power of clothes.
I moved to London aged 20 – no job, no flat, no friends. I liked it that way, starting out in a large city where no one knew my name. I worked my way up from the shop floor of Harvey Nichols to middle-management positions at Paul Smith, Giorgio Armani and Prada. And that’s when my money problems began.
I ‘needed’ new clothes like a normal person needs food. I loved labels such as Vivienne Westwood and Prada, but forget saving up for them: I’d march straight into the shop and buy a £700 dress to wear that evening. I bought clothes on a whim on credit cards with no way of paying them off.
In the mid-1990s, I bought a one-bedroom flat in east London, which tripled in value during the five years I lived there. Back then, mortgage companies encouraged you to remortgage as often as you fancied. So I did. Each time I’d pay off £20,000 worth of credit card debt, each time I’d run it all back up again. Shoes and boots were my weakness – I’d think nothing of buying several pairs of Miu Miu heels within the space of six months. I was drowning in debt.
Aged 30, I landed my dream job: fashion editor at Elle magazine. Sent to cover fashion shows in New York, Milan and Paris, I remember having major anxiety over ‘must-have’ designer handbags that were way out of my financial reach.
But, from the moment I landed in Milan and hit the Miu Miu store to the gut-wrenching fear of seeing an unopened credit card bill, I was the queen of brushing things under the carpet.
My pattern of opening more credit cards and paying them off by remortgaging should have ended in 2011 when, pregnant with my first child, I sold my house, paid off my debts and moved in with my boyfriend. I was debt- and mortgage-free. It didn’t last.
It finally ended in October 2017 when, after two decades of therapy and CBT counselling had failed to help me, a friend suggested I see spiritual mentor and energy healer Delilah Sullivan. During our two-hour sessions, Delilah and I worked on clearing old energy.
Imagine energy as an exchange, of which money is one element; energy awareness is a profound yet simple way of looking at ourselves, our relationships and our lives.
The negative conversations about money in my childhood had twisted my view as an adult: my parents’ arguments over child support payments had resulted in a view that I was somehow to blame for money being short. Through energy work, my old thought pattern (‘money is the enemy, get rid of it immediately’) has changed to ‘I invite money in, I am worthy of the money I make’.
At one point, I stood on a piece of paper with the word ‘guilt’ scribbled on it, and asked the energy of guilt I have around money to leave. It sounds far-fetched, but it did leave – into the bin, after being cut up into tiny pieces along with my credit cards.
I’m paying them off in chunks, so there have been no party-season purchases: no shoes, bags, earrings ‘just because’. I’ve taken things to the charity shop and given clothes to friends, with no plans to replace them. It feels like my life is undergoing a detox, both physically and spiritually. I can finally breathe. And I always knew black suited me better than red.