I Tried Treating My Depression with Retail Therapy and All I Got Were These Lousy Beauty Products

I didn't feel a thrill, or excitement, or satisfaction, or any of the feelings you usually associate with buying yourself something nice.
Publish date:
October 13, 2016
mac, shopping, depression, sunday riley, mental health, retail therapy

I've been thinking a lot about my mental health and my purchasing habits lately, not least because my mental health has been below average and my spending on beauty has been above average. I feel a bit ashamed to acknowledge it here because when my mood is at its peak, I'm quite critical of the consumerism behind the beauty industry, and I try to limit my own consumption — downsizing my collection, focusing on my favorites, and trying to use up what I have before buying more.

There's nothing like being miserable to make you more miserable, though. When I was feeling stuck in the depths of my depression recently, all I wanted to do was spend money on makeup. Wanting to buy makeup made me feel guilty — guilty for not finding joy in the items I already own, guilty for being unable to put money aside for more important things, guilty for "giving in."

I try to keep myself off the "new" page of the Sephora website most of the time (out of sight, out of mind, etc.) but there's a certain pleasure to be had in browsing rows and rows of shiny new products. When my world is dark and nothing makes me happy... well, online shopping doesn't make me happy either, but it at least keeps me distracted and out of my own head.

Shopping online from New Zealand is more complex than if I were in the States, which means I can lose more time adding things and taking them out of my cart, comparing sites, calculating exchange rates and shipping fees.

Eventually I splurged most of my spending money on a couple of online orders of beauty products. Great! But each time I pressed "submit," I didn't feel a thrill, or excitement, or satisfaction, or any of the feelings you usually associate with buying yourself something nice. I just felt nothing — the same as I was feeling the rest of the time, really.

While there are apparently some benefits to "retail therapy", the term can just be a facetious mask for real psychological issues like compulsive buying. Compulsive buying may not be a technical disorder, but there's certainly a massive link between compulsive buying behavior and depression (hey, it's me!). It's kind of a relief to discover that the unhappy hole you're digging yourself is a symptom of something bigger and not just an indicator that you're a failure at solving your own problems.

And then, as I'd come home from work to a parcel on my doorstep, I felt nothing but indifference. Oh, new things, huh? Welp, more stuff to take up space and never get used. What a waste of money.

My mood remained dark and sour. I eventually dragged myself into action enough to photograph the things I bought and write about them in a series of posts called "The Depression Hauls" on my own blog, but that was almost a month after I'd got some things, and I was only just coming out of the slump. And still, to be honest, I was shooting products I'd barely touched, and writing about them out of a sense of obligation more than any feeling of excitement about the content. (You might have noticed I've been pretty quiet on xoVain lately, too.)

Because I can't help but talk about specific beauty products, even if I did buy them out of misery, I've got to tell you my top and bottom items purchased in my depression hauls.

Best purchase: MAC Eye Shadow in Plumage

This eyeshadow's pigmentation leaves a lot to be desired (please recommend a better matte deep peacock blue) but it has single-handedly instilled an appreciation for blue eyeshadow in me, so it gets top marks.

Biggest disappointment: Sunday Riley Tidal Brightening Enzyme Water Cream

To be fair, this is a perfectly adequate product — it just doesn't do anything magical, and for the price, I kind of expected it would. Don't get me wrong. I like it! I just... so many dollars.

I think it's helpful to acknowledge and explore your coping mechanisms, even when they're not the healthiest. Obviously, retail therapy is not a real, valid form of therapy that I (or anyone) would endorse as a way to improve your mental health. I'm going to try to focus on getting more creative with the items I already own and "shop my stash" before I go shopping with real money any more.

It's also not the only thing I'm doing to try to sort things out in that area — and as I pursue mindfulness and self-care in ways that are less object-based (as well as see a super-expensive but awesome psych), I feel my inclination towards excessive shopping lessen.

  • Do you find you have toxic shopping habits? What triggers them?
  • What are your ways of moderating your spending?