Home Buying/Selling: My Anxiety’s Worst Nightmare

When Jeremy bought the URL for this blog last year, I envisioned it being more about life as a parent than I did some sort of diary about my mental health, but sharing my story has given me some kind of solace somehow. Especially in light of my current lack of access to my therapist. 

I used to be ashamed that I saw a therapist. As if bettering myself through psychotherapy somehow made me less of a person. It doesn’t and amazingly enough, it’s therapy that made me see that.  I’ve seen a therapist on and off for about 7 years now. What started as a way to share family struggles to an impartial third party has become a sanctuary that I now rely on when I’m having a tough time, when my anxiety is trying to control me instead of the other way around, or frankly when I need the advice of someone who is completely impartial.  I know I’m privileged to have access to a licensed therapist the way that so many others do not. Fortunately, it’s my work that gives me that privilege, as my insurance sure doesn’t. 

What I realized in the last couple days is that because of this pandemic and the lack of ‘normal’ resources, I’ve lost access to that therapist, which has been amplifying my anxiety without even realizing it. 

Buying (and selling) a house during the pandemic is hard enough.  We were originally going to try and sell/buy next year (2021), so that we’d be in our house before Travis starts kindergarten. But then, in February, we had a consultation with our realtor and after a pretty frank conversation about where the market was then and what repairs were expected to be made to our house, we decided in February to go for it – we’d take a couple months to make the repairs we knew needed to be done and then plan to list the house in June. 

And then COVID hit our area and well, it definitely gave us doubts. But, being in quarantine for three months, allowed us the flexibility we needed to get the repairs done. I spent that entire time finding every spare minute to paint every inch of this house except the boys’ rooms. Turns out, when your kids are home 24/7 with you as their only real source of entertainment and you’re trying to keep at least semi-current with your full-time job, there aren’t as many spare minutes as you’d think.  But I got it done.   And Jeremy busted his butt to make other repairs throughout the house. 

June rolled around and interest rates continued to tumble, so we made the decision to go for it. We did as much as we could do virtually, we asked anyone that entered this house to wear booties, masks, and gloves if they were touching anything. And then I’d spend time after showings wiping down every surface and doorknob that they could have feasibly touched. 

And now, we get into the hard part. Selling a house is way more stressful than I realized it would be. Taking out of the fact of just trying to get timely updates while also taking care of the kids (who always always need more attention when we’re on the phone), it’s been more stressful than I really ever expected.  Our house is an old house, built in 1963, so it has issues like any old house would. But it’s been good to us, the bones are good. And to this point, we haven’t had any major issues with it, except the furnace which we replaced in ’17. So hearing an inspector and buyers tear into it like we haven’t spent months busting our butts to get it ‘show-ready’ and the past 7 years making it into a home, well, it was way more emotional than I expected. It’s not perfect, but I challenge you to find a house that isn’t a new construction, that is.  And don’t even get me started on repairs – to think you do everything right and still be told it’s not good enough or there could be issues. Selling this house has been like doing some kind of bad polka where my partner is constantly stepping on my feet and flinging me around like a ragdoll. 

Turns out, buying a house in this market can be equally as stressful, though at least it’s presenting the light at the end of this tunnel. You see, there’s a housing shortage right now, for those of you who aren’t following the housing market. What that means is that houses are flying off the market at or above asking (which is great for sellers, usually), but when you are buying something –  you won’t be the only offer. I’ve been pursuing home sites since February of course, knowing full well that those houses would be gone, but got a feel for what we can find in our price range. Turns out, even some houses listed as active were gone in reality. And if you couldn’t look at a house in the first 24-48 hours of it coming on the market, it was gone. You never even got your shot.  We lost out on some houses that way. 

We put a bid on a beautiful house two days before our house went on the market. It was a beautiful house in a beautiful neighborhood, under budget, checked off just about every box on our wish list (except Travis’ pool – so I guess things happen for a reason). Because it was listed right, we came in TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS over asking in as is condition to combat our closing help. We still didn’t get it. 

So we kept looking, online and in-person. We looked at a nice house in a nice neighborhood with a garage that took up almost the entire backyard, we looked at a house that I was sure was going to be the one – to have it not be nearly as beautiful on the inside as it was out. We rode by six houses ourselves that we didn’t even go inside of. We looked at a house that our cop realtor thought might legitimately be a drug house or a halfway house (and still given the market, we stood outside to discuss what options we’d have). We looked at a house that had almost everything we wanted, except the basement was a 10×10 cinderblock cellar – great for a wine cellar, but no room for the other things we needed. We looked at house built in 1885, that while gorgeous, lent 90% of its backyard to a ravened stream and woods (which would TOTALLY work with two young boys).  Thankfully, thankfully, our hopefully future house popped on the market and we were able to get into see it within 24 hours. We’d known as soon as it came on the market it was the one, almost cancelling all other showings that day. And when we walked in we knew it was the one.  And I guess because things happen for our reason, the sellers accepted our strong offer and we got the house. 

People tell me this is a lot for anyone. Doing all this during a pandemic, while re-ramping up at work and having my children re-start daycare, has been almost too much for me to take. Last week, I had panic attack after panic attack. I’ve been up through the night almost every night worrying about everything. Things we do right are questioned, things that should be simple aren’t. And I’m navigating all of this without my therapist at hand. It makes me want to stay in bed some days.  As I’m on my third page of this entry, I don’t know what it was really supposed to be about – telling our story, I guess. The comedy of errors that it has been, the one step forward, three steps back.  All while well-meaning people tell me “it’ll be okay.” Except some days, I can’t breath. I can’t think of anything except whatever catastrophe could be waiting for me around the corner with this process. That somehow my dream of giving my children the best life possible – of purchasing this new house that we plan to never move out of is going to slip away. 

I guess the lesson here is that anxiety is real and it is serious. It is not just “excessive worrying.” It cannot be cured by “taking a deep breath” or “just not thinking about it.”  Like other mental illnesses (but clearly not like people in America), it does not discriminate. 

So wish me luck, folks and thanks for reading my babble. In 23 days, I’ll either be celebrating in our new house or crying somewhere in the corner.  Hopefully it’s the former.