1 April 2016

One Clothes Shop at a Time...

After being on a re-feeding meal plan for almost 9 months, I can honestly say that shopping for clothes has not exactly been the most enjoyable experience. Usually a monthly occurrence, this activity would yet again be another addition to the list of ‘unknowns’ within my recovery. Questioning what size I would be this time round, how would I react to that news and what would be the consequential actions; all elements that made the trip more of a distress than a pleasure.

As a former fashion student, I am always astounded at the myriad of clothes on display within just one store. The colours, cuts and trends excite me, and I commence with my lap around the shop floor. It is an experience that awakens many senses- sight, hearing and touch. The groupings of colour for certain trends, the upbeat music engaging my interest and the complex textures within the multitude of fabrics. Previously, this was an experience that would have enticed me into grabbing items of clothes and rushing to the changing room. However, up until recently, it was a situation where I found myself purely engaging my senses- observing, listening and feeling- it caused much less stress that way.

Mentioned above, the undeniable effect of a re-feeding meal plan means weight gain. You cannot avoid it- unless of course you do not want to recover. I have come to realise that changing on the outside has significantly less impact on my anxieties when I consider just how much time and nutrients have been needed to repair my body on the inside. I have gained a significant amount of weight since my admission into hospital, and it has been terrifying. It causes absolute havoc with my emotions, my behaviours and my actions. Restriction and over exercise beckon me, and the fight I have to endure to resist them is exhausting. This temptation calls every day, so consider the fuel that is added when shopping for clothes. The mirrors, the mannequins, the sizes- it amplifies the desires of my eating disorder.

Another aspect of my Anorexia that I have to contend with is guilt. I cannot spend money. I cannot treat myself. I cannot deserve it. This is something that I have really struggled with since my departure from university. I feel incredibly guilty about spending money, considering how much I wasted in just those first three months, and the ongoing debts for accommodation that were left to repay. Not only that, but the cost of coming to visit me in hospital, the ongoing cost of food to supplement my meal plan and the future costs of my second university venture. My parents are always offering to buy me things, and as grateful as I am to their kindness, I cannot help but not feel worthy of it. This frustration from my parent’s side deescalates the mood in most circumstances, as I refuse to allow them to contribute. Yes, of course there are cases when I do allow them to, but I am sure they will vouch for me here when I say that it I certainly put up a fight. Shopping for clothes is where this most commonly takes place. I usually see a piece of clothing that I absolutely adore, and before I even pick it up off the rail, I turn around the tag and look at the price. Normally after that, I simply walk away. However, Mum being observant as she is, chases after me and questions why I haven’t added it to the basket. Then the battle begins with me saying I didn’t even like it, Mum disagreeing, me then trying to argue another excuse, and Mum catching me out with the fact that I looked at the price tag. I know she means well, and so I acknowledge that I need to iron out this flaw within my mindset. However, up until my recent trip to Manchester, this has been incredibly difficult.

I finally managed to enjoy my last Christmas present, which was to see Jess Glynne live at Manchester with my beautiful cousin. The trip spanned across two days, with it being part of her 21st birthday treat arranged by my parents. As she was being pampered for the afternoon, my mum and I ventured into the city centre. I knew I needed to get some clothes for my holiday, but after enjoying the time I was getting to spend with two wonderful family members, the anxieties didn’t seem to be rising as high as usual. Walking into a clothing store, I had a list of what I needed to get, but unlike my usual self, I found myself eying up other items, but not just eying them up, I was physically picking them up. Dungarees that I had fallen in love with, a potential skirt for one of the family weddings I am due to attend this year and a clingy dress all found their way into my basket. I was enjoying trying to find pairing for the items, with the promise of heading to the changing room to try out my creations. Sure enough, with Mum by my side, I ventured to the cubicle and started to undress. Each item I removed from my body presented a challenge as I looked in the full-length mirror. Struggling to wriggle my skirt passed my bum- a skirt that I used to have to wear with a vest and a jumper to make fit- I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself. Yes, I did the routine scrutinise of my body, but the feeling of jumping round a changing room to get in and out of clothing made a welcome change from fastening a garment for it to slide straight off my body and pool on the ground. Putting on my first outfit, I felt great; a pair of dungarees that didn’t drown me, and a t-shirt that exposed my no longer skeletal arms. As I peeled back the curtain I was greeted with multiple compliments, and the one thing that was the most special of all- a smile on my Mum’s face. I repeated the process with all of my chosen garments, and consequently purchased all of them. I felt confident and proud with how I handled the experience, and ultimately restored my faith in just how enjoyable- and normal- clothes shopping is!

I want to find comfort in finding clothing that suits my body shape, and as difficult as it is for me to comprehend, I am aware that I need to gain more weight. After this positive experience, I have become somewhat reserved about this, as I felt so confident with my body shape as it is now. However, I hope that I can continue to fight these thoughts and feelings, as I have done for so long now, and take on this battle when it presents itself again.

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