Musings of Recovery: Today My Clothes Didn’t Fit (And That’s Okay)

Trigger warning: Discussion of clothing fit and ED behavior patterns. Numbers omitted.

Recently I moved house which, alongside the dread of getting one’s life boxed up and relocated, came with the joy-of-joys that is rediscovering one’s clothing collection. I say collection because, let’s face it, so many of us hold on to pieces of fabric that we:

Haven’t worn in years. Never intend to wear.

OR

Always hoped we would be able to wear but have never met the arbitrary stitch and inch that someone dictated gave them a number and worth for our brains (and society) to meet.

I don’t know about you, but none of those seem useful to me. Yet it’s only really when we take the time to take stock of our wardrobe that we even really notice such garments exist. Such was my state of textile-based discovery during the unpacking phase of my move.

It was while hanging clothes today in my new wardrobe that I stumbled across a skirt. It was a short little number: Black and lacy with a little bow on the front. I remembered when I first got it. I was at a conference and a friend had offered it to me because “We’re both slim” but it didn’t fit her. It was a lovely and very kind gesture. I tried it. It fit. I wore it and it felt good.

I was also in my lowest place of struggle at that point.

My friend did not know it at the time (none of my fellow conference attendees did) but I was starving myself throughout the days and then binging horrifically in the evenings when away from the crowds and professional façade. I ate until my stomach hurt and then I kept on eating. I’d shake, sweat, and lose all sense of where I was or where my life was going. Heck, I even lost consciousness at times but, when I woke up, I resumed the bowl of food I had drifted off cradling.

In short, it was a bad time.

I have worn that skirt on a few occasions, but not since actively seeking recovery. I’d forgotten about it somewhere in the mix of reclaiming my life, making sensible food choices, and actively working to replace negative coping tactics with positive ones. So, needless to say, when I rediscovered this skirt I was a mixture of nostalgic, troubled, and (of course) curious.

Can I still fit in to this? I thought to myself, mixing a sincere desire to know my potential outfit choices with eating-disorder based fear.

The answer?

It did not fit.

Nowhere near.

Not. A. Chance.

They say that the first thought that goes through your mind is what you have been conditioned to think, whereas the second is what actually defines you.

Those first thoughts? They weren’t pretty.

You’re a chunker.

You look ridiculous.

You’re gaining weight.

You’re doing the wrong thing. You don’t look good anymore. People would laugh if they saw this. You can’t let this happen. You need to fit in to this skirt. You need to be that weight again or you’re worthless.

Those thoughts came in such a rapid fire that they blurred frantically together, only to really be revealed later upon introspection in the moment.

Perhaps more interestingly, though, was how quickly, firmly, and confidently my second thought came:

This is great. I am recovering.

Of course, I had that fleeting throwback to the media cliché of the dejected female (always, it seems, a female) who struggles but cannot get in to her old jeans, apparently the verdict of cloth and zipper representing (absurdly) a personal failure of character and worth, but then it was gone. Or, to be more apt, replaced with happiness and the knowledge that, even if this isn’t what I would want, expect, nor perhaps even feel okay with at times it was a sign of progression. My ill-fitting clothes denoted an illness-free mindset.

Don’t misconstrue my acknowledgement of this fact for smugness, nor an expectation that everyone is capable of, nor even want to, reacting in the same way I did. Everyone is on a different recovery journey and at a different stage of recovery but I do believe that moments like this – ‘Ah-ha’ moments, if you will – are important to acknowledge. This was not a mindset that I could have gained in an instant. It was the result on months and months of hard work, physically and mentally, to try and restore my body and thinking processes to something that could be considered ‘constructive.’ Or, at the very least, less likely to speed me towards an early grave. And I’m so happy and grateful to have got to this point.

That moment of “This doesn’t fit” followed so swiftly with the positive thought of “Because you’re recovering” was an amazing feeling and thought to experience and one that I believe we are all capable of achieving.

And, sure, it might not fit with what society thinks not getting that zipper to the top means, nor what we ideally hope we can have (recovery while also staying at the same weight, in the same place, doing the same thing) but it’s amazing and worth so much more than the negative spiral of an eating disorder can ever provide.

My mind may now grumble from time-to-time that I have become the ‘winter weight’ cliché of a woman but, logically, I know that that cliché is dumb and reductive anyway. I also know I’d much rather be the punchline of a media joke while being healthy and happy rather than meeting society’s standards for me while being miserable and dangerously sick.

As for the skirt? I donated it to charity, alongside some other clothes that I guessed would no longer fit (no need to hammer in the “You’ve recovered so there’s more of you”) or that no longer suit my personality.

I’m sure that that amazing skirt will now find a new home and owner who can fill it out with their wonderful personality and style. As for me? I’m making a new identity for myself and celebrating every victory.

Love and solidarity,

Amy (TED Support Group attendee & blog author)

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