A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog post about self-care and suggested that when I get dressed, “I need to put on clean clothes, and they should be clothes that I feel great in, that give me a confidence boost. (Clothes that make me feel like a busted can of biscuits should probably be removed from my wardrobe anyway, just on principle.)” In keeping with that sentiment, I cleaned out my closet last night. My closet, my dresser – basically, anything that held clothes was opened up, dumped out, and a hard look was given to everything inside.
On the surface, this might sound like a simple exercise in some deep spring (winter?) cleaning. In reality, this was ripping off a proverbial bandaid and diving into a process fraught with emotion and some painful memories; despite knowing that it needed to be taken care of, I was really loathe to actually do it. But I couldn’t write a blog post about self-care and then not follow my own advice. For someone who craves authenticity, the blatant hypocrisy would eat me alive, so drawers and doors were opened and the sorting began instead.
I had a ton of clothes that didn’t fit anymore – and by “anymore,” I mean that I had been hanging onto them since before my daughter was born. My 7-year-old daughter. Seven. Years. Three military moves. Seriously, even if my weight ever returns to a number on the scale resembling the one that appeared pre-baby, my body has changed in ways that mean my clothes won’t quite fit the way they used to. And that’s ok. But it means I was holding onto a whole lot of clothes that were symbols of what once was, not what could be.
There were other clothes that fit beautifully but had some really negative, painful memories attached to them. I’d been keeping them because they fit, because what if I needed them at some point, because I had spent hard-earned money on them, because, because, because. I’d been keeping them but not really wearing them. To look at them made me sad or uneasy; to touch them actually magnified those emotions by ten. Putting the clothes on was like swimming in a pool of misery. If you’re depressed and you’re avoiding wearing clothes that make your body feel like a busted can of biscuits, you certainly don’t need clothes that make your heart feel like one either. For that matter, you don’t need any of that when you aren’t depressed. You just don’t need any of that at all – ever – and neither do I.
I kept reminding myself of that reality as the pile grew. I suddenly had no slacks, no suits, no little black dress; there was a momentary panic as I grasped how deeply I was purging my closet and dresser. But I also realized that I hadn’t actually had slacks, suits, or a little black dress in a very long time – not ones that fit, anyway. Instead, I’d had false hope and security hanging there, waiting to disappoint me when the time came for me to actually need things like the ones I was giving away.
All told, 164 items left my closet and dresser last night. 164. For starters, I felt some shame in realizing just how much I had that I never wore. I live in a uniform or workout clothes 90% of the time; having a wardrobe that immense just wasn’t necessary. It also meant that literally every time I opened my closet or a drawer, most of the clothing items within my reach were really just monuments to a past – a past body type, a past memory, a past effort at being someone I no longer am. Yesterday was a good mental health day, and yet the journey through my hoard of clothing was a painful trip down memory lane. Imagine how that feels on a rough mental health day. Imagine the depression setting in and going to your closet in an attempt to take care of yourself and get dressed, only to find that most of what you own makes you feel horrible because it doesn’t fit or it evokes memories you’d really rather just forget. Self-care sabotage.
So in the interest of not sabotaging my self-care – and self-care is an ongoing process that requires work on both the good and the bad mental health days – 164 items of clothing left my house this morning and were donated to a ministry down the street. Someone else will get some great clothes, and they will absolutely rock them. They will look and feel amazing, and so will I. The monument to the things that I will never again be has been dismantled, no longer something to be leveraged by depression’s ugly voice trying to convince me that whatever I am now is something less. Because on my good days, my bad days, and every day in between, I’m not less, and I won’t let something as simple as my clothes make me feel otherwise. Please don’t give yours that kind of power either.