i’m not wearing my cheetah-print robe today and this is an unusual thing. i wear a robe or a jacket almost constantly; neither the weather nor the ambient temperature are part of the decision-making process. i don’t wear them to stay warm. i wear them as armour.
there’s something about having them on that makes me feel safer. that makes me feel better. without them, i feel exposed, vulnerable, and open. these are not feelings i enjoy. these are risky feelings, dangerous ones, ones that take my brain to places i’d rather it not go, so i take pains to ensure i avoid the trip.
i like the coverage my over-wear provides, both philosophical and literal. i like being wrapped in fabric. i like being hidden from others’ eyes. if you can’t see me, can’t see my body, you can’t judge me. i can’t judge me. you can’t decide that i’m fat, and out of shape, and wrong. the coverings make me feel brave and protected, closer to the perfect that my brain too often demands. when they’re absent, i feel vulnerable.
i like the weight the coverings add. it’s soothing. it calms me down. the feeling of the jacket on my shoulders, holding me down, slows my thoughts. it reduces my agitation. it makes it easier for me to interact with the world. you’d think i’d view this is an unproblematic win but of course, i don’t. my brain likes to mock me for my need: “you should be just fine without the cover. you shouldn’t need a crutch.” that damned should again. i have a very specific picture of what “better” looks like and it doesn’t include wearing a heavy, down coat for ten months out of the year, or putting on my fuzzy bathrobe when i’m in the house. my brain is not concerned with what works. it is concerned with appearances.
my therapist is fine with it. she’s of the “if it doesn’t hurt and it actually helps, where’s the problem” school of thought. it’s a good school. i try to listen to her but it’s challenging when your insides don’t agree with what people on the outside are saying. it’s difficult when you judge what you need as being wrong, simply because you need it.
i’m not wearing it today, however. it’s brutally, viciously hot out and apparently, even a light robe is too much. i was sweating and nauseous in it so something had to give. it’s not been easy. i miss it. i’ve put it on out of habit several times today but ultimately had to give in to the demands of the flesh, an annoyance to be sure. perhaps i need to go shopping for a lighter one for the dog days of summer. i’ve thought about shoulder pads as well. a couple of beanbags tucked under my bra straps might yield a similar result. extra weight to hold me steady. not unironic considering i’ve spent most of my life struggling with an eating disorder, trying to achieve as little body weight as possible.
i disparage myself for my need, failing to recognize the reasonableness of this choice.
we all have crutches. we all have things we wear or keep with us that help us feel safe. as a child, i had a pink blanket that went everywhere with me until it was inadvertently left behind on a plane. i feel badly for my parents; i apparently did not handle the loss well. i’ve had other safety items over the years, things that helped me feel secure. it wasn’t until my twenties that the weighty cover-up took its place as the pre-eminent safety device. i don’t remember how it came about. i just know that i stopped taking off my coats when i came indoors and i felt better for doing so.
the cell phone seems to have taken on the role of security totem for many. its absence makes people feel vulnerable and insecure. when it isn’t in arms reach, they feel wrong, unready for the world. that’s how i feel when i face the world with naked shoulders, and by naked i mean without the extra layer afforded by my cover-up.
as is the case with most of the things i criticize myself for, the issue is not the item or behaviour itself, but with my attitude regarding the same. i wouldn’t think anything more about it if a friend needed to keep herself safe that way, so why can’t i afford myself the same grace? i’m tolerant to a fault, except towards myself. this is true for a lot of us; we should be our own best friends, our own biggest fans but instead we treat ourselves like moronic defectives, convinced that our quirks make us unacceptable.
the reality is that i find the world hard. it is big and bright, and the input is, at times, overwhelming. anything that makes being here easier should be considered a win, assuming it harms none, and my choice to add actual weight to what i’m wearing impacts nobody else at all.
i’m not a knight but i am battling against a brain that’s trying to take me down, so armour is actually a perfectly valid choice. a crutch, in this case, is a good thing.
(june 10, 2018)