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Why Someone Might Wear Baggy Clothing All the Time for Their Mental Health

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Editor's Note

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

It’s a complicated and difficult issue for me, and it covers a lot of my struggles.

If you know me, I almost always wear a hoodie, sweatshirt or baggy long-sleeved shirt, even when it’s warm out. Most people look at me weirdly when I do this, probably the same way you’d look at someone who’s wearing jogging shorts out when it’s snowing. But there is a reason behind it. Well, there are a couple of reasons.

I’ve never, ever, taken shame in my aged self-harm scars. I wear them proudly as a sign I have survived the worst of times, that people can go through tough seasons of life and still be alive, still survive and even thrive. But, what about the fresher scars?

This will be a controversial opinion, I realize, but it’s my own story and my own feelings. Long-term scars are a reminder to me of my past and how I got through it. But I will admit, I have relapsed into self-harm a couple of times, and to this day, they remain one of my biggest regrets. But they happened. There’s no point in denying that. When I do have fresh scars — when I can see them and when I can feel them even through my clothing — I feel like a failure.

I feel like I let the worst parts of me win. I feel like I wasn’t strong enough to get through life without returning to a very deep and very dark habit that I thought I had beat. I imagine it’s a similar feeling to any kind of relapse. I feel like all the effort I put into getting through life this far — all the time, money and grit I managed to put together — was for nothing. So, why do I wear long-sleeved shirts and hoodies all the time? Because I don’t want to feel like a failure.

I know relapse does not equal failure. It means the struggle remains real. It means life is not as easy as society likes to make it seem after receiving medications. It means therapy does not fix everything. It is not a sign of failure, but a reminder there are still fights to be had in the future. And that with every setback, there will be lessons learned and even more progress made.

But that’s not the only reason I wear baggy clothing. I wear it also from a combination of psychological and physiological struggles I face.

I’ve struggled with my relationship with food since I was young. And to this day, I haven’t ever revealed it to even those who are closest to me. It’s the fight I am the most embarrassed to admit to. Society has built a façade that only women struggle with eating disorders. That you can only have an eating disorder if you look a certain way. But that is not the truth or the reality for so many people. Eating disorders can affect anyone. Any gender, any body size, any race, religion or history. Just like every mental illness, it doesn’t discriminate. Now, hold onto that thought while I move on.

I was recently — like, very recently — diagnosed with hypothyroidism. It’s a condition that has affected my sleep schedule, my depression, my mental alertness, and yes, my weight. Hypothyroidism has slowed my metabolism down significantly and has led to some significant weight gain. That, plus my struggles with food, has led to a pretty sad reality for me: I’m not happy with my body.

I’m embarrassed when I have to take my hoodies or sweatshirt off because it’s just too uncomfortable to bear. I’m embarrassed when I have to go to bed, lie down and have to feel my stomach press against the bed. I’m embarrassed when I have to take a shower. I even try to avoid opening my eyes as much as possible when I shower. It’s pure embarrassment, but even that word does not fully encompass what it feels like.

So, let’s do the math here: scars that can make me feel ashamed plus weight gain that makes me feel embarrassed equals pretty low self-esteem. The solution I have come up with: wear big, unrevealing clothing. I have always, to a certain degree, emotionally hidden myself from the world. But physically, I’ve never been able to completely block myself off. So, while existing in the world, I had to find a way to hide myself while being present at the same time. And my solution was clothing.

I have made peace with the frame of mind this intention comes from, but I also recognize that it isn’t productive. I need to come to peace with who I am. I need to come to peace with my past, acknowledge my present and prepare for my future. I may not be in a season of life where I feel comfortable with my body. I may not be at a point in my life where I have the best coping mechanisms. But even just recognizing this, recognizing that I have work to do to better myself, it’s a pretty good start. And that is where it all starts, by looking in the mirror and saying to yourself:

You’re not a failure. You’re not broken. You are a work-in-progress. A beautiful, valuable, important work-in-progress.

No artist ever finished their masterpiece in a day. No scientist ever discovered something new in a couple of minutes. No builder ever finished a monument in a few hours. Progress takes time. This is a hard thing to realize, but it’s true. No matter what season of life you are in, know you can keep going, that life is always changing and so are you. You have what it takes to keep fighting because you’ve made it this far. Keep going. I believe in you, no matter how you dress.

Photo by Jeff Tumale on Unsplash

Originally published: March 4, 2020
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