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Choosing What To Wear When Your Illness Gets In the Way

**Trigger Warning! Please be advised that this article does mention weight loss and content that may be triggering to some people. Do not read if you think it may be harmful to your mental health.**

The everlasting question…what do I wear? First of all, I feel extremely lucky but also cursed to have gone to Catholic high school. In one aspect, I never had to worry about what to wear; other than a few days a year for dress down day, choosing an outfit was never a thought that had to enter my mind unless I had plans for the weekend—for four years. It was glorious. It did have some negative side effects however; I feel like due to the fact that I was “told” what to wear throughout high school, which was followed by years of college and nannying where I could wear the comfy clothes I often chose, I never really had to dress like an “adult” until I got a job at a school. Now, “What do I wear?” has a completely different meaning behind it. I work one or two days a week and other than that, am not able to get out much. When I go to a doctor’s appointment, I wear comfy clothes. Sometimes this means cute leggings and a top, while other times it literally means baggy sweats and a sweatshirt; it’s me just rolling out of bed and into the car. But what about the days when I need to go out?

How do my illnesses limit what I’m able to wear and how do I work around that?

My hips have been an ongoing problem for years now. As a result, I can’t wear heels. While this may not seem like a big issue to some people, when you’re not able to wear them because you can't (rather than because you don't want to) it’s a different story. The last time I wore heels was at a wedding in July of 2015. I was in so much pain that I had to sit down the second half of the wedding and go to bed immediately after. I’ve been in two wedding parties since then and elected to wear flats to both. It still upsets me from time to time, but the pain isn’t worth it, so I’ve learned to wear cute flats when I have to go to dressier events.

Due to having POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) and even low grade lupus fevers, my body has trouble regulating its temperature at times. I frequently deal with fevers which make me go from sweating to chilled in an instant. I never can predict how I’m going to feel temperature wise. No one enjoys being in a car with me because if I’m cold, I sweat everyone out of the car by turning up the heat, and vice versa. I always have to dress in or bring layers with me. I usually wear a tank top, long or short sleeved shirt, bring a sweatshirt, and a jacket. On the bottom I’ll wear leggings or sweats…or even leggings under sweats because sometimes one isn’t enough! During winter I also always have a hat and a scarf and a pair of gloves on hand. The unpredictability of my body temperature can be frustrating, but I’ve definitely learned to adapt.

Sometimes something as simple as buttoning pants or zipping up a jacket can be painful on my joints. Depending on my pain level, I have to determine what I’ll be able to physically put on that day. Dresses are always easy. Also, simply getting dressed slowly and sitting down helps. Although compression socks are tough to put on, they’re very necessary in helping control my POTS symptoms. So, if my hands are hurting or I’m extremely fatigued, I’ve learned that sitting down and taking ten minutes to put them on will be worth it. This used to seriously irritate me at the beginning, but patience is key—especially when dealing with chronic illness.

Weight fluctuations have been something I’ve been struggling with significantly for the past year. This isn’t something many people know, but I’ve been to a number of doctors because earlier this year I lost a large amount of weight in a short period of time. It was decided that it was probably from all of the medication I’m on. And technically I fall within an OK weight range, but unintentional weight loss plus lack of appetite is the definition of anorexia…which I’ve been diagnosed with by three different doctors (my rheumatologist, my primary care doctor, and a gastroenterologist). This isn’t to be confused with the psychological condition, anorexia nervosa, rather just a significant loss in weight and lack of appetite. None of my outfits fit me anymore; I was wearing baggy clothes the majority of the time until my GI doctor commented that it made me look more sick. Since hearing that, I try to either wear a fitted top or bottom. I can’t afford to restock my entire wardrobe…so for now, I have to deal with wearing attire that doesn’t fit me the way they should. It can be incredibly embarrassing, but once again, adaptation is key. I know many people would love to wear sweats every day…but it’s nice to feel pretty sometimes.

I’m sure there will be ups and downs and changes I’ll encounter with my

illnesses that will make choosing what to wear a struggle. For now, all I can

do is learn from the hand I’m dealt, and share my cards with others.

**To check out more from Nicole, you can check out her blog here.**

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