When Shopping For Clothes Is Traumatizing

No retail "therapy" here.

I have to go shopping tomorrow and I’m dreading it. I’ve been thinking about it for two weeks, procrastinating and making up excuses not to go, but time is up, the end is nigh. My husband’s boss is having a “thing” tomorrow afternoon and I can’t wear holey sweat pants, so I have to go shopping. HAVE to. Not WANT to. HAVE to. MUST. And I’m freaking out. Dreading it. Like, pit in my stomach, sweaty palms, put-it-off-until-the-last-minute dreading it. 

But. But. But SHOPPING!! Yay!! Right? Women love shopping! Retail therapy and all that. New clothes are supposed to be so much fun, good for the soul.

Nope.

Nothing triggers my anxiety and depression quite like clothes shopping for myself. I wander around the store looking, touching, NEVER trying on. And I pick things out, usually lots of things. And I’m determined. I will buy these clothes. I will. I deserve to look nice. I deserve to feel nice. I deserve to spend a little cash on myself every once in awhile.

I talk myself into it. I psych myself up. Positive self talk. Cognitive behavioral therapy. All the things.

Then I freak.

Now that I’m an adult, I hear the same whispers from my depression, only now my anxiety kicks in and they validate each other. My anxiety says I shouldn’t spend money on myself and my depression says I’m stupid to have thought I should in the first place.

My brain kicks in and I put everything back. I leave empty-handed and usually close to tears. Retail therapy is NOT therapeutic. It never has been. I remember when I was a teenager, my mom would take me shopping for back to school clothes and I would hem and haw and not choose anything. I would sulk and hide behind racks, and was just generally unpleasant. In hindsight, I see what was happening. But back then, I thought I was just an atypical, angsty teen.

Now I understand a little better that my brain was working against me. Telling me that I wasn’t worth it, that I shouldn’t have nice clothes or nice things because reasons. So many reasons. Now that I’m an adult, I hear the same whispers from my depression, only now my anxiety kicks in and they validate each other. My anxiety says I shouldn’t spend money on myself and my depression says I’m stupid to have thought I should in the first place. Depression: Clothes are stupid and you’re stupid for thinking you should even HAVE clothes. You don’t deserve clothes. Clothes are for people with JOBS and LIVES and FRIENDS. Anxiety: You’d look stupid anyway. Look at that, these are all skinny jeans and you’re way too fat for skinny jeans. People would totally stare. You’d look like a sausage stuffed in a casing. And on. And on. And on.

Rational me eventually pops in and tells them both to pipe down, but by then it’s too late. I’m off the rails, the clothes are stuck back on random racks, willy-nilly, hoping no one notices that my once full arms are now empty, me wondering if they’ll think I’m stealing something because I was there for so long and am leaving without buying anything. And I’m also sweating buckets and flushed at this point, because that makes it look way better.

I. Hate. Shopping.

It doesn’t help that I’m no longer the size I once was, two kids ago. Finding clothes that fit my larger body, in styles that aren’t mumu, is a challenge, which is why I normally go the stereotypical stay-at-home-mom yoga pants route. Plus I can order them from Amazon. Amazon is definitely not triggery. Prime is my shopping bff, and I would order everything if I could.

If I’m being honest, I don’t even know what size jeans I wear at this point in my life. I know how many Xs are in my yoga pants size, but that doesn’t translate to jean sizes, so I end up guessing. Which, of course, means I guess wrong, but I don’t know until I get home, because, like I said before, I absolutely will not try on clothes in a store.

Call it a quirk, but I just can’t. The mirrors or the lighting or the people milling around, I’m not sure what it is, but fitting rooms freak me out, and nothing ever looks good in there anyway. So I end up with a pile of ill-fitting clothes, which just makes me feel worse because, duh, all my clothes fit weird and that’s not a good look.

This is bananas, right? I know! This is my life. I need a uniform to wear every day. Or a StitchFix subscription or SOMETHING. Personal shopper? My own stylist? Someone to go buy me some goddamned jeans so I can stay home and pretend I’m not a weirdo?

I’m open to all suggestions. Except “just don’t be that way” or “stop overreacting," because, unfortunately, those aren’t really options.

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