When Fashion Hurts

I love clothes. I follow fashion blogs and pour over my favorite catalogs and websites like someCarie Sherman people read the news. I use services like Stitch Fix to watch What Not to Wear. Over the years, and especially after I got sick, I became a big believer in having a small, versatile wardrobe in which I can honestly say I LOVE every piece in it.

As such, when I shop, I look for clothes that look great for client meetings or are perfect for girl’s night. I look for clothes that express who I am and look just as good at the park playing with my bug or going to dinner with my husband.

In short, I shop for things that happen, oh, about 3-5 times per month. Total.

What’s happening the rest of the month?

I’m home. On good days, that means writing. On bad days, that means lounging. Both require the utmost comfort.


In general, clothes really hurt my body. I’m not sure if it’s the fibromyalgia or the autoimmune issues, but there are days that anything I put on physically hurts. Fabric hurts my skin, jewelry is too heavy, it’s too hard to pull something on/off, waistbands turn into a python.

And let’s not even talk undergarments. My bras are trying to kill me.

But apparently, my other clothes wish me dead as well. Just this morning, I fell down. Why? Because my toe got caught in a hole in the ratty Christmas PJ pants I wear regardless of the season.

I suddenly realized my wardrobe’s duality. I inventoried the clothes I spend the most time in. Here is what I found:

• Two Christmas-print PJ pants– one of which is two sizes too big
• 1 pair of yoga pants that used to be black and are now covered with bleach stains
• 1 pair of grey yoga pants with a ripped pocket
• Three sports bras that are too big
• One sports bra that my mom bought me in 1992 (seriously)
• Two pairs of capri sweats that are identical but can only be worn with a tucked in tank because the seams irritate my skin
• A spring break ‘98 tshirt, size XXL
• T-shirts with assorted stains–most of which I received for free–many of which have holes
• A pair of leggings that are too small so I cut the seams to allow for breathing
• My sister’s high school gym shorts

My Post Inventory Thoughts

In the order they popped in my head:

1. My poor husband
2. I’m gross
3. This can’t be healthy
4. It’s time to do something about this
5. This could be a form of mental illness
6. My poor husband

What the Experts Say

Not surprisingly, lots of people have lots to say on the topic of how you dress. Here are a few that resonated.

• “Our clothes make a huge difference to what people think about us – and without us knowing or in ways we couldn’t even imagine.” Now, I make sure that other people (i.e., people who don’t live in my home) perceive me in a certain way. But what is it saying about me that I allow myself to look so crappy, day after day, in my home–and in particular, when I’m sick?
• “… dressing in nicer clothes makes you feel better.” This study relates to depression. Which, as you know, I struggle with. On days when I feel good physically, I feel good mentally. But I wonder how often wearing Christmas PJs in July and a sports bra that could legally buy alcohol contributes to a downward spiral?
• “… clothes can change the way you think.” I have to be honest. Every single thing I’ve ever written in this blog that reflects joy and learning and growth were written on days when I wasn’t feeling like crap. Despite this cultivated image of positivity, I spend every sick day blaming myself and overanalyzing what I’ve done wrong and hating myself for not being able to control my symptoms better. A change in thinking is very much needed.


Feeling sick is bad enough. Letting myself look as bad as I feel doesn’t help.

I need a cute sick wardrobe. One that feels good if my skin hurts and is easy to put on and can accommodate hot flashes and bloated stomachs and days entirely spent horizontal. And I need to toss anything that I wore before I got married 10 years ago,* as well as things with dangerous holes and stains of unknown origin.

What about you? Do you dress like a slob when you’re sick on the couch? Are your PJs tattered? Are your workout clothes older than the current century?

If you answered yes, let’s make a pact to get our sick $hit together and find cute comfies.

Now, where to start? (Gladly accepting suggestions in the comments below!)

*Note to hubby, if you ever happen to read this: I can part with almost anything. But I refuse to part with my spring break t-shirt. So don’t even ask.

Embracing Uncertainty

“I spent a lot of years trying to outrun or outsmart vulnerability by making things certain andCarie Sherman definite, black and white, good and bad. My inability to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability limited the fullness of those important experiences that are wrought with uncertainty: Love, belonging, trust, joy, and creativity to name a few.” – Brene Brown

One of the hardest pills I’ve had to swallow is the uncertainty that comes with a chronic illness. There I was … a new mom … with a new career … living the dream … until WHAM! A doctor slaps me with words like systemic lupus erythematosus and undifferentiated connective tissue disorder and antiphospholipid antibodies. With the final blow being there is no cure.

I can’t remember what my plans were before getting socked in the gut. But if any words can make you feel uncertain, it’s those.

Suddenly my thoughts were tangled. Will I be able to have another child? Will I ever have the energy to provide for my family? Can I be the kind of mom I want to be? What if my clients find out? What if my brain fog gets worse? Will my symptoms ever get better? Can I go to the beach? Why me?

Today I started thinking about this uncertainty and boo-hooing about how much it sucks to be me. But then, my brain went Click. And I realized that just being alive is uncertain. There’s no such thing as certainty—outside of dying, of course. And I ain’t there yet.

In fact, I realized that, at the root of everything wonderful in my life, there was uncertainty.

Think about it: Were you certain the first boy you kissed would kiss you back? Did the job you love today come tied with a bow marked You Will Most Certainly Love It?

Dealing with Uncertainty

Brown makes a few suggestions on how you can lean into uncertainty in this blog post. She suggests three things that you can do to embrace uncertainty.

The first? Pay attention to what makes you feel better (and worse). For Brown, feeling better comes down to self care. Something any person dealing with chronic illness should always keep in mind.

Number two is to create an emotional clearing. To Brown, this means finding moments of quiet (meditation, prayer, nature) to reconnect with your intuition. It reminded me of this quote by Carolyn Myss:

“The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind.”

The third is to find support. She reminds us that it’s normal to feel vulnerable during times of change. But she also says that uncertainty is a necessary part of getting where we need to go.

Maybe it’s not illness that Brown was talking about when she suggests we embrace the vulnerability of uncertainty. But lupus or not, life is uncertain. Bad stuff may come … but it’s where everything that’s wonderful comes from, too.

What My Inventory of Bruises Revealed about How I’m Living Life

I recently read a blog post by a writer who described herself in her bio as (when not writing)Carie Sherman “earning bruises in the dojo.”

Of course I rolled my eyes. But then I scanned my body. I am covered in bruises. I counted seven on my left calf alone. Not surprising, since I’m anemic and pale and a klutz. But my impromptu inventory made me realize: I couldn’t find a single bruise that I could say I actually earned.

Looking back on my life thus far, I see that I have taken risks–the kind of risks that can result in the earning of a bruise. But humor for me a sec, and let’s examine those bruises. I figure they come from two places.

Source #1: The Relatively Sure Thing.

Most of the risks I’ve taken have been carefully calculated. The only one that wasn’t curated so deliberately was moving to Colorado with no job, $325 of graduation money in my pocket, and a crush on a cute boy. But I was 21. I literally had nothing else to do, and if I failed, I’d move back in with Mom and hide my face in shame when my friends came around. I sustained quite a few bumped-into-the-couch—type bruises and a few embarrassing hickey-on-the-neck-type contusions, but I managed to avoid the significant wound of paying rent to my parents. Oh, and I later married that cute boy.

Source #2: Going Big (But Only Because I was Forced To)

My ego got beat up pretty badly when I got sick. My illness still knocks me around. But it’s forced me to take a hard look at who I really am: the me that cannot and will not be changed by the circumstances of life. She was buried pretty deep, and I got black and blue trying to find her. It was a risky endeavor, and one I only took because I was out of choices: being depressed, sick, lonely, worn out, and scared with no foreseeable end in sight tends to force you to drop the pretenses, scrap That Which No Longer Works, and engage in an extensive rebuild. None of this was ever my intention.

A Risk vs. Bruises Inventory

For the purposes of this (tenuous) argument, I’m going to define “risk” as doing the scary things that are sure to get me closer to the person I really want to be, yet may result in a black eye or bloody lip, of course.

I’ve enjoyed relatively good health this year and yet I counted my risks and came up with a big, fat ZERO.

I counted my bruises (currently visible only). I came up with 11.

Why did that one writer’s comment bother me so much? Because I’ve been camped out, lounging in the recliner of my comfort zone. I’ve been treating myself with kid’s gloves—for fear of getting sick; for fear of failing. Yet careful as I’ve been, I still have bruises. I continue to get beat up by life.

That’s what life does.

So Now What, Wounded Me?

Well, dear self, here’s the thing: If you try that 90 minute Hatha yoga class and you peter out midway, so what. If the extra activity leads you to getting sick, you’ll recover.

If you finish writing the dang book you’ve been yammering on about for three years and it’s best used as kindling, then so be it. Will I feel like I’ve been punched in the kisser by Mike Tyson? Yup. Will it kill me? Only if I let it.

We all have a choice. We can choose to earn our bruises by putting ourselves out there, taking big risks, and trying new things. Or we can let life bump us around. Either way, we get bruised.

The least I could do is earn a few.