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.

Control is a Mirage that Makes You Throw Your Cell Phone

I don’t get out of the house much. So I’m not quick to forget when someone cuts me off inCarie Sherman traffic. And getting cut off twice in the same day, by two different Chrysler 300 sedans, was unforgettable. It was no coincidence. It was a reminder of something I (sort of) learned 10 years ago, while planning my wedding.

Wedding planning made me, shall we say, a bit hyper-focused. Okay, that’s not true. I was obsessed. Totally and completely obsessed.

I don’t know how it happened. I’d set out with a mantra of Simple, Simple, Simple. But as the months passed by, I felt driven to control everything. I wanted perfection.

Which is why I flipped out a few weeks before the big day, after realizing that I couldn’t arrive at my outdoor wedding in a faded old Jeep Cherokee.

I directed what remained of my modest budget to renting a limo. And not just any limo. A brand new, white, Chrysler 300. So new, that we’d be the first people to rent it. It was elegant. It was classy. It was exactly the touch my Simple and Elegant affair needed.

All was well. Until the a few hours before the rehearsal dinner, when the limo company called to let me know that the delivery of the limo—my limo!—had been delayed.

Delayed, meaning, no classy, new white limo to drop my dad and I off at the wedding site. No elegant, charming, shiny white limo to whisk my new husband and our wedding party off to the reception.

“We’re so sorry,” the person I now hated most in the world said. “We’re upgrading you for free. We’re sending our most requested model. It’s a Hummer.”

A Hummer. My uncle drove a Hummer. It was bright yellow. It was not Elegant. It was not Classy. It was … a Hummer.

“It’s orange,” the person I hated most in the world added, as I was choking on tears. She listed other features. But all I heard was orange.

I would show up to my wedding in an orange Hummer.

I managed to thank her. Then I threw my phone.

After that call, things got worse. Much worse. Tornadoes. Torrential rains. Street flooding. Snow.

Yes, snow. The morning of June 4, my perfect wedding day, it snowed. Followed by rain, more rain.

Cue major meltdown.

It rained all morning, which meant, no outdoor wedding. Even if the rain stopped, the ground was soaked. My perfect wedding was sunk.

But here’s what’s funny: No amount of my own planning could have delivered the perfection that emerged from what I’d perceived to be a disaster.

The sun came out, just in time to for pictures. We were married indoors and it was beautiful. People still comment on it, nearly 10 years later. My husband and I have nothing but fond memories to look back on.

The Hummer was, well, orange. Bright orange. But what it lacked in elegance, it made up for in fun. Neon lights + well-stocked bar + awesome sound system = a total and complete blast with my new husband and our closest friends/family. The Hummer was a hit. And far more “us” than any boring old white limo could have been.

Our wedding day was perfectly “us.”

* * *

I’d like to say it was then that I kicked my inner control freak to the curb. But I needed a chronic illness to teach me that control is an illusion. I’m not done learning; this is a lesson for which I need constant reminding.

During that drive last week, I’d been ruminating. Running through my standard Woe is Me routine about something I couldn’t have anticipated, and I certainly had no control over.

Cue getting cut off—twice—by two versions of the car that was “supposed” to be was just the reminder I needed to chill out and accept what comes.

* * *

No one plans on getting a chronic illness. It comes into our lives like a storm, and we’re constantly dealing with its aftermath. But there are lessons to be learned in chaos.

Many lupies learn that control is a mirage: It looks like one thing. Then poof! It’s blown to smithereens. Sometimes it leaves behind something terrible. Yet sometimes, it leaves behind a bright orange hummer. Is it ideal? Not really. Is it still pretty great? Yep, it sure is.

What life lessons has lupus taught you? Share your experience in the comments below.