From August 2016 to February 2017 I avoided looking in the mirror. It was during this time that I kicked my “I have to get a diagnosis on this thing figured out" into high gear. I couldn’t look at my leg, I knew that my clothes didn’t look right/fit right on me, and I felt like I couldn’t control my body image.
The day before my 31st birthday I stopped biking and was put on a Mederol Dosepak to see if the steroid could quell the swelling. My orthopedist ordered for minimal physical activity and I was adhering to his plan of attack. Instantly my world of fun physical activities I had built around me during my moved to Dallas came crashing down. My urban lifestyle was being called into question… as was my sense of style. Without exercise, I feared gaining weight.
August 2016 to November 2016 was rough. In September I started testing out a one-legged compression stocking in an attempt to reduce the swelling. (Fun fact: Compression stockings maintain your current size. They don’t reduce.) Since it was still shorts season I had the “luxury” of polling my office mates to find out if they noticed anything different about my attire. Spoiler alert: They didn’t notice that I was wearing a stocking at all. Unfortunately, that didn’t help to shut the voices up in my head. Everyday I wore the stocking and put on the clothes that I owned. My mentality was that eventually the doctors would diagnose me, treat me, and my leg would return to “normal” size.
November was the worst. The stocking was irritating me so I took it off. (Bad move.) My leg exploded. The swelling extended down my leg to my ankle and toes. I almost crawled into the emergency room… I couldn’t stand in one place without feeling like my ankle would shatter. Like a piece of heavy pottery teetering on the edge of a table… I thought it would explode. I was wearing clothing that felt comfortable and hating on myself.
In December I started bandaging and gave up the mirror all together. I wore the same pair of pants everyday for six weeks. To make my life easier I also wore the same seven tops and the only shoes that would fit over my bandaged foot. I was miserable.
Once I graduated to my stocking towards the end of January and finally got the fit correct on it (in the middle of February), I knew that I would need to come to terms with what I looked like. My clothes “fit” but I wasn’t comfortable in them. My skinny jeans made me feel self conscious. And baggier jeans made me feel overweight even though my weight hadn’t fluctuated significantly.
After enough complaining, I got sick of myself and signed up for a personal shopping experience at Nordstrom. I explained my situation to the stylist and forced myself into the dressing room. I tried on every pair of pants in that entire store and walked away with a pair of jeans that I was less than super-excited about. Frustrated, I went to stores that I had previously shopped at only to leave the mall at my wits end. I was sick of looking in the mirror and upset with my appearance that could no longer be altered.
But, I continued to hold my feet to the fashion fire. I had learned my tolerance levels at the mall and knew when to back off. With a renewed motivation I searched online for pants that would suit my needs and patterned leggings for an art project. (Perhaps I could wear skirts and dress them up in my own one-legged-stocking style?) Though saddened by my previous shopping experience, I knew that I needed to suck it up and try on more clothing to normalize myself.
No matter how many times I look in the mirror, I still think that one day I will wake up and this nightmare will be over…