A few months ago, I sat in a new therapist’s office and ticked off the myriad ways in which I consider myself an introvert.
“It’s interesting to hear that, given how you’re dressed,” she said, not unkindly.
I had to laugh as I looked down at my outfit. I was wearing a maroon sweater vest ornamented with an abstract sequin sunset across the chest, bright yellow, embroidered linen shorts and chunky platform sandals. My enormous, teased-out hair was pushed back from my face with a pair of cyborg-esque red sunglasses. My wrists were stacked with multiple bracelets.
I am an introvert, but I dress like an extrovert. My personal style is almost always the loudest thing about me — fuzzy skirts, eccentric patterns, big earrings — it shouts my existence into whatever room I’m entering.
As someone who prefers to sit on an opinion until I’m sure of it, whose personality doesn’t fully emerge unless I’m comfortable, my clothes do the job of communicating the aspects of what I would call my best self before they are verbally apparent: my sense of humor, my voice as a writer, my try-hard-ness, my charisma, my weirdness, my curiosity.
This is a very long-winded way of providing context for the fact that October was an unexpectedly challenging month for me to attempt a chronicle of outfit mirror selfies. It was challenging because, to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t feeling like my best self.
Though I’ve joked about it in the past, my insomnia has become more severe recently — severe enough that I kind of…gave up on trying to get a good night’s sleep. The resulting lack of rest impacted my mental and physical health significantly, triggering everything from intense anxiety and brain fog to a degree of stress-induced body image nastiness I haven’t experienced since college.
What a fun juncture at which to take 31 photos of yourself, huh?
It is interesting, and a little sad, to look back at photos in which the maximalism of my outfits stood in sharp contrast to how minuscule I felt inside. There were mornings when I didn’t feel like leaving my apartment, much less getting dressed in a fun outfit. On those days, my clothes didn’t feel like self-expression so much as they felt like self-protection, like a coat of armor I could put on to remind myself that I was still me, and I was okay.
And I am. I’m more okay now that I’ve started to attempt the (ironically exhausting) effort of conquering insomnia again, thanks to a teary breakdown a couple weekends ago during which I realized my cycle of apathy and anxiety was hardly sustainable.
In the weeks since, I’ve reinitiated a strict sleep hygiene protocol (which has nothing to do with cleaning my sheets). I’ve also started doing acupuncture with a specialist who is so lovely I will probably keep going whether or not it helps conk me out.
It’s a work in progress, and I think it will be for a while. In the meantime, I’m grateful for the simple act of getting dressed, and the ability to wear clothes that speak for me when I’m too scared, or too shy, or too tired.