I wrote a post a few months back about the first time I actually felt totally comfortable in a dress (gosh, it’s been a year already?!). Since then, a lot has happened, namely that I’ve changed a ton. Moving out of my parents’ house has forced me to take a deep look at myself and really figure out who I am.
One of the things I’ve been assessing has been my church trauma that I’ve talked about a little. Since I’ve been thinking a lot about it and am especially heated about skirts this morning (and because my blog needs an update and the posts I’ve written since moving will likely stay in my drafts folder), I thought, “WHAT BETTER PLACE TO RANT ABOUT THIS THAN MY OLD BLOG?!”
So here I am.
A few days ago, I was talking about skirts with my best friend. I’d remembered a skirt I’d sewn by myself (to get out of a multiple-week sewing class my mom wanted me to go to) and fished it out of my closet to show her. It had been years since I’d tried it on, mostly because I wasn’t comfortable wearing skirts at all, and couldn’t pull the zipper up the last time I’d tried. This time, it fit like a glove.
Looking at myself in the mirror brought back a ton of memories. Times when I’d worn that skirt and others, little and big things happening in my life, the way I’d felt, things that were said to me. I wouldn’t call it being triggered, but it definitely wasn’t normal. My friend looked at a few of my other skirts, gently suggested that I start wearing them again, and then left me to have “a moment.”
The moment happened the next day, when I put on a skirt to wear for work. Pleated and beige, with an antique print of light stripes and purplish pink flowers. Paired with a belt, sandals I’d worn to the beach, and a dark blue top. After that, I just stared at myself in the mirror for a while. I’d worn skirts since, but this was the first time I did it intentionally and then just let myself sit in the feeling for a while. I still felt wary, but I stood there and actually let myself feel everything – all of the emotions and thoughts and repressed memories that came with it.
For the first time, I realized why I was so against wearing skirts. After so many years of wearing skirts and only skirts, actually choosing to wear one was a big deal. But it wasn’t just that – it was also allowing myself to somewhat go back to that time.
Putting on that skirt came with a unique sense of vulnerability – as if, for the first time since those years, I had just willingly placed myself in an uniquely hard position. To open myself up again to everything that came with those years – the things people said about me, the way I was treated, the view I had of myself.
It was like I’d found the box that people had put me in and was able to finally examine all of it’s edges and creases and dark spots in all its raw, confining, twisted form. Feelings of being lesser, unimportant, and not valued or valid came rushing back, and the weight of them nearly crushed me, like they did back then.
To me, that skirt wasn’t “just a piece of fabric.” It was something that, in a way, symbolized an entire almost-decade of my life. The seven years from when my dad told my sisters and mom that we’d be wearing skirts outside of the house from now on until the day my skirt flew up (in front of three men I didn’t know) when I was nannying and I finally told myself that enough was enough – smack dab over the majority of my formative years and all of my teen years.
It brought back everything that dragged on the coattails of those years – the move that ripped my entire life and all of my friends away from me, my cult-church trauma that left me spiritually dry for the better part of about four years, the lack of friendship and sense of complete and utter disconnection with the place I’d landed after freefalling.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I know it could’ve been a lot worse. This isn’t sexual trauma. This isn’t physical abuse.
But it’s not nothing, either. It’s something that happened and shaped me into who I am today, and I’m still working through it. I’m not going to play the victim and try to blow it out of proportion, but I’m also not going to try to dismiss it with a forced “It’s not as bad as it could’ve been.”
“You know it’s in the past, right?” a friend asked me when I started venting to him about it.
“I know, but it still impacts my present,” I told him. “And I’m trying to make sure it’s worked through so it doesn’t affect my future, too.”
Moving out has impacted me a lot more than I thought it would. Because I’m alone so much, I’ve had more time than literally ever before to focus on myself. Sometimes this is a bad thing and I’ve spiraled a few times because I’ve gotten too deep inside my head.
But sometimes, like now, it’s a good thing. It’s hard and it’s raw and it’s painful, but after so many years of repressing and minimizing and trying to tell myself that everything I’ve been through isn’t “that bad,” I’m tired of staying stuck in these same bad habits and mindsets. I’m finally figuring out how to work through my issues and slowly discovering bits of myself that had been shoved aside and told were unimportant.
The best part has been picking apart those years and finding the gold in the midst of the muck. Everything that happened in those years shaped me. I’m not mad about or regret anything because it wouldn’t have made me into who I am today. Because of it, I have a lower tolerance for BS, a greater appreciation for those who are stronger than me, and a deeper love for myself and my Savior.
I’m letting go of the things that harmed me in those years but still clinging to the things I still appreciate about my teenage self – her tenacity, her bravery, her clear sense of right and wrong (even if she couldn’t voice it).
Having so much time alone in my apartment has rekindled my love for reading and I’m finding myself going back to all of the old fantasy stories I fell in love with during those years. Now that I think about it, I’m fairly certain everything I was going through caused me to become so passionate about fantasy – the idea that, despite everything the heroine was going through, she was going to be okay.