“Yup, she’s depressed and going through one of her moods!”

My favorite outfit to wear – boots, hooded sweatshirts and sweatpants. I wear them when I lounge, I wear them out, I would wear them everywhere if allowed, but I know that’s not possible. ‘Comfort,’ was my response when asked or quizzed by loved ones or friends, “why do you insist on wearing such baggy/roomy clothing?”

A few years ago, my sister and I were going out on the road, and while she took the time to put herself together, I met her downstairs in the kitchen proclaiming “I’m ready!” I hadn’t changed my previous clothing, I had just thrown on a pair of Timberland boots. I immediately noticed the snarly look on my sisters face, and before I could finish my thought of what she was thinking, she uttered, “Ris, I am not going anywhere with you looking like that!” I responded, “What is wrong with what I have on?” But before either of us could reply I heard my mom’s calm voice saying; “Yup, she’s depressed and going through one of her moods” I was annoyed at my mom’s insinuation, and I proceeded to let her know I didn’t like what she said, “Why do I have to be depressed, I am comfortable! To which she responded, “Ris, whenever you’re not in a good place this is how dress.” I didn’t wish to hear anything else she had to say, so I calmly turned my back, sucked my teeth (popular Jamaican response to showing disapproval) and walk away.

Could she be right? I thought to myself, and even if she was, I wasn’t about to give her the satisfaction, so I denied. I denied it for years. What mom didn’t know and I didn’t then realize, my sense of dressing/style ran much deeper than masking what she thought was depression. My sense of style and my cavalier attitude toward my ‘comfort dressing’ went way beyond what was visible, there was some truth to me dressing like a boy, ‘a tomboy’ and it being a manifestation of my inner turmoil, but there was more, much more. My dressing tomboyish also reflected the many years I spent seeking the validation of a father that wished I was a boy, it also reflected the times I had to wear this particular clothing as a way of protecting myself from my rapist, but most significantly, it meant protection from everyone else around.

Truth is, I used clothing as a crutch, another form of coping, I believed I dressed like this for the comfort, and I did, but the simple and more profound truth was, the way I presented myself to the world was how I felt on the inside, I felt the need to look disheveled because it kept people at bay, I believed, if I looked and dressed this way less people, especially men would approach me (it sometimes didn’t work). I felt dirty, unworthy and unlovable and this was how it showed up.

It took me a long time to realize that what is now comfort didn’t derive from a place of comfort but instead fear. My clothing shielded me. I had somehow convinced myself that if I dressed this way it would keep others from approaching me. I didn’t want to be bothered, I didn’t wish for anyone to speak to me, it wasn’t just my dressing but my hair being mostly wrapped up, no make-up wearing, not taking the time to care or put a though into how I looked, I was showcasing what I felt like internally, I felt like crap and dressed the part to reflect just that. I had done this for so long that it has now become a part of me.

Contrary to what some believed, my closet was/is lined with countless pieces of clothing, ranging in prices, including beautiful gowns, long maxi dresses, sexy form fitting pieces, skirts, blouses, suits, stilettos to match etc, most of which have NEVER gone on my back, and serves only as a ‘just in case’. I have so much clothing (I was a chronic retail therapy shopper)in recent years my sister prohibited me from buying another piece of clothing until I either wear the majority or give them away (been doing the latter). There are many ways of coping with the traumas we’ve sustained in our lives, and numerous ways in which trauma manifests. In hopes of healing, we MUST get to the place, difficult and painful as it is, where we stand in our truths, accept all that happened, all that we were and are, take responsibility for ourselves, the good, the bad and be willing to create the necessary shifts/change.

Healing is DIFFICULT and most days it feels as if, though I survived the traumas of childhood sexual abuse, betrayal and neglect, I often wondered if I could/can survive healing. I still don’t like makeup, I dress up when needs be, I still experience low days, I still have flashbacks and the memories seldom fade. I often wonder how different my life would be, had I not experienced molestation/rape. I still wear boots, hooded sweatshirts and sweatpants, but the truth is now, I honestly wear them for comfort, not for hiding, disguising, masking or even outwardly displaying/expressing my internalized pain. I am doing the gut wrenching, soul searching, extremely challenging, often overwhelming work of uprooting pain, creating shifts, and changing my life in the process. I deserve happiness damn it, and with the help of God, I will not only create it, but attain it!

Journey with me, as I/we journey 2 free, from my heart to yours with love, Larissa.