Rachel is an elaborately decorated cupcake come to life who lives with her cat Ivan in Dallas.
Rachel is an elaborately decorated cupcake come to life who lives with her cat Ivan in Dallas.
Things that I’ve been through that still evoke an emotional response that I’d rather approach as more of “just a thing that happened” and less of a “life-changing THING THAT HAPPENED.”
I’ve been participating in a “processing” stage therapy group at my therapist’s office. Meeting weekly with other women who have a shared experience and are at a similar stage in healing has been really helpful. We recently went around the circle and talked about what we’d like to gain from attending the group. I personally, would like to be better at acknowledging my anger, and also, to be able to approach my trauma as if it is a fact, and not a feeling. That’s the difficult thing – how do I treat this traumatic, emotional experience as a fact? How do I remove my emotions from it, in order to move past it?
Sometimes I like to think of my past relationship as a book I read. I let it feel real while I’m “reading” it, and then I try to close it, put it back on the shelf, and think about it more as a hypothetical than as something tangible. Sometimes it’s the only way to get past the memory playing on a loop. Part of processing is also being able to take the next step, to move onto the next level, to live in the present. To stop letting feelings inform facts.
That’s the long and short of it. I could give you a million valid-feeling reasons as to why, but all it boils down to is that I don’t trust myself to choose a better partner. Because I’m still letting my feelings inform the facts. I know that I have grown and learned about myself and have far, far better boundaries after seeing my counselor for these last couple of years. I know that I’m not 18 anymore, and it won’t be my first boyfriend anymore, and that I’m not afraid of being alone anymore. But my feelings are still screaming louder, that it’s too frightening to try.
For now, I’m okay with that. As time passes, I realize that the only things I’m really missing about being married is having someone else to run errands for me. That’s not the basis of a healthy relationship. I’m currently interested in a unpaid personal assistant. In time, that might change. I might change. For now, I’m really very content with Ivan (the cat) being the only man in my life.
In other ways, I’ve learned to let facts take over. When I first started to acknowledge what happened, I was too afraid to be alone in an elevator with a man. Any man. Because I was letting my feelings inform the facts. Now I can take any elevator I choose. I was too afraid to give tours to men at work – an essential part of my job. I used to have to take someone with me. Now I can evaluate the facts of the situation, and give my feelings the appropriate amount of consideration. I’m learning that it’s okay to have the feeling of fear, as long as I don’t let it take over.
Ok fine, I’m not a devious mastermind. I am, however, a pretty good seamstress. I started as many little girls do, making clothes for my Barbies out of scraps. Then I graduated into cutting up my own T-shirts. Then turning a pair of too-short jeans into a skirt – by hand. I think I still have the needle indentions in my fingertips from trying to pull that needle through 8 layers of denim. My middle school sewing class was a revelation – suddenly I could use a sewing machine and a tissue paper pattern to make my own clothing! In fabrics of my own choosing! No longer stuck buying whatever I found in my size! My excitement was palpable.
Odd fits, weird fabrics. Subtlety wasn’t something I learned early. It was a long learning process, with lots of wonky seams. Obviously, I still wore them out of the house and proudly told everyone I could that I had MADE THAT. There were difficult lessons to be learned – quilting cotton shrinks when you wash it. Poorly placed darts can make for weird boob shapes. I still hate pants, even when custom fitted. Pattern sizing rarely has any basis in real life. But I learned. I persevered, I didn’t give up, I measured and cut and sewed and ripped and re-sewed. And soon, shit started to get wearable.
Though my parents are very conservative, I could push the envelope more if it was something I’d made myself. I made a cherry print mini skirt that I wore for years. I tried out halter tops, backless dresses, crop tops. Sure, some of them weren’t allowed out of the house, but it was still illuminating to see my own fat body in a style I wasn’t “allowed” to wear. Sizing was no longer an issue. I taught myself how to grade up a pattern that wasn’t big enough.
Gone are the days of having to work with whatever I could find from the Big 4: McCall’s, Vogue, Butterick, and Simplicity. Thanks to Instagram, it’s easier than ever to find new pattern companies, making great options in plus sizes. Some of my current favourites are:
Sew House 7 from whom I made The Bridgetown Backless Dress for my birthday. I found the sizing to be pretty generous on that pattern. I cut a size 20, but ended up cutting it down to about a size 16 by the time I was satisfied with the fit. The dress is gorgeous and every time I wear it, someone asks me where it’s from.
(The Sew House 7 Birthday Dress!)
Sew Over It who has a great mailing list with both new patterns, completed project photos, and fabric suggestions. Their plus size options are more limited, but I’m looking forward to trying out their Kimono Jacket pattern with a soft pink sweater knit. Kimonos are such a must-have and they’re simple to sew up. If you’re near any of their London locations, Sew Over It offer sewing classes!
(A Sorbetto top & a Beth Ditto skirt!)
My absolute favourite is Colette Patterns / Seamwork Magazine. Colette lured me in with their free Sorbetto Tank Top pattern. It had been several years since I’d sewn anything, and I wanted to start with a basic. Now I’ve made several Sorbettos, and they’re a staple for my work wardrobe. Seamwork is their monthly magazine. It’s a great deal at $6 per month, as you get two new patterns in each issue. They also include fitting and customisation features, but my favourite part is that they now show a fit guide for both Misses and Plus sizes! Their sizing goes up to size 26, and is pretty reflective of ready to wear sizing.
There’s just something about the sound of my sewing machine that blocks out all my negative inner voices. And sometimes turns them into negative outer voices, as I curse and mutter while I rip out a seam. Seam ripping can be almost as cathartic as ripping into a person, though! It’s extremely rewarding to have a tangible, wearable garment at the end of all the frustration. Making coworkers jealous of your custom fitted clothing is just a bonus.
I recently purchased the Gabi Fresh “The Princess” bikini from Swimsuits For All. I’ve had bikinis before. I have other bikinis from Gabi Gregg’s collection. But I’ve never felt this way about a bikini before. Let me tell you why:
I love that you can order two different sizes. I don’t have to worry about cutting off circulation to my legs by buying the correct size for the top OR having my boobs fall out the bottom of a too-big top.
(Oh yeah, check out those toothpaste splatters!)
I love flamingos. Truly. They’re my fave. Well. Sea otters too. And whales. And cats. But if we’re going with birds? Flamingos are it. (Don’t tell the owls.)
There were Instagram comments telling me I’m a goddess in it. It makes the feeling show through to others.
70% off? Yeah, I bought it.
(Ok no bikini in this shot but I’m totally wearing it, I promise!)
All my bits stay covered and no one knows that I refuse to shave my bikini line. (Except everyone who reads this. You’re welcome.)
FACEBOOK. Not Instagram. Facebook. Where my Nana would see it. And coworkers.
In short, Gabi Gregg is magic and everything she does is art. Ask me about my Premme crop top and tote bag. I could rhapsodize about them all day.
This particular bikini goes up to a size 24, which initially made me a bit sad but less so when I realised that it is on an American website, therefore uses American sizing. Coming in at a UK 28 it still fails to include the top end of the plus size scale, but it’s pretty awesome to see a brand produce such an adorable design in this size and hopefully it is a sign of bigger sizes to come.
“May they always have positive experiences and happiness.”
Kindness is such an important thing to hold in your heart. Sometimes it’s easy to be kind. Puppies. Well-behaved toddlers. Retail workers who keep extra coupons at their register. Restaurant servers who don’t bill you extra for guac. It’s so easy to have kindness towards them, and to wish them positive experiences and happiness.
But this isn’t a fluffy feel good article about being nice to strangers. Let’s talk about kindness towards people you don’t like. Towards people who don’t care about you. Towards yourself.
My therapist recommended the Breathe app (not sponsored, but y’all can hit me up with a free upgrade whenever you want!) to help me meditate to manage my anxiety. Every evening, I try to use the app to check in with my feelings and my body (mindfulness!) and tonight, it recommended a meditation on kindness. It started out easily enough, think of someone or a pet that you love and want to wish kindness upon. Simple. Ivan was already tapping me with his tail, and I thought about how much I love and appreciate him and his velvety ears. Next, it prompted me to think about someone I have neutral feelings towards. A little less simple, but not so bad. Hope you have positive experiences and happiness, coworker. Then the worst: wish kindness upon someone you have negative feelings towards.
Oh. Well…just one? I flashed through a list of people I have negative feelings towards. My ex-husband. My mother. Myself. I discarded wishing kindness upon my ex, as I’m just not ready to cross that bridge or open that box or let that cat out just yet. I landed on wishing kindness towards my mother. She’s been on my mind this week already, from her blogging about her parenting prowess to a text from my sister regarding childhood birthday parties. And while yes, I really do wish that she only has positive experiences and happiness…I want her to want that for me. Really want that for me, for unselfish reasons.
And then I wished that upon myself. For totally selfish reasons. May I always have positive experiences and happiness. Even when I fuck something up. Even when I treat myself poorly. Even when I ignore myself. Even when I do the exact opposite thing of what I know I *should* do. Positive experiences and happiness only. I deserve that. It’s okay to have that. It’s okay to want that. Nothing about me is inherently unlovable or unworthy. Sure, I can be a little too sassy and a little too anxious and a little too angry. And for some I may be too pale, too fat, too social justice warrior princess-y. But I deserve positive experiences and happiness. And so do you.
Content warning: this article discusses abusive parenting and relationships. This includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Please be aware of this before reading.
I recently read an article in the Guardian that focused on two brothers and their relationship with their abusive father. Their father had murdered their mother and sister four days after the family had moved out in secret in order to leave him. The article talked about how sympathetic the media had been to their father just after the murders, because their father had always been a “nice” guy to their neighbours, co-workers, acquaintances. Reading that article was a neon flashing sign in a line of a million neon flashing signs that only became visible once I was far enough away from my own abusive husband. It’s strange how obvious these things are now, since I had always considered myself ‘too smart’ and ‘too confident’ to ever be in an abusive relationship. And my husband had never hit me, so he couldn’t possibly be abusive. He’s just immature. He gives me the silent treatment for days instead of screaming or slapping me, and isn’t that preferable?
That’s the strange thing about domestic abuse – it’s subtle. And slow. And insidious. You don’t realise that you’re treading water until you get a cramp and sink to the bottom. I knew I wasn’t happy, but I also knew that I wasn’t putting in 100% and that no one has a perfect marriage. He was an expert manipulator, so talented that I had no idea and it was happening most of the time. We worked different shifts, and when he started complaining about his truck it only made sense to let him take my car to work every day. I didn’t realise until after we split up that he constantly took my car to keep me stuck in our apartment. He “lost” his debit card and borrowed mine. He just never returned it. He started driving me to all my doctor appointments, what a gentleman! I hate driving in all the Dallas traffic. It also guaranteed that I would never say anything bad about him to a mandatory reporter.
I wish I could say that I had an epiphany in the middle of this and left him. Things got much worse before we split up. He started reading all of my emails and text messages. He went through my call log. He decided that I was cheating on him, and said he had to do those things to make sure I didn’t “give in to temptation.” My breaking point came when he raped me one night. I knew, I KNEW he did it to prove that I didn’t get to decide what happened to me anymore. But I didn’t leave him. I couldn’t afford to live on my own, I didn’t have access to my bank account, and my family was hours away. So I stayed, and I stayed completely disconnected to my body. Even now, years later, I still have a hard time keeping track of the passage of time in that part of my life. I don’t know what year it was, I know what apartment it was. It still doesn’t feel entirely real, like those years were a long extended weird dream.
The most confusing thing about domestic abuse, in my opinion, is that you constantly have opposing memories of your abuser. I remember all the horrible things. But I also remember him buying out a stand of girl scout cookies, because her table was set up in the cold and she couldn’t go home until the last boxes were sold. So he bought the rest of her stock. It’s hard to reconcile the nice things, the soup fixed when you’re sick and the back rubs and the surprise dinner out when you also remember sitting in my car for 45 minutes after work because you’re dreading going into the house. My own parents had deemed us “the perfect couple” and “made for each other.” How do you reconcile the person who tells you “you’re the most important person in my life” with the person who hurts you over and over?
Slowly. You reconcile it very slowly, with the help of friends and supportive family members and hopefully with a trained therapist. I’ve been very lucky to receive free counselling at my local rape crisis centre. I’ve progressed so far in my healing journey but it seems like every time I think “I’m almost totally fine now!” something comes around to remind me that this is still a very long process. I suppose this blog post is a bit less of a standalone post but an introduction. Join me. We’ll cover the hard stuff: the EMDR therapy, the group therapy, the awful flashbacks. We’ll also have lots of talks about the cat, fashion, and sewing. Turns out that healing from an abusive relationship takes an absolutely massive amount of love and understanding for yourself. So I’m learning to reconnect with my body and treat it kindly, while remembering my own hobbies and passions. Because I’m so much more than my past, I’m so much more than what happened to me.