When You Don’t Feel ‘Fashion’

9 Mar

My Dad and I, in December, shortly after I was released from the hospital. As soon as this photo was snapped, I headed off to one of my 3-hour mid-day naps to deal with the head pain and other symptoms. This was during my "I'm lucky to even be getting dressed" phase of recovery.

Fashion doesn’t come easy, at least not every day, and not to all of us. Although, I have this blog and have a wardrobe that says otherwise, it’s not always something that just happens for me. And most recently, this was no more clear to me than being in the hospital and my subsequent recovery at home.

For the entire month of November, I existed only in pajamas lying in a hospital bed. For the month of December, it was jeans, sweaters and cotton long sleeves lounging about my house. But it was the holidays that forced this fashionista into figuring out how to get dressed again! And, it took me hours to pack that suitcase of just a couple simple outfits. My mind warbled between comfort and looking dressed for pictures, and then the dreaded issue of weight and what fit arose.

In two months, I had gained 15 pounds from the steroid medication used for reducing the bleeding in my brain. While I am thankful for the wonders it worked in “saving” my brain, I am slightly dismayed at the inches it put on my waist and hips (and for reference, I have never gained that much weight in such a small amount of time, not even in pregnancy — thank you good genes!).

All of that to say, sometimes we don’t feel attractive or fashionable — whether it’s due to a bad week or a health reason. I felt so down and out that when a friend came to cheer me up, saying “Pretty soon you will be back to yourself, writing in your blog and wearing a killer hat …”  It was like he was talking to someone else.

I have a blog? I write about fashion? I wear hats? That sounded absolutely preposterous to me, as I laid on my couch, pretty certain the pain was going to kill me, if not first drive me mad.

Since the holidays, it has been a gradual process of tip-toeing back into the world of fashion. Finally, I am able to wear hats again without triggering a rush of pain and neurological issues, and I am finding the energy to get dressed in more than just blue jeans and sweats. But most of all, I have begun to feel fashionable — it’s been like the passing clouds of a thunderstorm, where bits of sunshine dance across the ground here and there before, atlas, the dismal gray is gone and cheery rays are everywhere.

Your “situation” (whether: poor health, mommyhood, break-up blues or recession lay-off depression) will determine the degree to which you can jump start your beauty mojo. But no matter whether it is just the routine of washing your face and the accompanied sweet smell of facial moisturizer, or being able to throw on a golfer’s cap (which also helps hide bed-head), find the things in your life that make you feel like you again.

It’s one foot in front of the other … so maybe it is pairing an eccentric scarf over a cotton long-sleeve T and a pair of jeans, or wearing your favorite pair of “funky” pants with just a simple pullover. The key is to wear what offers creature comforts yet try to find just one thing to jazz it up so you can bolster your fighting fashion spirit. Embrace the basics and relish the beauty of taking those small steps back to your “old self.”

After a month of not being able to focus on reading simple text, never has a book ever meant so much to me. Books, magazines and TV/movies are great ways for people to "get well" but for your really sick patients don't be surprised if any of those mediums are too much for them to handle. Also, keep your selections cheerful -- no CSI or Law & Order DVD sets.

How to Beat Hospital Woes

While the above was for you, this is now about others — and what you can do to help make one of your loved ones, or even a relative stranger, feel better while being in the hospital. It’s not a place that’s much fun for anyone, but for those of us who are rather ill it is a welcomed home-away-from-home; nevertheless, it doesn’t negate the need to feel “human” instead of a lab rat who is poked at dawn for blood, checked for vitals at every shift change and every four hours around the clock, and observed and consulted by a gaggle of white-coated professionals, bi-daily. So here’s how you can help someone else, or yourself, beat the hospital woes:

Rub-a-Dub-Dub: For many people, like myself, showering is not an option while hospitalized. But getting clean is a welcomed part of the day, whether it’s with the help of a nurse’s aide or a family member. So a good “get well gift” would be a couple plush wash clothes (the hospital ones usually are a course terry cloth), a bottle of foaming hand/body wash (helps speed the lather process since water and stamina are in short supply) and a bottle of hydrating lotion (laying in bed all day makes the skin very dry) but before you get crazy with any powerfully scented options, make sure the patient isn’t experiencing nausea.

LipSmackers: A lot of people don’t “plan” to go to the hospital, which means little things sometimes are needed most — and sooner rather than later, such as chap stick. While hospitals have tubes of gooey Vaseline, honestly, it cannot compare to Burt’s Bees or any other brand of lip balm. What’s this — your patient never wears chap stick? Well, that was before when life was normal but in the hospital things change … and mouths and lips can become very dry, thanks to drugs and other such medical fun!

A series of well-wishing cards from my friends and family -- heartwarming!

Again, due to nausea and the fluctuating issues people face, I would suggest picking up a very neutral or plain variety of lip balm. As an added bonus, if your patient is a lady, pick up some tinted chap stick, lip gloss or lip stick — a soft neutral color will work with nearly everyone’s complexion; Plus, no one is rocking red in the sick bay. Trust me, putting lipstick on before the gaggle of doctors showed up every morning was one small way for me to feel like I was presentable and ready to face the day.

Sweet as a Rose: Whether your patient is male or female, morale can be boosted with a little spritz of body spray. Axe puts out a nice manly scent, while Bath & Body Works or Victoria’s Secret has lots of girlie choices for light scents — all options are also nominally priced. I know, I know … this is a contradiction to the previous suggestions of foregoing “scents” and “flavors” … well, there is a good reason for that. The staples listed above are used repetitively, whereas a “perfume” is used once in a while and only, really when a person is starting to think about getting discharged. Plus, when someone is not showering, being able to smell as sweet as a rose helps them feel like they are as fresh as a daisy.

My son's get-well card to me -- breaks and warms my heart on so many levels.

Bedside Barista: Sure, the hospital feeds most of its patients and they are big into making sure folks eat well. But that’s not to say its good eating (certainly a hospital’s version of Thanksgiving dinner is a far cry from Mom’s cooking). A couple tasty snacks might do wonders for your patient — especially the homemade kind, like brownies! But check to make sure the docs’ haven’t ordered a restricted diet. To be on the safe side, liquids, as in beverages, are usually always A-OK (minus soda, so again, check on that exception). From fruit juices to an organic smoothie, or a box of tea bags, there is nothing like having a small dose of comfort and calm injected into your body as the mind escapes — for a moment — the doldrums of hospital life.

Snug as a Bug in a Rug: Comfort is a huge thing that all patients need, and nothing can be more effective than having the option to get out of a drafty hospital gown and into a soft cotton PJ-ensemble with comfy, plush bed socks (yes, the hospital has their own bed socks, but they are the 200-thread count version). Unless a person is in ICU, hospitals are now pretty lax on what patients wear and regardless of gender, every patient loves to be able to convalesce in their own clothes, especially freshly gifted duds!

So there you have it — a short list of “get well” present ideas which would do far more for your patient’s recovery than a bouquet or a bunch of balloons.

(Although, there is something to be said for having a little color to brighten up a sterile hospital room.) Just keep in mind — whichever route you take — that the only way a body can get better is if the mind is ready and able to “feel better.” Having tactile reminders of what life “feels” like when you are “better” can bring about a radical outlook of positive healing.


3 Responses to “When You Don’t Feel ‘Fashion’”

  1. CMD March 10, 2010 at 1:57 PM #

    Well written piece. You must write for a living.


  2. ironmonastery March 28, 2010 at 11:04 PM #

    Beautiful, even when just lucky being dressed. 😉


    • robinesque March 30, 2010 at 6:12 PM #

      aw, thanks! yes, that picture is kind of funny in retrospect, it kind of looks like my Dad is holding me up, and he sort of is!


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