I was wearing a yellow dress on July 8, 2013. Gabriel and I planned to meet up downtown when my shift was over at the bakery. I had wanted to show him a restaurant called the Soup Box for months. I let him pick out my outfit the night before—dark grey leggings, that yellow dress and a black cardigan. I bought the dress about nine months before then, when my sister Katie came to visit in Chicago. We went shopping at Water Tower place. H&M was having a sale on dresses so I bought two—a yellow one and a grey one, each 12 dollars. They are the same dress, just different colors. They’re a simple, form fitting, spandex-like material that suits my layering style perfectly. Of course the yellow one is gone now…but I still have the grey one.
I’ve nearly thrown it away several times. Why should I keep it? It was cheap, and now it is attached somehow to that horrible memory. But every time I start to throw it out I feel like a coward and I bury it back in my closet. As my baby bump rapidly expands, the number of comfortable outfits I own simultaneously decreases, and I keep thinking, That dress is made of spandex…it would be so comfortable right now…
“I’m afraid of what it’ll feel like to have on. I don’t know if it’ll be too hard to wear.” Sitting on the edge of our bed, this morning I finally admitted my fear of the grey dress to Gabriel. I felt like a little girl.
He held my hands and said, “Then why don’t you try it on with me? You’re safe here and if you don’t like the way it feels you can take it off.” We walked together to the closet and Gabriel unburied the grey dress. He slipped the dress over my head, picked out a red Christmas sweater to wear over it and handed me my cozy thick, grey house-socks to keep my feet warm. “How do you feel?” he asked.
I took a minute and assessed my body.
I remember walking to the bus stop early that morning on July 8. I remember how thin the soles of my sneakers felt against the pavement. I remember planning to patch my grey leggings because they had holes on the inner thigh. I remember how the yellow dress pulled against my legs as I walked. The grey dress felt the same on my legs, but my socks were much warmer and more comfortable than my work sneakers ever were, and these new black leggings only had a small tear on the knee.
Physical triggers have caused some of the scariest panic attacks for me. I can be perfectly fine, no fear in my mind but if I move in a certain way or if someone touches me a certain way, I can snap right back into a horrifying flashback. It’s as if the attack is happening all over again. I was afraid that putting on my grey dress would feel too much like the day I was raped, and I would have flashbacks. But as I stood in our bedroom with the grey dress on, nothing happened. No flashes, no dizziness, no psychological pains—just me, standing there in a comfy dress, festive sweater and cozy socks.
I don’t think I have to be afraid of this grey dress anymore. I’ve had a salad for lunch, two cups of tea, napped with my sister’s dog, Willow, and now I’m home alone writing about it. I haven’t had one flashback. The list of things I’m afraid of has tripled in size in the last four and half months and it now includes embarrassing things like public transportation, being alone, or the grey color of early morning sky—but it no longer includes my H&M, 12 dollar grey dress.
I move through the world differently than I did before. I know more of what the world holds. I’ve seen it’s potential for random evil and it’s darkness is no longer a stranger to me. I don’t expect to ever feel the same, but I am beginning to slowly eliminate those debilitating fears that only hinder my enjoyment of life. I might never feel as fond of my alone time as I did before, but I already find it much more bearable than I did in July or August. Now I can add one more comfy dress to my small wardrobe of pregnancy clothes—and this one is perfect for layering.