Style Counsel

As a 40th birthday present a good friend bought me a shopping spree with a stylist which has turned out to be one of the best birthday presents ever!

It is something I have thought about since my weight loss, knowing that although I had got more adventurous with colour I was still stuck in my style of baggy clothes to cover up all imperfections.

When I’ve looked into it I have always been drawn to the free stylists you can get from department stores, imagining myself sitting in the waiting room sipping tea while they bring me a wealth of clothes to try on. What put me off was the thought of feeling obliged to buy and the limitations of a department store. My friend sought out someone who came at a cost but was much more appealing in her way of working with a real emphasis on helping to show you how to wear clothes and learn what styles suited you, she had no allegiance to the stores and wasn’t worried about whether you made a purchase other than if you were looking to buy.

The first task was to complete a pre-shop questionnaire so that Clare the stylist could learn about what I already had in my wardrobe, what shops I liked, what styles I leaned towards and how much budget I had for the day itself. I also sent her a picture of myself so that she could start to get an idea of what I looked like. Clare then phoned to have a further discussion and explain her plan for the day. This was an opportunity to think about if there was anything specific I was looking for and discuss any styles I really objected to. Already I felt that she had a grasp of me and what I was looking for.

The day itself arrived and I was nervous about meeting a stylist, worried that I would feel drab and old next to her. Clare did indeed look fab but she was disarming in her manner and I took an immediate liking to her, feeling relaxed in her company and eager to begin the shop. In the first shop she picked up an array of clothes in different styles and colours. I felt a little concerned as I knew there were things in the pile I wouldn’t dream of putting on. However, her mission soon became clear. The first task was to find out what styles suited me and what didn’t, the best way to help me see this was to show me by looking at what suited my figure best, emphasising my good points, and what made me look like a box! This was incredibly helpful and I couldn’t believe how much I learnt in this first shop. One of the first things she did was take me down a size and show me how I needed to wear shorter tops or tuck them in to show off my legs and that baggy tops far from hiding my imperfections just made me look bigger than I am.

For the next 3 hours we went round a variety of different shops and Clare picked out clothes for me to try on. I’m usually spent after an hour but my enthusiasm didn’t wane as the chore of looking was taken away and the excitement of seeing myself looking good in clothes I wouldn’t normally consider grew. I learned I could wear stripes if they were thin and close together, that a straight leg trouser suits me better than my usual boot leg and the importance of elongating my neckline. As my budget had been set we didn’t go into shops out of my price range, where I would be lucky if I could buy a pair of tights! Instead we went into a few shops I hadn’t thought of trying and lots that I often go into, but this time with a new pair of eyes. I found being with a stylist was inspirational, I knew I was going to find it good but I had no idea just how much I would appreciate the help, advice and support she gave me, the encouragement to wear new styles and just how much I learned. I did find myself buying a lot of the clothes that I tried and liked, but Clare was good about keeping track of costs, mindful of my budget, and made sure everything could be worn together so that I had a variety of different outfits through mixing and matching. I was amazed that just by changing an accessory an outfit can go from day wear to evening wear, or by adding a different jacket you change a look entirely.

The session finished and I immediately began wearing my new clothes and also wearing my old clothes differently. I felt a little self conscious at first, wondering how people would react, but I have been pleasantly surprised. On numerous occasions I have had people telling me that I was looking good, asking if I’ve lost weight, wondering what I’m doing differently. I have had so many positive comments that my ego has been boosted and I find myself singing the praises of a stylist and recommending to everyone that they have a session. Brilliant birthday present!


Hello Darkness My Old Friend

“Hello darkness, my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again”
Simon and Garfunkel

Life is a struggle at the moment and I’m trying hard to keep my head above the parapet and not sink into the depths of depression. Sometimes it feels as if depression is what I know best, it’s like an old friend greeting me, the familiarity means I feel comfortable there and that makes the fight all the harder.

I look around at friends and family and wonder how they manage to stay positive when things go wrong, how they can keep things in perspective and manage to keep going. I find it so hard and all I want to do is sink into my bed, put my head under the covers and just the let world carry on without me. It feels as if I’ve always been like this. I look back on my life and all I remember is how sad I’ve always felt; how hard it has been to keep going when I feel so bad about who I am. Therapy has helped me understand that this is depression talking, this is what I have to master, not letting that voice become so loud that it drowns out everything else.

I have never let depression debilitate me completely, always managing to keep going despite feeling like I don’t want to. I think my job has played an important part in this, seeing how the lives of other people can be so hard and yet their resilience enables them to keep hopeful; believing I could contribute to making a difference to others has made life have some purpose. Hope is the key, without hope we’re left with nothing. I was once scared to be hopeful, thinking that by hoping life would be better I was setting myself up to fail. This is when I turned to food, cigarettes and spliffs, as a way to block out all feeling and just live with numbness. It didn’t feel good, but it didn’t feel bad, I just didn’t really feel anything. I have stopped this behaviour and am learning to manage my feelings, but there are times when all I want to do is fall back on old coping strategies.

I believed losing weight was the answer to all my problems; that if I was thin I wouldn’t feel so bad about myself; if I was thin I would have the confidence to take on the challenges of life; if I was thin everything would magically work itself out and I would suddenly feel fulfilled – the emptiness would go. Losing weight has indeed been incredibly helpful but it certainly hasn’t been the all encompassing ‘everything will be all right now’ that I thought it would be. Losing weight has given me the courage to try and undertake some of the activities that I believe might help me overcome depression, the strength to adopt more healthy coping strategies where being overweight was an excuse not to.

There is a reason I feel so low at the moment. A relationship with someone I loved very much has ended. A good friend is emigrating to the other side of the world in a matter of weeks, this seems to be an emerging theme amongst my friends! Other friends have moved away from London as they have children and so I feel more isolated than I used to. And then there is work, the one place I have always managed to absorb myself in.

Work is very difficult – first I had to overcome a new boss who seemed overwhelmed with the responsibility and to compensate micro managed, which in turned made me feel like I was inadequate. After some difficult conversations we appear to be overcoming this. However, now I have a deputy who is angry and upset with me for not giving her what she wants. She is known for her difficult behaviour but I have always met her at her level and not let her intimidate me. We have had a good relationship and I felt I understood her and tried hard to support her. This has now broken down and I have been on the receiving end of her bullish and intimidating behaviour. She has picked her moment well, kicking me when I’m down, and although I feel supported by colleagues she feeds into the vulnerable side of me, the depressed side of me, the side of me that feels useless and unable to manage.

I know that I can’t give in to my feelings. I need to take steps to overcome them – meet up with friends, engage in activities to get me out and about, do some exercise, eat healthily, talk / write about it, focus on events I have coming up and remember good times I’ve had and the things in my life that make me happy. I don’t know why this is so hard but it is. Depression is selfish, something that goes against my nature, but it makes me forget about people who are really suffering and I become absorbed in my own misery and the empty feeling inside seems overwhelming. I worry I’m unlovable, fear that I’m worthless and can’t see that this will ever change. Depression makes me feel as if I’m always here, as if nothing has ever been good and nothing ever will be. This is not a truth, this is depression talking. I’ve allowed it to pin me down too often and am determined not to let it do it again. It is a constant fight and I hope that one day it won’t feel quite so hard.