Sometimes silence feels safe. Like a warm blanket and hot tea on a night where you ditched your friends for a lonely house and an even lonelier bed, with a novel wherein the words dance like music and you forget life for a moment as if it were a mere accessory to your brief bliss. Like hiding under the covers from a world that doesn’t make sense.
Writing this on a night where I ditched my friends for a lonely house and an even lonelier bed doesn’t deliver the same feeling though — to me, silence equals nor safety nor happiness. The silent moments in between living are the most difficult ones. To me, silence is thoughts. To me, silence is noise. Noise that never stops to wonder whether it is useful, that never stops to think that it is 2.30 in the morning, that never stops. On the other hand, I never stopped to think either whether this was going to be the most difficult thing I’ll ever write.
A friend recently asked me if it doesn’t bother me that people stare at me when I walk through the city. I looked at him with a confused gaze; the notion of — apparently — more passersby taking an interest in me and my clothes than I thought, baffled me. Though it is true that I feel the need to dress up like I will be attending a royal English ball on the daily, I never expected so many people finding it strange that I wear glitters, sparkles and overall sophisticated-ness to do my grocery shopping or the likes. It is also true that I firmly believe all of us should dress up like it’s 1923 & an invitation for the Gatsby party just came flying through the door. I firmly believe that you should dust off your tiara and put on your brightest lipstick color; that you mustn’t be afraid to sparkle a little brighter, darling.
And to not take shelter in clothes just to disappear in the crowds, but to wear your personality in a dress.
“Yes”, I said. His question still lingering in the air. Yes, it bothers me that people stare at me on the street. It bothers me that they see me, that I wear their eyes like glue on my back for a mere five seconds. It bothers me that I feel uneasy in crowds. It bothers me that I can’t hide.
So why, then, do I dress up like a crossover between a human Barbie doll, the Queen of England, an 80s disco ball & David Bowie meets cotton candy?
Because, with all my being and all that I have, I want to hide. I want to run. I want to curl up in a ball of the covers of my bed and never leave again.
Because I have an anxiety disorder.
Not many know this because I feel there is still a mighty huge stigma on talking about
having a troubled mind. Not many know this because you don’t always see it. It’s in the way my hands shake in the middle of a crowded bar on a Friday night. It’s in the way I try to hide the bite marks on my hands, when I tried — unsuccessfully — to quiet the mental pain with physical pain. It’s in the way my heart beats too fast and the palpitations make me too aware of my irrational fear. It’s in the way I use alcohol as a numbing bandaid on a wound that won’t heal.
It’s in the way I wake up in the middle of the night, sweat dripping down my back from all the demons I fight in my nightmares. It’s in the way I unintentionally sabotage human relationships through a head that’s filled with doubts about social code. It’s in the way my head spins so fast when failure is on my hands. It’s in the way I cry on the bus for no apparent reason. It’s in the way I shield my eyes from flashing lights at parties. It’s in the way I don’t pay attention to the conversation because I am trying with all my being to focus on breathing normally.
It’s in the way getting out of bed in the morning scares me because my head decided this will be an ‘anxiety day’. It’s in the way my body freezes up and I feel paralyzed by the thought of dating & its games; it’s being scared, not about letting people in but about letting the monsters out. It’s in the way people hold power over me that makes me weak in their hands. It’s in the way I’m not good at loving just a little; I’m never empty, like leaving the water tap running, full force, relentless, persistent. It’s in the way I fall down on the bathroom floor. Legs numb. Head racing. Breathing overdrive. Shaking. Yelling. Crying.
But also because I fight.
Whenever my head is having one of its noisy house parties, playing songs
like “are we having fun yet” and “oh darkness roll over me tonight”, I let the voice of James Blake sing me back to a reality closer to truth. I take James for a walk with me, safely stashed inside the technology of my iPod. Walking helps clear my head of the crowd of hysterical people running through my burning theatre of life. My house feels on fire and I can’t help to watch it burn, walking slowly while the music burns my thoughts to ashes. When I get back to my actual brick home with an actual door, windows and my immense stash of tea, I feel like I am ready to dance happily again in my pink barbie skirt.
I dress up as a reminder to myself that I may not, will not and shall not hide from my anxiety. That I have to walk beside my fear on the street. That, on days where tears stream down my face because my thoughts are playing hide & seek with the truth, I have to put on lipstick and smile. I have to put on heels to stand up straight.
I choose to wear my anxiety as an armor.
My clothes are my way of defeating the ocean of troubles in my head. Fashion is my passion, my expression and my therapy. It pushes me to be brave and to be bold. I want to be able to look in the mirror every day and see my own face staring back, not the face of anxiety. I don’t want to wear a mask. I just want to wear myself.
I don’t want to hide. Not in anxiety. Not in clothes.
So this is a plea for everyone. To dress up. To be more yoncé. To be too glam to give a damn. To feel like the most fancy fuck at the party of life. To make a goddamn statement. To wear a ballgown to the supermarket & too high heels to work. To sparkle like a Christmas tree. To bedazzle your vajazzle. To ignite your inner firework. To be the most sophisticated version of yourself. To throw glitter in the air & to ride a unicorn through life.
And most importantly.
To not hide.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Thank you Jonathan Sommereyns for working with me on this difficult, yet special post and for your continuing support.