I’ve worked on my survival kits for years. My friend L. and I spent a lot of time cataloging ours and watching them change as we each carried ours with us in a second bag, through the halls of high school of senior year.
Since then, I’ve made two boxes – One for depression, one for mania. When I’m in an episode and happen to remember that they exist, the contents are sensory treats, as well as references to good memories and family photos.
In the past 10+ years, wardrobe has become my #1 go-to survival kit. Fact is, people SEE me during my episodes. At work, at events, my mood can’t be evident at first glance. Those who know me best can glean what’s happening through the stretch of my mouth and the pain-or-panic in my eyes. The rest have to be convinced that I’m fine.
Most, however, see what I’m wearing, and there are specific ways that I blend in by creating my own style and knowing how to build a basic wardrobe (for five full sizes, and a half-wardrobe for each size on either end). Since my weight swings drastically due to the medication that keeps me balanced in mood – I have to accept it and stick to certain basics:
- Choose a color. I’ve chosen black fabric, because it doesn’t vary like, say, blue would. You can expand out once your basic wardrobe is built.
- Tailored clothes and simple lines look good on everyone and last through the wardrobe swings. Flouncy blouses and empire waists – Just Say No.
- Buy the best quality for your staples as you can. Go to stores with great sales. Find brands that fit your SHAPE well, no matter what SIZE you’re buying. And, if you’re like me, you’ll go through most of the sizes in your closet in two years, so they should hold up well.
- Belt loops, elastic wasted skirts, and knits with some stretch – These will move with you up or down a size. Open sweaters and blazers work well, too. Do not compromise here, because you’ll get much less use out of the garment.
- Personally, I concentrate on my work wardrobe. I add jeans for the weekend. I’ve only got so much money to spend, and I need to use it for when I have to look my best.
- Accessories are a girl’s best friend. Scarves, earrings, necklaces. Let people know you’d love accessories as gifts. They’re also super easy to find at thrift stores, discount chains, and garage sales.
- If you purchase something trendy that will last a season, don’t spend a lot on it.
- Have a list of go-to stores, where you can always find your staples. Some of mine: Target for undershirts and tees, occasionally jeans and slacks with belt loops. Salvation Army for jeans, sweaters, blouses, jewelry. Macy’s has amazing sales and the basics I need in the less-expensive departments. For a special event I dress up my basics with my most elegant jewelry, or get a dress from an inexpensive store.
- Normally, I don’t endorse owning credit cards. It’s too easy to use them. BUT, if you get one card at a store you can count on for all different kinds of needs that will give amazing coupons and sales and you can pay the bills regularly, it may be a big help. For me, it’s at Macy’s.
- Go shopping with a trusted friend. I have two who are honest about what works and what I like at the moment but will never wear. One is also on the other half of our checking account, and he watches me try to figure it all out in the morning. He knows what works.