Habits, Fears, & Pants

I hit another milestone during the IPPS Annual Fall Meeting.

About a year ago, two friends asked me why I always wore yoga pants. I was taken off-guard. It was not the time or the place to go into a lengthy medical history and explain that I wore them for pain management (ah! didn't want to go into that,) so I blubbered something about the fact that I am a yoga teacher, and that for two of the past three years I worked as a massage therapist, and that in that world yoga pants count as professional attire (justification, justification, justification.) Never mind that yoga teachers and massage therapists don't wear yoga pants all the time...

The truth is I didn't know how to answer my friends. I had slid into my daily yoga pant habit over time, and never thought about it. Their comment brought my attention to this routine, and inspired me to do some unwanted reflection. (Apparently you can think deeply about yoga pants. Who knew.)

I realized a few things. First, I thought no one had ever noticed me from the waist down. I don't present myself as a slob - I wear make-up, love earrings and pretty shirts. But below my belly button? I'd rather not think about it. Surely no one notices that on the rare occasions I need to wear something nicer than yoga pants, I just dress up yoga pants. A dress over leggings. A cool tunic over leggings. I fooled them all! (right?) 

As Stuart Smally would say, "Denial ain't just a river in Egypt."

Second, years of living with chronic pelvic pain had made my relationship with pants fraught. They reminded me that I was "broken," that I hurt, and that I didn't know what to do about it. I either wore pants a couple of sizes too big - which was sloppy, and I hated it - or sweatpants, also sloppy. While I love a good summertime maxi dress, I have never been a fan of skirts as I don't find them to be flattering. So by wearing yoga pants and leggings I avoided the unwanted skirts and took a step up from ill-fitting slacks and frumpy sweats. Ta da!

I felt and still feel pretty in yoga pants. They make me feel athletic, strong and confident. While in the early years they would've hurt a lot, as my symptoms reduced they became the only pants I could wear with almost no pain...and then, no pain. Regular dress pants were still uncomfortable, and jeans I could wear if I limited the time to only a few hours, but wearing pain-free yoga pants allowed me to blissfully deny that I hadn't totally figured out this monster of a health problem.

The story continues. After years of symptom management being the best I could hope for, I finally found a doctor who not only correctly diagnosed me as being centrally sensitized (meaning that my central nervous system was the root of my pain, not my skin, muscles, bones, etc) but who also stepped up to the plate and became a true partner in healing my CS. 

My symptoms dropped dramatically, until...they were gone.

The yoga pants remained.

Trigger-avoidance was a coping mechanism that had deeply ingrained itself into me over nine long years. In the back of my mind I feared that if I stopped avoiding situations that had previously caused pain, then the pain might come back. That included wearing regular dress pants. What if I put them on and the pain returned and I wasn't as healed as I thought I was? That possibility was too terrifying to contemplate. 

A few weeks ago I was traveling with my in-laws, who love to outlet shop. Wandering the vast Floridian malls, I remembered my friends' question, and for the first time in almost a decade I bought three pairs of properly fitting dress pants. Holy God.

Last weekend was the IPPS Meeting. While packing, I scanned my closet. Wearing yoga pants to a professional medical conference was not the image I wished to project. 

But there were those pants. Three pairs, hanging, as yet unworn. Professional, flattering, with an unusual edge I so appreciate in my attire. I carefully folded them so they wouldn't wrinkle and added them to the suitcase.

Dear reader, I wore them. Three days in a row I wore them. Through hours of sitting I wore them, through eighteen hour days I wore them, through an airplane ride I wore them.

And you know what? They didn't hurt at all. I didn't even notice them.

And just like that, I became a "normal" person. A person who wears yoga pants to yoga, and regular pants the rest of the day. A person who doesn't have to stand in the back because it hurts to sit. A person who can focus on the task at hand because she isn't trying and failing to ignore her ouch-y crotch.

So, thank you to my dear friends Subechya and Andrew for asking me why I always wear yoga pants. And thank you IPPS Meeting for being unrelentingly professional, and thank you to my own sense of social propriety and fashion sense and bravery which all contributed to me wearing Those Pants, Those Pants, which from this day forward shall be known as

Those. Awesome. Pants.
 Here they are, my glorious, awesome pants.

Here they are, my glorious, awesome pants.