Getting Stuck In The Fitting Room With RA

Do you remember when you were a kid and there was that inevitable time when you went to the bathroom alone and somehow got stuck in it?  The wave of panic that came over you, for that fraction of a second when you thought you might never get out and no one would ever find you?

Well, this is kind of like that.  Sort of.

I was shopping for an outfit for my dissertation defense, and I tried on this really cute dress.  It was black and white with a chevron print, cute and sophisticated.  I was really excited about it, until I tried to take it off.

And with my RA, I couldn’t get it off.  No matter how hard I tried.  I wasn’t dexterous enough to be able to lift my arms above my head and pull the dress off at the same time.  I struggled for 10 minutes, sweat dripping off of me, making me increasingly frustrated with the stupid dress.

I contemplated.  I had three choices.  One was to tell the store to charge me for the dress, but I would be wearing it out of the store – very Julia Roberts, don’t you think?  The second was to rip the dress and get it off of me.  And the other was to ask a salesperson for help.

So I left the fitting room and found a salesperson, who asked how everything was going.  I was like, well, I really like this dress, but I can’t get out of it.  She asked if I wanted her to help me and I relented.  I was totally embarrassed, though.

She helped me get out of the dress, and I was so frustrated with the situation that I bought something else, but refused to buy that dress.

Ultimately, though, I dragged my boyfriend back to the store to show him the dress.  He really liked it, so I bought it, but not without his help getting out of it.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Lately I have trouble with sports bras and bathing suits, anything like that, that is tight and can only go over the head.  Zippered backs are difficult, and so too are regular bras and coats.  All those arm movements are simply not practical for someone with RA.

And it’s another reminder that I’m sick.  I struggle the way my 87 year old grandmother struggles with getting clothes on and off.  And it kills the fun and excitement of shopping when there is the anxiety that you might not be able to get out of something, and might need to ask a stranger for help.

I have resigned myself to the fact that I will inevitably have to ask my boyfriend for help, whether we are home or away.  I also have started to pinpoint things in my closet that I won’t be able to get off or back on if I am alone.

Maybe those of us with RA need to rally for a special section in stores that have RA-friendly clothes.  Or maybe I just have to get better at knowing the kinds of clothes that are going to be difficult for me to navigate myself.

Hopefully I won’t find myself getting stuck again in the fitting room with RA anytime soon.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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