I don’t consider myself a ‘whiner’, although it may come across as just that when I talk about living with a Chronic Invisible Vestibular Disorder. Now, that’s a mouthful in and of itself! I’ve talked about the many things I am no longer able to do (with ANY sense of confidence, anyway), that I forget the things I was/am able to do. Just because I deal with dizziness and imbalance daily, doesn’t make me ‘useless’. Just because I can no longer work for pay, doesn’t make me useless. I think I’ve proved to myself, by starting this blog, that I can write. Mother would be so proud! I think I’ve proved I can step outside my comfort zone by becoming an Ambassador for VEDA. I’m part of an Online VEDA Support Group Network. Now, I’m helping an aging parent. Can a chronically ill person really take care of someone else? Time will tell…
Whether or not it comes to fruition, a recent request to use ‘my’ story for the Vestibular Disorders Associations/VEDA newsletter, made me remember something. During my years of undiagnosed Vertigo and vomiting and taking tumbles that resulted in broken bones, I did accomplish something, a really big thing! Somehow, during one of the worst times in my life, I designed and made our daughter’s wedding dress. Ten yards of fabric, 748 gold beads, 372 pearl beads, 3 fabric roses, fully boned corset style bodice with a hand picked zipper=one totally extravagant wedding gown! Less than one yard was used to make the bodice (top) and NINE yards was used in the skirt! How on earth did I do that?! Did I ‘will’ myself to do it? Was it a miracle from God? I’d say, a little of both…
In my now 61 years of living, I’ve had more than one career, not that surprising. My first (and most important) career was a stay at home mom. Prior to becoming an OT Assistant, though, I actually designed wedding and evening gowns for over 10 years. I’ve sewn since the age of 7, an apron with matching potholder was my first project. I was taught sewing by my mother and her mother, the seamstresses in our family. My grandmother taught me all the finest couture techniques (hand work) during my Summers as a teenager. As a young mother, I became part of a Designers Guild, putting on multiple fashion shows a year. I thought it was glamorous and it was a blast! It was a lot of work, but I loved it. Our children sometimes watched me constructing the gowns from the other side of a ‘kiddie gate’. We all know these barriers are only useful until they learn to climb over it! More than once, Lewis ‘helped me’ by removing pins that held fabric EXACTLY where I wanted it on the dress form, then re-pinning the fabric into his design…Working out of your home doesn’t always work… I did this long enough, though, for Sarah to expect me to design hers one day. I think my feelings would have been very hurt if she’d wanted to buy one, Heaven forbid!
When that day came for her many years later, I had to do it. I just HAD to! But, it would take me 3x longer than in the past, because I was so sick and still undiagnosed. My ‘usual’ timetable for an original gown would be around 3 months or more depending on the complexities of the design. Here’s some of my process from when I had my business. I met with the client, listened, looked at their magazines or pictures. Then, I’d sketch out a few designs, meet again, and they’d pick one. From there, I took a ‘million’ measurements (kidding…kind of!) and made a pattern from a special paper (NOT the tissue paper you get in a store pattern!). Once the paper pattern was made, the entire gown is cut and constructed from muslin fabric. The muslin gown is fitted and altered (it better not need altering!). Then, it’s disassembled to become the pattern. All this is done prior to cutting the gown fabric. I learned this the hard way! I HATE to alter gowns, absolutely hate to! My work is meticulous. My gowns fit! I loved to show the client how the inside of my gowns was just as beautiful as outside (couture work)!
Oh, I did complete Sarah’s dream wedding gown, but I was working on parts of it until the last second. As in, literally the last second! I did most of the beadwork over the months while sitting in bed, a tray full of golden beads with needle and thread ready to sew. Mike grew fairly tolerant of waking up with gold beads stuck to us in the morning. Actually, any and all handwork was done on my bed or the couch, which was the bodice/top of the gown. Sarah had lost so much weight during the making, that it was likely half of that by the end, the dress is a size 0! You know, that made up dress size that didn’t exist when I was young… Then, I had to gather the remaining 9 yards of fabric for the skirt and attach it onto that tiny little top! Ugh! It weighed a ton! It was hot! I was so sick and oh, was I tired!
Finally, all that was left to complete was the hem. Again, under normal circumstances, I would have done this by hand. Beautiful. Delicate. Invisible. Yes, all 9 yards would have been hand hemmed, but not this time. I used my serger and did a machine hem. Oh, the shame! Oh, the horror! That’s all I had left in me, a machine hemmed gown for our daughter…A serger is a machine that both cuts and sews a seam or hem like they do in factories. Go ahead, check the seams of your garments…It’s a very cool machine and I love it, but not for Sarah’s dress. But this time, I did. Zzzzzzzzzzzz….I was almost to the end of the hem, only about one yard left. It started dragging and I started pulling. “This isn’t happening!”, I screamed in a pitch that hurt even my ears. The cutting blade had become dull, no longer cutting the fabric properly. I pulled that damn fabric through it, though. Yes, yes, I shredded some of that last yard, but it was done!
The finishing touch was to hand sew a label my mother made for us (with her computerized embroidery machine), which read, “Made With Love by Mom”…And that it was! So, I did accomplish some things during one of the worst periods in my life…Huh! Think about it… I’ll bet you too, have made accomplishments during these very trying times that you may have forgotten or not given yourself credit for. You got out of bed today? You showered? You played with your children? You were actually able to work this week? Big or small, they are still your accomplishments, celebrate them!
For more information please contact vestibular.org