Beauty Ritual as Coping Mechanism
I don’t necessarily hide the fact that I’m mentally ill. I don’t always talk about it, but that’s because it’s not always relevant. But today it is.
I have a stubborn case of depression, with some ptsd and anxiety and dissociation sprinkled in for a bit of spice. I have good days and bad days, and lately, they’ve all been bad. I cry a lot. Over anything from dirty dishes to my lack of direction in life – basically, it’s not a good time for anyone (especially not the people i scare off by crying!)
So, in times of distress, we all have coping mechanisms. Some more healthy than others. After trying glitter jars, mindfulness, writing and all those other things people tell you to try to distract from your messed up brain, I’ve found some solace in beauty. It’s kind of funny, actually, that something so anxiety-inducing can also be therapeutic and balancing. When I’m dissociating, what tethers me back to reality may just be the sweep of a brush across my skin – reminding myself that, hey, this is your body and your face with nerves and blood and guts and everything.
It’s almost like I’m sealing myself in, reinforcing my boundaries with creams and pigments.
A skincare routine has a different effect than applying makeup. Skincare is more sensory – textures and sensations. It’s more hands-on – fingers applied directly to skin to smooth in a serum or apply a mask. Masks are particularly fun because you can imagine washing your past self away with the clays and enzymes once they’ve done their work. It’s like shedding your skin, symbolically or if you’re doing a peel, literally. The skincare ritual brings me back to myself through touch.
Makeup is visual.
I see it as the same idea as those adult colouring books, you know, the ones with lots of intricate patterns or maybe famous works of art. Except with makeup, you’re colouring in your face. It’s the outlining of your features visually that draws your consciousness back to reality, you have to focus or you’ll make a mistake. Like this, I kind of feel my brain relax, allowing itself to give full attention to this task.
Filling in eyes, brows, lips, it’s an affirmation of my own existence in this skin, in this body.