M poor mental health has manifested itself in numerous ways since I was 14; suffering with things from an eating disorder to depression has meant that my life has always fallen into a warped sense of reality that I never really understood. I often didn’t realise that my mental health was declining because my life had somehow turned into a numb pattern of forgetting to eat, not leaving my bed and constant crying. That which everybody else took for granted – routine – became an alien concept to me as my focus simply became managing life on a day-to-day basis. A lack of routine – and energy – meant that I found it hard to commit to anything, resulting in frequent, intense downward spirals.
Over the years doctors I have been to have provided me with various solutions to try to aid me in improving my mental health; from mindfulness to cognitive behaviour therapy, I have tried a range of options, and, whilst each was useful in its own way, I increasingly realised the importance of routine in maintaining daily stability. One of these became my beauty rituals.
As a young teenager my father’s favourite thing to say to me was, “Don’t wear so much make-up, you’ll ruin your skin”, yet little did he know it was doing the fixing. Since emerging from my tomboy phase at 11 I have been an avid fan of make-up; at 14 I already knew how to utilise the mascara, pressed powder and eyeliner I had secretly acquired to create a natural look for school. At 17 my signature look had become a cat’s-eye flick.
We are taught that self-care often comes in a commercialised package of a Sunday night face mask, bath bombs from Lush and a shellac manicure. Yet when your mental health is on a downward spiral, these little rituals can come to mean so much more – my beauty routine was and is my act of compassion to myself when other areas of my life are beyond my control. Beauty has come to act as a coping ritual.
For me, my beauty ritual exists as a medium I find relief in; whilst I do not wear a full face of make-up every day, sometimes choosing to on a bad day not only helps me feel more put together, but is a focus point for my brain. There is comfort in creating a look based on how I’m feeling that day and it is often rarely about the finished look and more about the process; the calming mindlessness that comes with stippling a damp beauty blender on one’s face or the intense concentration that accompanies filling in my brows.
My relationship with my beauty regime is not constant; it changes depending on my mental health. Energy, effort and motivation all play a part in the extent of my management techniques; some days putting together a look helps me allay the anxiety I am feeling in a current moment, other days I find it hard to muster the energy to even leave my bed. On the latter type of days, my equally (if not more) investment into skincare comes into play. Good skin has always been a concern to me, a ritual I have been programmed to care about through modelling; without doubt it is a constant. Although the length and totality of it varies depending on the day, even something as seemingly short as washing my face, toning and applying serum gives me an internal sense of accomplishment.
I am not suggesting that make-up is my lone coping mechanism, nor is it the solution, but there are often days, weeks and sometimes months when I feel like I lose who I am. In these instances, removing myself from the situation for small moments aids greatly. It can be as small as putting a face mask on, doing my nails or exfoliating my skin – these are the activities that help me in feeling “normal”. My mental health is still very much an ongoing journey and battle, but amongst the chaos of coiled eyeshadow, contour kits and eyebrow pencils… there is peace.