How Makeup Helped Me Manage My Depression


Depression is such an ugly place to be. It’s confusing at best and completely debilitating at worst– you suddenly lose interest in the things you used to live for, you lack the drive to do anything but sleep or get no sleep at all, you eat too much or too little, you are not able to concentrate on even the simplest of tasks, and you think and think again about the convenience and comfort of death.

It was difficult for me because my depression was left undiagnosed and untreated for at least three years. These symptoms among others have been present in my life for those years until little by little they began to take over what little control of my life I had. I began to lie in bed, awake or not, for 18-20 hours a day, rising only to use the bathroom or nibble on some crackers. I was repulsed by the idea of showering and I only showered when I really needed to, when I would meet people I knew that day and had to put up a facade of normalcy. I wouldn’t change shirts for days and days, not even if the shirt on my back was drenched in sweat caused by summer temperatures in the high 30s. I knew it was wrong and disgusting, but I was too tired to do anything about it.

My skin started to break out everywhere and I was gaining weight despite the infrequency of my meals. My body was going crazy.

At this point I knew that this was not me. Real me wouldn’t go a day without showering. Real me would take care of myself. Real me loved getting dressed up and putting makeup. Essentially, this is the part of myself that I knew well, and if these things were changing that must mean something is wrong. This was not me at all.

I only felt more like myself on those occasions that I had to go out and meet friends.On those days that I showered, dressed up, and put on makeup. Though it was a struggle to get the motivation to get up at all and meet people, gather the strength to take a short bath, pick outfits, and all that, I would feel better after I had finished getting ready. This was the part of me I hung onto, this is what I did to get “Okay Moments” until I got help.

Several months into medication and treatment, I discovered that I can do lip art. It is incredibly therapeutic because I need to focus on tiny details and have no space in my head for anxious thoughts or negative self-talk. It is fulfilling too, something I hadn’t felt in a while since the depression. I always felt worthless, useless, unable to do anything productive or of value. Finishing a look gives me a sense of accomplishment, even if it’s not as big as finishing my thesis or finding a cure to cancer. It gives me purpose; having an idea and the means to create the look excites me and has gotten me up on many mornings. Don’t laugh: to wake up in the morning at a regular hour is an achievement for someone who used to wake up at 4pm only to sleep again at 8pm.

Today I continue to find fulfillment in doing makeup, even if it’s just a little when I go out. I am getting practice too for when other people want to have their makeup done by me. Sometimes I think that depression had to happen to me so that I can find myself and what I really want to do. That’s just me trying to make the best of a difficult situation, but that’s also me trying to beat the sometimes unavoidable negativity that depression brings.

Makeup is often perceived to be superficial and good for nothing but helping people become fake-looking Barbie dolls (*rolls eyes*). But for me, it has become an instrumental part of my healing; it has become something of a power for me, someone who has felt powerless for so long.

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