I Use My Beauty Routine to Cope With Mental Illness
I’ve never read the word schizophrenia in a makeup article before, but those two subjects both happen to be a huge part of how I present myself to the world. Lipstick isn’t just something that defines my thin lips; it is a piece of my treatment.
There are plenty of ways that schizophrenia makes me stand out from other people—being a voice hearer, having paranoia and social anxiety: These aren’t exactly things most people are used to dealing with. So personally, I’m not in the market for products that will make me more of the center of attention. Individuality is great and all, but my goal is simply to be someone others see as “put together.” For someone who deals with so many stereotypes, feeling like you “fit in” often just feels like a relief.
It is almost cliché to say that makeup is a mask between myself and the world, but on days where I am suffering from extreme anxiety, that is true.
Not a day that goes by where I don’t hear something derogatory about having a brain disease. For most people, it’s unconscious—just another harmless metaphor. People make jokes about the voices in their head arguing or claiming the “voices made me do it.” There are so many variations on the “voices” jokes. I also can’t flip through social media without reading the words “paranoia,” “deranged,” “lunatic,” etc. And I won’t even mention Halloween with all the haunted “asylums” and red-stained straight-jacket costumes labeled “psycho killer.” I don’t usually address all the characterizations and jokes about severe mental illness, because if I did, I wouldn’t have much time for anything else.
That’s part of the reason I live openly with my diagnosis—so I am always an example of what the illness is really like as opposed to the misconceptions about it. And I know it might sound simplistic to say that makeup—lipstick, mascara, eyeliner, and eye shadow—can help beat the stigma. But it can, and it does.
Many people with a mental illness have a difficult time keeping up with their hygiene; this can be particularly hard for people suffering from clinical depression, and it can also be a symptom of schizophrenia. It’s an issue of motivation, and I frequently struggle with a lack of motivation myself. For that reason, practicing a beauty routine isn’t always possible for me, but the days when it is are undoubtedly better.
It’s not that I’m not afraid to go to Starbucks or out to dinner without makeup. But I feel so much better if I take the time to apply color to my lips and eyes. It makes me feel “normal," especially after having gone public with my diagnosis three years ago.
Makeup helps me distance myself from any misconceptions they may have about what someone with schizophrenia looks like.
It is almost cliché to say that makeup is a mask between myself and the world, but on days where I am suffering from extreme anxiety, that is true. It is also true that looking my best (which for me includes makeup) can carry me through some difficult symptoms and emotions. Many people who know my husband are aware that I have schizophrenia before even meeting me, so whenever I am invited to an event with his co-workers, makeup helps me distance myself from any misconceptions they may have about what someone with schizophrenia looks like. It puts a “layer” between myself and their judgments, and that makes me feel a sense of protection.
My makeup routine itself also helps instill in me a sense of comfort before what can seem like a scary situation (namely, having people know your diagnosis before even knowing your name). Every day it’s similar: moisturizer (Clinique is a go-to), black eyeliner, three varying colors of eye shadow, a light blush along the cheekbones, lipstick (mauves are my favorite), and lots and lots of mascara. This is my mask of choice.
It may seem silly to some people that makeup can be the first line of defense against stereotypes and anxiety, but for me, it is. I look at it as a tool in my kit of “how to survive” or “how not be treated as an outsider.” As someone with a severe mental illness, I will use every tool I can to change minds, be accepted, and live the best life I can. Even children know the power of makeup to transform them from kid to princess, lion, or butterfly. Albeit in a different way, the magic works the same for me.
Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis
Here at Byrdie, we know that beauty is way more than braid tutorials and mascara reviews. Beauty is identity. Our hair, our facial features, our bodies: They can reflect culture, sexuality, race, even politics. We needed somewhere on Byrdie to talk about this stuff, so… welcome to The Flipside (as in the flip side of beauty, of course!), a dedicated place for unique, personal, and unexpected stories that challenge our society’s definition of “beauty.” Here, you’ll find cool interviews with LGBTQ+ celebrities, vulnerable essays about beauty standards and cultural identity, feminist meditations on everything from thigh brows to eyebrows, and more. The ideas our writers are exploring here are new, so we’d love for you, our savvy readers, to participate in the conversation too. Be sure to comment your thoughts (and share them on social media with the hashtag #TheFlipsideOfBeauty). Because here on The Flipside, everybody gets to be heard.
Next up: Read which all-natural anxiety remedies actually work, according to one Byrdie editor.