Fashion, Beauty & Mental Illness

My grandmother has a favorite picture of me from when I was a little girl, and it sits right on a shelf with some of her other knick-knacks. In that photo, I’m a five- or six-year-old little girl wearing a white hat, big sunglasses, and a dress and applying a clear little lipstick from an old mini kit. (Even at such a young age, lipstick was my favorite thing.) I have such an intent look on my face, making sure it’s on just right. I loved all of my little lippies as well as all of my nail polishes.

Fast forward to 2005. I’m 12 years old and starting my first year of middle school; that little girl has disappeared. Now, I wear nothing but baggy jeans, band t-shirts, cargo shorts, skater shoes, and backward-turned baseball caps. I messed with some eye shadow and whatnot in fifth grade, but that was two years ago. I don’t own a single bit of makeup, nor do I own a single dress or skirt anymore. I don’t care about my appearance; hell, I’ve stopped caring about much of anything, at this point.

My mom tries to buy me some nicer, more girly clothing so I’d look nice, but I never want any of it. Girly shoes? Forget about it. Why would I like shopping when I entered the girls’ plus section in fourth or fifth grade? I’ve always been a little bit bigger than the other girls, and it’s gotten me picked on and even pushed down a set of stairs (though that incident was probably more because I’m “weird”). Things suck at school, I feel like my family fell apart as a child and now, and I can’t explain the way I feel. Just…sad. Very, VERY sad. And, while I do enjoy “tomboy” things like sports and video games, I think that’s part of the reason I don’t want to try and look nice; I’m not worth it.

Junior high finishes, and I start coasting through high school. It’s basically a “same shit, different day” mentality every time I wake up. I’m a little more open to finding some girly clothes than I was before, and I at least start picking up some eyeliner and eye shadow every once in a while. But I still always suffer from that self-loathing, that feeling of emptiness and hopelessness that I haven’t been able to shake. I saw a therapist at 13 and again at 15 to try and deal with it all, but it never worked for long. Everything looks bleak. I don’t deserve to be happy. And after my friend died from cancer at 16 years old, it’s only harder to feel happy when life is so unfair.

Somehow I trudge through high school, make my way to college. My first year of college rocks; I’m meeting some new friends due to the roommate/suite mate situation, and some of the classes are pretty cool. I’m away from some pretty bad memories, so maybe there is room for me to grow here. Well, until my depression starts kicking me down just about every other semester, after that point. I like the idea of shopping for cute clothes now, but then I cry at Forever 21 when something in the plus size section doesn’t fit me right. My heart drops every time I try looking in Bon Ton only to find ugly pants with those god-awful elastic waistbands. My makeup skills are simple, at best. I’m nothing special. And, in my junior year, my dog (one of the only things that made me feel special) dies. And everything crumbles, including my school career.

Now, I should be finishing up second-to-last semester at the university and getting ready for winter break. Instead, I’m at home with my family working part-time while I see a therapist every Tuesday and go to the doctor monthly to check on how my antidepressant makes me feel. Even though I’ve gotten lost in my depression, anxiety, and fears of loss and abandonment in the past, this is probably the most lost I’ve ever been. I don’t know where I’m going or what I’m doing or want to do with my life. But I guess there have at least been a couple good things in the mix.

At 22, that love for makeup I had as a five- or six-year-old girl has made a comeback. I had to buy an even bigger Caboodle makeup case because I’ve gotten so much new makeup in the last year or two. And, rather than using it as a crutch for any insecurities, I use it as an art to make myself look as I wish on a given day. Winging my eyeliner just right, mixing my lipsticks into a unique shade, and styling my hair take my focus away from my issues and bring a smile on my face. I shop for cute clothes without concerning myself too much about the size; how I feel has to matter more, and I’ve lived hating myself for far too long. I take more photos of myself than I ever did before so I can look at myself and be okay with what I see, made-up or otherwise. Fashion and beauty have given me a passion I’ve been missing.

Battling is hard. Trust me, you guys have no idea how badly I feel like giving up and quitting life as I type this. But I shouldn’t let my mental illness win. And, to those who also suffer daily, neither should you. Thanks for reading, and please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.

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