Hello again dear readers!
Just to let you know that from now on I’ll be blogging at http://nicolacasey.wix.com/mymusicandmusings.
Come and join me there!
Hello again dear readers!
Just to let you know that from now on I’ll be blogging at http://nicolacasey.wix.com/mymusicandmusings.
Come and join me there!
I thought that title would attract a little more attention than the word ‘make-up’. Which is what this blog post is going to be all about, my faithful readers (and my accidental readers too!) If make-up isn’t really your thing, don’t click away quite yet. This isn’t going to be a make-up tutorial or about what make-up is all the fashion right now. All I know is what works for me (which I’ll share with you if you’re good), and how to write a good thought-provoking article on the cosmetic stuff. So make yourself a nice big cup of tea, get comfy, and prepare to have your thoughts provoked.
Ah, make-up. Enjoyed by so many women (and men too) from all different cultures, right across the globe. From war-paint to ritual adornment, from corrective to contouring, from bold and brash to discreet, professional, sophisticated or sultry; there is a style to suit everyone. And which can be adapted for any occasion. Heck, you can even go swimming with the stuff on now, thanks to the waterproof qualities found in some products.There is make-up to suit every skin-type, whether you have dry, oily or combination skin. Make-up to disguise wrinkles and cover up spots. Make-up which will even hide birth marks, burns and pigmentation disorders. There is affordable make-up as well as the high-quality expensive make-up you probably only drool over in the Vogue magazine, and sometimes, once applied, you won’t even tell the difference between them.
But let’s backtrack and digress a little. Did someone mention spots??
That accursed condition that thinks of itself as a friend and completely outstays its welcome by several hundred years (or at least so it feels). That Beast of Burden that eats away at your self-confidence, opens sores around your already festering insecurities and fills you with shame and dread. They call it acne. I call it Hell.
I developed this nightmarish condition at around the age of thirteen, and have basically had it ever since. That’s essentially thirteen years of useless potions and lotions, trips to the doctor and dermatologist, loathing the reflection of my poor, inflamed face in the mirror and hoping, longing for that miracle cure that will gave me the face of a goddess, you know, the one that society keeps thrusting at me, the completely inachievable smooth skin of an air-brushed and photo-shopped model? When in my very-late teens and early twenties my acne became cystic, the only way I could stand to even leave the house was by applying some foundation and concealer. And when I say some, I mean layers and layers and coats and re-coats. At the beginning I would apply way too much and all the wrong kinds. But at least I didn’t have to feel ashamed when I stepped out of the house.
Thankfully, gratefully, happily… due to age and being on the pill, and having learned what are the right kinds of make-up for my skin (and also by cutting most dairy products out of my diet; I suspect an intolerance), and also thanks to my beloved tea-tree products from the Bodyshop, those dark days are behind me now. I still get a few spots but nothing like before. All that really remains are some acne-scars, proving that I have been through the war, fought and WON!
What I really want to get across here is how make-up helped me to get through those trying years. Say what you will about the wearing of it, but it practically saved my life!
I also love make-up because I am a creative person, and I find the application of it to be an outlet for my creativity. And no matter how I’m feeling, putting on a little bit of make-up will always lift my mood and make me feel better about myself. If nothing else, putting it on is part of my daily routine, which makes the part of me that likes routine very happy.
If I look a little under the weather, tired or am having a bad-skin day, make-up will disguise that, leaving me able to go about my day without wondering how people are reacting to some big, red spots on my face or bags under my eyes that make me look like a big hungover panda.
My sister, Melissa, is contemplating a career in beauty therapy. She knows the ins-and-outs of make-up, how to apply it properly, and about many of the products which are out there. (She has really helped me with this blog post. Thanks, Moppy! ❤ 🙂 ).A sufferer of social-anxiety, she finds that by wearing make-up she is much less self-conscious and thus more confident to go out and face the world. She has also got into the make-up industry through Avon, and her interest and involvement in the company gives her the opportunity to meet new people, try and promote new products, and develop her marketing skills. She also suffers from a little depression but finds that, just like spending time painting or drawing, applying make-up is a kind of artistic therapy that helps to lift her mood.
Just after I started writing this post, I landed in hospital. It was all very surreal. One minute I was happily taking the train to spend a week in Scotland with my family, and the next I was getting prepped to go into theatre to have a chunk of festering thigh cut out. Maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but that’s certainly how it felt. 😉 Even if it was just an ‘incision and drainage’, I still have a four-inch long open wound on my inner thigh that I can’t bear to look at. Thankfully it’s healing and shrinking every day.
Anyway. Shudder. Where was I? Oh yes, make-up. I got to experience its mood-lifting properties to an extent I’ve never experienced before. Obviously after a dumper-truck load of antibiotics, surgery and strong painkillers, you don’t look the picture of health and beauty. I felt and looked like warmed-up horse-poo. But I kid you not; when I managed to drag myself into the bathroom, wash my face and apply very minimal make-up, I went back to my bed feeling better, more alive and more human. And because I felt better one way, I felt better in every other way. too. I was able to go for a walk and stretch my legs. The pain seemed more bearable. I felt happier and more optimistic. I felt like I was slowly coming back to myself.
If wearing make-up helps to reflect the aliveness, beauty and resolution within, who can argue that that’s not a good thing? Because inside we are lovely and alive and strong. We want to radiate with beauty because that is who we are as women. If wearing make-up helps you to feel like you are radiating that beauty, then I say, embrace it.
I know some people don’t like the idea of make-up and believe that we should be happy with ourselves just as we are. I say yes and no. Make-up, like a fresh coat of emulsion over a wall that is badly needing it, brightens, perfects and transforms. I think it’s only natural that we’d prefer not to look like a bad paint-job that is chipping off. Fortunately this is an extreme comparison and most of us look far better than that, even first thing in the morning.
However, if bare-faced and perfectly confident you are, then I salute you. I truly do. On days where my skin is really good and I have had my RDA of beauty sleep, I will be far more likely to dare out of the house clad in only my clothes. If you can do that every day, hats-off. It’s a good thing. After all, like I said above, I truly do believe that beauty is not only skin-deep. I’ve heard it said time and time again that true beauty comes from within, and I agree. I’d much rather look at someone whose kindness is shining through un-darkened eyes and a bare face than someone whose coldness is as evident as the orange mask they are hiding behind. But in general, I do not believe we wear make-up to conceal who we really are. We wear it to accentuate what’s good and draw attention away from what’s a little flawed. I think it’s only normal to feel prettier this way. It doesn’t make us vain or proud, only human.
I am with a truly wonderful man who loves me just the way I am. It sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. He tells me time and time again that I am just as beautiful – if not more so – bare-faced. He loves my freckles and isn’t put off by my spots. He sees that my beauty comes from within, and that is more than enough for him. Now, if we’re constantly bombarded with the message that we aren’t good enough without our make-up, this could be seriously damaging to our self-esteem. We are already bombarded with this message through the media. We need people around us who remind us that our worth is not in the brand of clothes we wear, the height of our heels, and our perfectly, fashionably done-up face. More than anything we need to believe that ourselves. Then our make-up is simply a reflection of who we are, not a desperate attempt at winning approval.
A recent train journey found me penning several poems within the course of half-an-hour or so. Here they are.
Poetry is the language of the artist
When tears and words fail to express
What is on the heart.
London (Coffee Cup)
Millions of faces of all different races,
The hustle and bustle of fast-paced life;
Speeding by like a train that is out of control.
Stop, let me through!
And I will find somewhere to hide
Behind a coffee cup.
Human to Hope
Are you looking down at me
Or walking by my side?
Do you see what I see
Or are you of a different kind?
Or are you but a memory, left to warm my heart?
I do not know the answer,
But it’s human to hope.
The love we share is stronger than death,
Stronger than the bonds of flesh and blood;
The strength of each, bound into one.
What exactly is OCD? Where does it come from?
Is it a genetic condition?
Perhaps. I believe I have inherited mine from my father who definitely suffered from the condition, who in turn likely inherited it from at least his father. My grandpa was renown for his panic attacks in the car, his almost obsessional organising and managing of the accounts, and his unreasonable fear of picking us up as newborn infants. My granny was likely an compulsive hoarder. So anxiety and obsessional thinking are definitely in my genetic make-up.
Can OCD be assimilated for no apparent reason, out of the blue, even as an adult?
I think so. Bear in mind that I’m not an OCD specialist or medical professional, so I can’t know for sure. But I do have personal experience of people in my circle who have developed symptoms later on in life, quite unexpectedly. Perhaps this is a good explanation as to what happens in cases such as these:
‘A number of environmental factors may contribute to the onset and maintenance of OCD. Although some research suggests no link between negative life events and OCD, there are many reports in which childhood OCD has been triggered by a specific, often traumatic, event, including: the death of a loved one; the loss of a pet; a divorce in the family; a change in schools (e.g., going from elementary to middle school); a move to a new location (usually involving a change in schools; or unhappiness at school. In addition, cognitive models of the causes of OCD support the idea that stress can increase intrusive thoughts, increasing the risk of obsessions. Furthermore, a recent study indicated that one to two years prior to the onset of symptoms, both children and adults who develop OCD experience more negative life events than controls. Taken together, these results suggest that stress or trauma can play a role in the development of OCD among certain individuals. And given the extraordinary levels of stress students sometimes experience in the home, school, and community, these findings are extremely important for education professionals.
Injuries also have been associated with OCD. The results of one study, in which 80 children and adolescents who suffered a traumatic brain injury were examined, indicated that almost 30% of the young people had new onset obsessive compulsive symptoms within one year after the serious injury.’
As an OCD-sufferer, I don’t think it’s necessary to delve into a thorough examination of where it has come from. Perhaps in some cases, especially in correlation with therapy, it is advisable to be conscious of the event, trauma or genetic disposition which has caused symptoms of the condition to become evident. However I think that what is of far greater importance is how – once you recognise the symptoms – you make progress towards your recovery.
From all I have read and experienced, I think OCD is simply the healthy part of our brain that attempts to keep us from danger and harm at all costs gone a little awry. The reptile part of our brain which is responsible for our ‘fight or flight’ responses to supposed danger becomes sort of unable to shut itself off. It produces chemicals in our body which make us feel incredibly anxious, even if the ‘trigger’ is a false one. In order to handle this excess of anxiety, our minds can get caught in a loop of obsessional thinking or intrusive thoughts as an attempt to regulate or control. These thoughts only serve to further increase the level of anxiety.
Take for example someone with ‘counting OCD’. This is when someone attaches a certain sigificance to a number and feels that they must do particular actions X number of times to prevent Y from happening. For example, a sufferer of OCD may become obsessed with the number ‘7’ and decide that unless they knock on a door seven times before entering, or look left and right seven times before crossing a road, something terrible will happen. Think Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory ;-). People with this kind of OCD want to ward off potential danger by performing a ritual. 99% of the time this ‘potential danger’ doesn’t exist. It’s a figment of their imaginations, created by strong feelings of anxiety, and perhaps an inability to accept the natural uncertainty of life.
All types of OCD actually revolve around some kind of ritual. Obsessive thinking is a ritual. Our brains get stuck on certain thoughts in order to try and come up with an answer or some kind of reassurance that will get rid of the anxiety. Since the ‘themes’ of our OCD always centre around what is most important to us, these ‘loops’ can be hellish. We love our family so much that we fear harm coming to them. So what does the OCD-mind do? It produces an intrusive thought that says, “You wanted to stab your mum when you were holding that knife in the kitchen.” The thought is completely abhorrent to us and we would never ever EVER act on the thought, even if our minds try to persuade us otherwise. Thus the thought causes our ‘natural’ fear of harm coming to our loved one to escalate into horrific fear of causing the harm.
Which brings me to the subject: our OCD will always attack what’s nearest and dearest to us. It will even attack our essential values. A religious person will be filled with intrusive thoughts of blasphemy or whatever matters to them in their faith. Someone in a loving relationship will constantly doubt the strength and quality of their love for their partner, their partner’s love for them, and the ‘suitability’ of their relationship. Fearing harm coming to his family, a father may become obsessional and compulsive about the way he constantly checks for doors to be locked, electrical appliances to be switched off, etc. You get the idea. OCD will not centre around a fear of no longer being able to sing if singing is not important to you. I wholeheartedly and unequivocally believe I will never have obsessions about football or sports cars for example, because I simply don’t care :-P.
A recent trick I have employed in dealing with my OCD is writing down each intrusive thought that comes into my mind. So instead of feeding into the vicious cycle by trying to analyse and rationalise the thoughts away, I acknowledge it, write it down and let it go. Some of the things I write down are almost funny, and that’s good because it shows up the thoughts to be what they are; my mind’s remarkably intelligent and almost laughable way of trying to deal with fear.
Let’s spread awareness of this horrible condition. But let’s not make it out to be some kind of evil monster that we have to come at with guns blazing and shields at the ready. Let’s expose it for what actually it is. It’s little more than the scared little boy or girl inside you, trying to keep danger and difficult emotions at bay. Let’s learn how to embrace the fear, accept the uncertainty, and live fully and passionately anyway. We can do this. Whatever it is, OCD will not have the last word!
You know you shouldn’t give in to this thought. It reeks of OCD. It might not look like OCD to anyone who could read your mind. Perhaps it looks like a normal concern. But to you who has suffered with this illness for decades now; you know your enemy. You know what you’re up against. If you let yourself be sucked into this thought it will become a cycle of thoughts. Then an obsession. Then you’ll start doing compulsions to try and get rid of the thoughts and before you know it you’re falling down that oh-too-familiar dark hole of OCD where you will spend days, if not weeks, fighting to keep your head above a sea of blackness, depression and terrible anxiety.
That’s why, when the thought comes and you can smell the OCD, even if you’re not sure, you have to be ruthless and nip it in the bud while it’s only still a tiny seed. If you give it room to fester and grow, before long it will have roots and leaves and and spikes and it will be really hard to root out, if not impossible.
If you don’t listen to it, if you refuse to seek reassurance for the obsession-du-jour, it literally feels like you’re ripping out your own insides. Or like the most uncomfortable itch you’ve ever had, that makes you want to scream and pull out your hair because it’s so aggravating.
It’s not just a feeling that if you don’t give in to the obsession you’ll be a little uncomfortable for a while. It’s the feeling that if you don’t give in to the obsession it will rip you apart from the inside and consume you whole. You feel the need to resolve it immediately. You will literally do anything to get rid of it, forgetting EVERY time that the way to ‘get rid of it’ is just to ignore it and not give it any importance.
The themes of the obsessions vary although they typically evolve around similar topics. Sometimes your OCD suggests something completely outrageous like, “You wanted to drop that child out of the window,” or, “You shouldn’t hold a knife near your partner because you’ll stab him,” as well as seemingly ‘normal’ concerns like, “That bump on your body is probably cancer. ” But they all feel similar. They feel urgent; they make you want to ‘figure them out’ or ‘rationalise them away’ immediately. But the ironic thing is that with OCD, the analysing is what enforces the obsession. It’s a horrible, monstrous cycle, and only people who suffer from it will understand how it can feel.
OCD obsessions, just like ‘normal’ worry, keeps you in your head and unable to focus on the present moment. It also gives you a false and addictive sense of security. If I can just work out an answer to this problem, my future is safe and secure. We mistakenly believe we can control what happens or doesn’t with our mind. OCD’s biggest lie is that your thoughts have real power and meaning. I think therefore I am, right? Well, not really. Not in this context. Just because you have an awful intrusive thought about jumping out a moving bus doesn’t mean you’ll do it. OCD only has the power over you that you give it. Don’t attach meaning to it. Don’t feed it. What you starve eventually dies.
Maybe you know someone who suffers like this. They aren’t crazy. They aren’t stupid. They have an invisible illness that is a lifelong battle requiring a ridiculous amount of courage and strength. Don’t judge them. OCD is not simply needing everything to be organised a certain way. It’s so much bigger and more awful than that.
Sending a hug to everyone who is touched by this debilitating condition.
I’ve been thinking a bit lately about what it means to be an introvert. Obviously every introvert is different, and our introversion can vary during different seasons of our life. The way it manifests itself can also vary depending on the situations we find ourselves. But typically, once an introvert, always an introvert.
How to stop being introverted
Let me begin by debunking a few myths about being an introvert. First of all, it’s not something that we need to apologise for. I think there’s too much stigma around this personality trait. People tend to assosciate being introverted with being shy or reclusive. I just put ‘introvert’ into Google search and was shocked to stumble across a link which said, ‘How to stop being introverted’!
I think our society definetely promotes extraversion through media’s portrayal of very active social lives and constant exterior stimulation. Going out every week at least several times, meeting new people all the time, and seeking new, stimulating experiences is what most people would deem as normal activity. Introverts can feel like the minority, and can even be slagged by their peers for suggesting that they’d prefer to spend the weekend at home alone or with their significant other, watching the X-factor or curling up with a good book. Perhaps we don’t seem as interesting as extraverted folks, but that’s because we tend to focus most of our energy on our inner-world. We think a lot, hold ideas and convictions about many different topics, and although we are not against having a good time and letting ourselves go from time to time, get far more stimulation from deeper conversations and topics which do not just evolve around going out, getting drunk, and gossip.
This doesn’t mean, however, that we find our extraverted friends to be shallow and uninteresting. We recognise that you get your energy from social situations and by having a vast connection of acquaintances and friends. We can have very meaninful conversations and friendships with you. Introversion/extraversion doesn’t have to create barriers between people unless we allow it to. It all comes down to accepting and refusing to think that being one way is better than the other.
So, how do we stop being introverted? It’s like hair colour. We can dye it any shade we want, straighten away the kinks and no-one will ever be able to tell what we’re actually like. But WE will always know because it can affect every area of our lives.
What Introverts are and aren’t
Both introverts and extraverts fall on a spectrum. None of us are 100% one or the other. I think I fall somewhere closer to the middle. Although I get most of my energy from being in my own company, doing something ‘quiet’ that I enjoy like writing, composing songs or painting, I get a lot of energy and stimulmation from meeting people, parties and social events, too. If I were to spend ALL my time alone and doing ‘quiet’ activities, I’d eventually crave company, a little ‘lighter’ activity and social interaction. Conversely, too much time socialising drains me and leaves me wanting to spend hours and hours behind a closed-door so that I can come back to my centre again; to the place where I feel balanced and myself.
Introverts are often assosciated with being shy and unassertive. We aren’t all this way, however. Or if we are, sometimes we work so hard at overcoming these obstacles that you will never realise we have ever been this way. Although being introverted isn’t a problem, being shy and unassertive can be. These traits can prevent us from achieving our goals, keep us stuck in fear of what other people think of us, and make life quite miserable. However I personally know some very seemingly outgoing introverts. They can even come across as the loudest and bubbliest at parties, and if they were to tell you that they were actually introverted, you would probably laugh and suggest that if they’re an introvert, you’re the Queen of England, or something along that line. I’ve done this kind of judging before many times, as it’s engrained in us to assosciate introvertedness with shyness and reclusiveness.
Being introverted doesn’t mean we don’t derive great pleasure from being part of a big crowd or event, either. I like concerts, gigs, big Christmas parties, and shopping as much as the next Joe Bloggs. However they are certain environments that will drain my energy quicker than others. Having my attention sought from several sources at the same time, for example. This can happen quite regularly at my job. Several children crowding around me at the same time, wanting me to help them with something or fix a problem. This makes me feel claustrophobic and once I’ve dealt with each issue, very, very drained. I’ve also felt this way at Christmas markets and in crowded shopping centres. Perhaps it’s something to do with too much noise. And I don’t know if this is anything to do with introversion, but rushing around also stresses me. People who rush around stress me. I know it’s inevitable sometimes, but somehow it upsets the delicate cohesion of my inner-balance.
We can be bubbly. We can be playful. We can be light-hearted. We can even come across as outgoing and very friendly. We won’t always be found in the bathroom, trying to escape out the window, or in the corner of the room by ourselves or with an introverted buddy. Sometimes we’ll be found performing, public-speaking or sharing our tuppence-worth on a particular issue, and we’ll be enjoying it. Sometimes we’ll seem like the life-and-soul of a party. But sometimes we will want to sneak away out of the back door, or decline the invitation altogether.
Introversion and Our Inner Circle
We might not have so many friends, but once we have established a connection with someone, we will appreciate and definetely seek out their company. It might take us a little while to put down our walls of reserve around you, but if we are drawn to you, you will get to know our best and truest without filter. You can count yourselves as one of our chosen few with whom we are willing to be vulnerable and open up our inner-world to. We probably enjoy your company more if you are open and honest with us about who you really are, as we seek genuine and authentic relationships. We like talking about everything and anything, but you can be sure that your deepest secrets and feelings are safe with us.
Also, dear significant-other, thank you for understanding the time we need to spend alone with ourselves. Please don’t take the closed-door personally. Understand that we need alone time to recharge – perhaps lots and lots of it – so that we can be a better person in general, and in our relationship with you and others. We are grateful for how you understand and respect our private space when we are craving it. Thank you that in a culture which promotes constant interaction as the norm, you understand that even constant interaction with you, our chosen love, would drain us to the point of exhaustion. Thank you for understanding that our relationshio will always be better when we strive to keep that inner-balance which makes us whole and authentic. Also, thank you for being so awesome that we are happy to open up our inner-world to you and invite you in.
So that’s my penny’s worth on being an introvert. What’s yours? 🙂