As I write this, I am laying prone on the sofa, and for the first time since Sunday I am wearing actual clothes. I have spent the last three days with a face that is in full-on "scaring children" mode, and hair that hasn't caught the merest whiff of a hairbrush let alone been anywhere near shampoo. In fact, even my daily bath fell by the wayside.
In short, it's not been good.
Some regular readers may be aware that I have the chronic illness Crohn's Disease, which is a condition that causes pain and all sorts of other lovely symptoms thanks to my gut not being adequate enough to cope with anything slightly fibrous and/or whatever it feels like on the day. I am a slave to what my gut wants and needs, and doesn't need. Especially what it doesn't want. It doesn't want anything at the moment. It definitely hates me.
I thought I was better. I'm not. I've been bed bound for a few days now, and when making a cake on Sunday I had to have a little break three times, as standing up for that long made me dizzy and sweaty.
On Monday, I walked to the shop five minutes around the corner to pick up some Lucozade and on returning I slept for four hours, I found it so exhausting. Standing up makes my vision go, as if I'm about to faint, nearly every time. Getting dressed seems like an exhausting and incomprehensible task. I cried this morning because I couldn't decide what to watch on Netflix. IT'S BEEN A BAD WEEK.
My Mum arrived today though, wielding a lovely bag bursting full of steroids freshly prescribed from the doctor, and trashy magazines and chicken and sweeties and donuts and my mood lifted.
On waving her off, I caught sight of myself in the reflection in her car door -- bad. I was pale, my eyes sunken, with eye-bags you could pack shopping in. I looked like The Littlest Hobo. I didn't recognise myself. And do you know what? That scared me.
I knew I FELT bad, but I didn't realise I also looked awful. That's my thing, you know? Make up. My daily 20 minutes spent on the train on the way to work, pushing wax into my blonde brows to fill them in, swirling a pink blush onto the apples of my cheeks, slicking on whatever colour lipstick that takes my fancy that morning. The highlighter dabbed on my cheekbones, the liquid eyeliner sweeping across my lid, the plumping coats of mascara opening up my eyes and making me ready to face the world.
It's my armour, my uniform and my morning pleasure. My mornings this week had been missing that.
I never fully realised the correlation between how I am feeling and how I am looking. I suppose because I am so used to being mildly unwell a lot of the time, and going to work though it anyway, I often do look absolutely fine. It's only when I let myself really collapse in on myself and take time off that I don't bother, or more honestly, can't bother.
When my Mum left earlier, I made a concious decision to feel better. With the first steroid popped and into my system, I have hope now that soon enough I'll be up and about again. I ran a bath, washed my face and hair, washed away the illness and the upset and the worry.
I chose clothes that make me feel glamorous even though I am only on my sofa. I brushed my hair into a high bun, a style I always feel as chic as I possibly can wearing. I pulled out from my drawer my best underwear, slipped them on. I put my favourite jewellery on, noticing the rings are a little looser around my fingers now.
On the sofa, with my make up bag resting on my knee, I made up my face slowly, savouring the effect that each element made on my worn face, the foundation gliding over the greyness and adding colour, the pop of blusher waking up my complexion. By the time I got to mascara, I felt like myself again.
Like the real me, even if the real me is not real, it's smoke and mirrors, ingredients and chemicals.
The power of cosmetics is not just a physical one. They have a mental effect, a real tangible benefit. Without beauty products, I would look like an ill person, something I never want to look like. When I look ill, I feel ill. Looking like an ill person is totally not my bag.
Beauty products help me feel normal, like a person who isn't having trouble staying awake and who worries that they're boring everyone they know if they mention how they feel. Beauty products give me a routine, something to concentrate on when normal routine falls by the wayside.
I don't care if people think that I am vain, or that I spend too much money and time on lotions and potions and mystery boxes of tubes and varnishes. The truth is that without beauty products, I would feel a whole lot worse than I do, and so for them I am truly thankful.
I'm on Twitter and Instagram: @Natalie_KateM.