Healing and action are interdependent — both are required and needed.
When you're in a bad space — and by "bad," I mean severe depression, not spilling coffee on your iPhone — one of the main things you'll struggle with is enjoyment. Nothing is enjoyable at all anymore — not your favourite TV shows, not reading, not even seeing your best friend. Your brain makes sure that you gain nothing from anything you do. It's also hard to look after yourself. Coupled with having no drive, it's a perfect storm. Some people even struggle with basic hygiene, like showering or brushing their teeth.
In my darkest patch, I was, thankfully, still fully hygiene-conscious, but the will to spruce myself up ended there. Choosing clothing was agony, so I wore a variation of the same thing for months on end. I did my hair the same way and put the least amount of effort into everything I could. Makeup wasn't even on the table.
When your main objective in a day is just to get through it, eyeliner isn't high on your list of priorities. I remember having to go to a wedding and feeling an almost physical pain at having to do a full face of makeup. I just wanted to stay home, bare-faced and miserable as usual.
During the months and months of brain shutdown, I used to look at my makeup and wonder — worry, actually, thanks to the beautiful mechanisms of rumination and anxiety — whether it would expire and I'd have to go buy all new makeup when I felt well enough to wear it again. I would especially look at my lipsticks and feel a pang in my heart that not only did I not want to wear them, but felt I somehow physically couldn't.
They became a sort of symbol of my illness and what I was struggling through. Lipstick-as-will-to-participate-in-life metaphor. I imagined the lipsticks, all in their perfectly kept tubes, drying out day by day, the minutes I couldn't fill with anything enjoyable ticking by — dragging by, actually — ensuring that I was further and further away from a time when I'd want to wear any of them, and further and further away from who I was. Every tube was just a reminder of how I was failing at life and, ultimately, failing to get better.
In a journal entry of sorts, I wrote:
Not that I think my suffering is greater than anyone else's. On the contrary, I admonish myself almost hourly for thinking I have any right to be so utterly miserable. Why can't I just, as Elizabeth Taylor famously said, pour myself a drink, put on some lipstick and pull myself together? I mean, besides the drink part. I look at all my lipsticks, wondering if the tubes of plum and peach and nude and pink and red and red and red (every kind of red) could make anything better. It couldn't and I wouldn't be able to try, anyway. Besides, Elizabeth Taylor never seemed like a huge barrel of laughs, so the point is moot.
When you're in a hole, every situation and thought contributes to you staying in that hole, and this was no different. Even the thought of using lipstick made me feel overwhelmed, an avalanche of thoughts like: I can't. But why can't I? Because I'm depressed. And I'll probably never get better because I can't even put on some lipstick to feel better.
I had a few MAC empties that I'd accumulated previously, but since I had no interest and couldn't see myself standing in a MAC store any time soon, I gave them to my sister and told her to exchange them for the free lipstick for herself. She came home with a colour I barely registered and offered it to me. I refused, coming up with excuses, like the fact that I had similar colours; but really, I didn't want to bother with the added stress of one extra tube of this newly threatening product.
This isn't all bleak, however. Eventually, with time and support and faith, I started climbing out. I started checking my social media every now and then, and then more often. I could follow conversations and TV shows again. Because it was an agonising and sometimes stagnant-feeling process, though, I often worried that I wasn't really getting better — that it was somehow wishful thinking or a temporary result of this or that.
One day, however, it all clicked into place.
Looking for something to complete my look, I thought, I wish I had a pink-red lipstick right now, and remembered that the lipstick my sister bought all those months ago was the exact shade I was thinking of.
After claiming it back from her and admiring the results in the mirror, prettying myself up to go out, I realised that finally, finally, I was kind of, sort of free of this thing. I wasn't deep in a hole anymore.
And I owe that realisation and hope to MAC All Fired Up.