Makeup and Migraines: How Makeup Helps Me Cope With My Chronic Illness

3:50 PM chronicmigraineellie 1 Comments

Every morning, I wake up and assess how I'm feeling. Some days, I can't move from my bed. Other times, I can pull myself up and somehow can get to class. My clothes and my makeup provide a mask that helps me get through the day. I don't know what it is about makeup, but it just helps me to feel like I'm a bit functional. Eyeshadow brightens up my tired eyes. Foundation balances my skin tone, hiding the redness of my skin. Concealer covers up the bags under my eyes, hiding my lack of sleep. Bold lipstick makes me feel like I'm put together, even when I feel like everything is falling apart. I put on this mask for myself. It allows me to hide in plain sight. When someone compliments my eyeliner or my lipstick, they don't see the pain I'm in. They don't see how much energy it takes just to be present. And that's how I like it to be. I feel empowered with my mask of makeup. It's a way of coping, of self-expression. By making myself feel beautiful, I lessen the feelings of pain and unworthiness that come with my migraines. With every pat of my beauty blender, I am helping myself to fight the pain that I go through everyday.

It's weeks like this one which leave me feeling pretty helpless and exhausted. When I want to sleep, I can't, and when I shouldn't, I want to. My fatigue is a real part of my life. A lot of people assume that just because I can walk and function that my physical health is okay, that since migraines are just in my brain, my physical activity shouldn't be affected. As any migraineur knows, migraines hit you hard. The ability to walk is not a given, the ability to stand and support your own weight is a game of hit or miss. When I am able to drag myself to class on a bad day, my makeup is able to deflect questions that I don't want to answer. It's much easier to take a compliment than it is to answer the question, "wow, you look exhausted. Are you okay?" On bad days, that's the last question I want to answer. When I was very sick in high school, makeup was the only thing that I could do. I couldn't really function, so reading, writing and watching tv was pretty much out of question. However, I could experiment with makeup. No matter how exhausted I was, I could sit in my desk chair and try on lipsticks. I could create a daring smoky eye, perfect my cat eye eyeliner, make myself feel beautiful, wipe it off, and go back to sleep. I never realized how much that my experiences with makeup shaped my life during my worst periods of migraines. No matter what, my makeup was there for me, on both good and bad days. My lipsticks would be in their drawer, waiting for me to uncap them. With each brush stroke, I was able to escape the hell that was my life and become a version of myself that was different than what I physically embodied

When I was at high school, I carried my makeup bag with me. My friends knew to find my doing my makeup in the bathroom every morning before homeroom. It was like my shield of protection. If i could hide my imperfections, maybe I would feel better. Fake it until you make it, they say. To a certain point, that mantra works. On some of my worst days, I put on my makeup and even if I feel just a little bit better, I know that I have succeeded.

Now, some of you may be reading this thinking, I can't even do my makeup when I feel horrible! I completely agree! I have different levels of makeup that I do, depending on how I feel. When I feet at my worst, my routine is to use a light BB cream, spot-treat with concealer, dab on a bit of blush, a couple coats of mascara, fill in my eyebrows and lipstick. It takes less than 3 minutes, but boy, does it make a world of difference. On days that I can't sleep, I often put on a full face of makeup. Yes, the full blown smokey eye, contour, highlight, you name it, I do it. It makes me feel more alive, more like a functional person. There's something that makes me feel so much better when I feel absolutely horrible to look in the mirror and go, "well, at least I look cute today!"

My body is a constant battlefield. I can't control when or where my pain comes, or how affected that I will be. I can't control the symptoms that I experience. I can only control so much. My appearance is something that I can control. I'm a big proponent of doing whatever feels good for you, and for me, makeup is my relief from pain. A swipe or red lipstick on my lips can take me from an exhausted, brain-fogged girl to a girl who, excuse my language, looks like she has her shit together. We cannot control our illnesses. But we can control how the world perceives us. My makeup is my shield against chronic illness, what's yours?

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