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To Those Who Wonder Why I Put on Makeup Even When I Feel Ill

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This is a subject I’ve been meaning to talk about for a while. I think people often wonder why I would do a full face of makeup if I’m not leaving the house, or if I’m feeling really ill and struggling with it.  Firstly, if I’m really unwell (with my myalgic encephalomyelitis and fibromyalgia), then I’m generally stuck in bed in my PJs, not going anywhere or doing anything. I remember when a PJ day watching TV in bed used to be really fun and relaxing… but that was when it was a choice, not a result of physically being unable to do anything else!

After a long time of being very unwell and often in bed (it’s been almost a year for me since I got much worse), you begin to almost lose your identity and everything that used to make up who you were. I used to think of myself as reliable, efficient, hardworking, always there for others. Chronic illness takes away a lot of your personal attributes… Reliable? Not a chance! I have to cancel about 90 percent of any plans I make because I’m simply too unwell to go. Efficient? Nope. I spend most of my time doing nothing more useful than watching TV or sleeping. Again, no choice — ME makes even standing difficult, never mind getting something like cleaning or work done.

Hardworking? I’d love to be… sadly, I am on long-term sick leave from work as my body simply can’t get out of bed reliably every day, never mind get to an office, sit upright all day and actually do something useful that requires concentration! Always there for others? Another thing that has changed. I can still be there over the phone or in supportive texts, but can’t meet a friend for a post-work chat and a glass of wine. I can’t invite them over for a relaxing dinner to cheer them up. Sometimes I can’t even reply to their texts until several days later, when I’m actually awake and “with it.”

Now that I’ve lost many of the qualities I prided myself on as a person, it’s up to me to figure out who I am. What can I offer others? What is left that I can still enjoy? What hobbies am I still capable of indulging in, or challenging myself to get better at? At the moment, the answer is sadly not much. But one thing that has consistently sparked my interest, cheered me up, made me feel better and sometimes even inspired me is makeup. Something so frivolous… unnecessary… a luxury… but something I can still enjoy, something I can still do!

On my worst days, I can still scroll through Instagram and see what’s new in the beauty world. What trends are going around, what people are loving. On good days, I can take the chance to sit and do my own makeup; trying new applications, new looks, doing something that ultimately makes me feel and look better! With makeup, applying it can take as long as I need. There’s no rush, there’s usually nowhere I have to be. It’s time I can spend feeling like the old me. The “real” me. I often take breaks throughout doing my makeup, sitting or lying down for a few minutes between each step. Although it’s not easy and it tires me out, the end result is worth it. I look in the mirror and see someone who can still do something, still create something! I can see a glimpse of the girl I used to be.

That was one of the main inspirations behind starting my blog. Although I’m honest about my illnesses, I spend much more time talking about what I’m passionate about, makeup and beauty. I like to think that you readers don’t just see me as “that girl who’s chronically ill,” but as a fellow makeup junkie who will tell you about new products and let you know which beauty box is worth subscribing to!

Wearing makeup for me personally is not about hiding anything. It’s not about pretending I’m not ill or putting a fake front on for people. It’s about doing one of the few things I can still do for myself, and feeling good about myself in the process. Makeup makes me happy, pure and simple. I have a lot of spoonie friends who also love anything beauty related and I know they feel the same. We’re not trying to hide our pain and disability, we’re trying to let the old “us” shine through, even if just for a short while.

One thing that makes me sad is that so often, fellow chronically ill girls will wear makeup or do their hair for a medical appointment, and will instantly be dismissed as being OK just because “they look fine.” I know girls who have turned up at the emergency room wearing cosmetics (sometimes because they just happened to already have it on before getting bad enough for hospital), and have been told “Well, you look OK, you can’t feel that bad.” If you ever see someone looking great, in perfectly applied makeup, don’t jump to assumptions — listen to what they say instead of just how they look.

For those of you who are not chronically ill, I really hope this helps you understand why I spend my preciously small amount of energy applying makeup. For those who are, I hope I’ve helped convey some of what you think and feel. If you have different reasons and motivations, do please let us all know in the comments! I’d love to hear what makeup and beauty mean to you!

This blog was originally published on Katie Cupcake — Life With Me.

Originally published: July 19, 2016
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