*Trigger warning: Talk of self-harm*

The Mighty released an article about makeup artist Yasaman Gheidi, who is using makeup to visually represent mental health experiences. Gheidi is calling it the “Inside Out Challenge”. Mental health issues are known as “invisible illnesses.” Gheidi wants to make what is invisible, visible. The support for the challenge is large, with others who have lived experience posting photos of their own makeup representations. Here is what Gheidi said to The Mighty about the Inside Out Challenge:

“This project is about changing the way we approach mental illness and removing the stigma attached, which begins with talking about it…For many people it’s not easy to share a side of oneself that very few people, if any, get to see. It is challenging to look within yourself and explore the emotions and mental struggles that are often hidden away.” (This Makeup Artist Is Challenging People to Wear Their Mental Illnesses, Jordan Davidson, 2017)

Image from lilmoonchildd
Image from lilmoonchildd

I wish my issues showed up on my face as a cool makeup design. There wasn’t a painted on tear drop, a bold split face or colours that represented my mood. I had cuts, burns and scratches. I have scars. My bad days were spread out across my body. Most of my self-harm could be hidden but hiding ended up serving as another visual of what was wrong with me. I would wear sweaters and jeans in the summer, never going swimming (especially in a bikini), and utilize wrist sweatbands, tensor bandages, and bracelets.

I feel that, overall, many of us do wear our mental health experiences in a physical way. When we believe we are faking it very well, our non-verbal communication can sometimes betrays us. We may sit a little smaller, frown a little more, move a little less (or maybe a little more), talk quieter or louder or clench our fists. I noticed over the years that on my really down days I wore more black and listened to more sad music.

The real problem is no one noticing. People often do communicate that something is wrong, but the people around us do not know how to listen or see. How we non-verbally express ourselves can be seen as a nuisance.

“Why don’t you smile more?”

“You always look closed off.”

“Your wardrobe needs some colour.”

(These things do not always mean there is an issue but for some they could be little clues.)

When I was deeper into my recovery my Dad said to me one day, “You must feel better because you wear more colour now.” He was right. My Dad knew that wearing black was a symbol. For me, wearing black was a way to bring what I felt on the inside out. As I began to feel more comfortable in my skin and feel happier in my life I started wearing bright colours. Now my closet is a rainbow with splashes of black (I still have my black clothing days although they do not always mean I’m having a bad day). When we are feeling good we do carry ourselves differently. We may sit up straighter, laugh a little more, look someone in the eye and overall appear a little brighter, more alive.

We need to take the time to really look at people. How are they different today? Do you notice anything about their body language? What are they wearing? Are they saying or not saying something? It could provide us with valuable information about what is going on with that person that day. We won’t always get it right but we need to try.

About Kristen Bellows

Kristen lives in Southern Ontario with her partner and their new baby boy! She identifies as Mad and believes that her emotional differences are a part of who she is. Kristen is a registered social work, working as a dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) skills group facilitator. She is also training to become a birth and postpartum doula. Since giving birth, Kristen has become interested in exploring how mental health issues intersect with motherhood. Kristen identifies as Mad and believes that her emotional differences are a part of who she is. She loves cats, reading, singing, pickles and learning. You can read more of Kristen's blog posts on her personal blog www.prideinmadness.wordpress.com

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