Can you masK(ara) it?

by jenn birtwistle

Everybody has days when you just can’t be bothered to do anything, but when you have a chronic condition like FND, these days can be more frequent. When I first started having symptoms, I was still working & that meant I took great care of my appearance. It made me feel better but I was also trying to hide my pain underneath a mask of makeup. I would cry on the drive home from work, as I was in so much pain, & then touch up my makeup before I went into the house so my family wouldn’t know. I didn’t want anyone to know how difficult I was finding it as I’m a strong woman & I’ve always coped with anything life threw at me.

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Fast forward 10 years & I’m a totally different person in every way. I can’t leave the house on my own, I need a wheelchair whenever I go out, I’ve stopped driving & I haven’t been able to work for 7 years. I still have my hair cut & coloured every 6-8 weeks (mainly to cover the grey that has increased as my condition has got worse!) but I spend many days without makeup, without showering & without even getting dressed. Some days it’s just too much effort & I physically don’t have the strength. I feel like a 47 year old who’s trapped inside an 87 year old’s body, although my Gran died at 93 & she was in much better shape than I am now!

I’m sure many of us who suffer with FND have plenty of days when it just doesn’t seem worth the effort to look good - who’s going to see us at home anyway? Our families are used to seeing us like that & it becomes OK to not care about how we look. But is it really OK? Should we not be making an effort for ourselves? Surely if we make an effort on our ‘good days’ then it will make us feel emotionally stronger too? I know I feel much better if I’ve showered, done my hair & put makeup on but I can’t achieve that every day. Sometimes I feel worse in the days following, as it took so much effort to look good that it makes me feel like I’m being punished for trying. I look at myself in the mirror & see a tired face with dark eye bags & more wrinkles, so that can make me wonder why I did bother!

It seems that a lot of things we know we should be doing to try & help ourselves are a double-edged sword. Just by writing this, it’s made me want to make more of an effort with my appearance as I hadn’t realised how much I’d let it go! I may not shower daily but I can try to get dressed or even wear a little mascara more often, they say a swipe of red lipstick can make anyone feel good!