World Mental Health Day 2020: My story

On this day two years ago, I shared an Instagram post revealing that I’ve encountered various kinds of mental health issues in the past, but I intentionally did not delve any deeper. Why? Because, even though I’ve been in a much better place than I ever was for the past two-to-three years, I still felt uncomfortable in sharing my story as the underlying stigma remains strong. And there lies the issue. So, today, I’m breaking that stigma; having been much more open about past experiences since creating my blog back in May, I now feel comfortable enough to share my story in the hope that it can encourage others to take the plunge and share theirs, too. Here goes…

Image description: A laptop on a bed with a screensaver that reads “MENTAL HEALTH”

When I say I’ve encountered “various kinds” of issues, I am predominantly referring to depression, anxiety and OCD, but they have occurred in an array of forms. Take my first ever encounter of depression: high school. As I touch upon in one of my latest blogs, I was depressed throughout the entirety of my high school career due to feeling like a misfit, entangling myself in toxic friendships and thus isolating myself from others. On top of this, I suffered with acne all over my back, chest and some areas of my face; the culmination of the factors that caused my depression induced the development of my excoriation (skin-picking) disorder, a condition related to OCD involving the relentless picking at one’s skin. As a result, I also suffered with body-related anxiety issues; every time I undressed in the changing rooms for PE or Dance, I was forever afraid of being judged for the scars all over my skin.

Cut to sixth form and, honestly, Years 12 and 13 were two of the best years of my life. How did my life alternate so drastically? I’ll tell you how: those who enkindled the toxicity were no longer present in my everyday life. I could relate to those more in my A level classes because A level was a more serious matter; nobody felt “obliged” to study English and nobody selected Dance just to “fill a gap” in their timetable. My acne finally began to cure after years of trialling treatment after treatment; I eventually found something that worked. I loved every moment of my sixth form life, so much so I didn’t want it to end. Towards the end of my sixth form studies is when Daniel and I also started dating – what a way to consummate a wonderful two years!

After sixth form came university. I mention briefly in my blog about living home for university that I was so sure that moving away for university was the right path for me; I was confident that I was ready for a fresh start in an exciting location with an abundance of new faces. What’s more, the prospect of moving to Brighton for university sounded like the ideal; it’s a cute place for a day out and a fun spot for a night out. Nonetheless, from the onset of my first year at the University of Sussex, I was again depressed and, this time, also severely anxious. Depressed because, although I made some friends on my course of study and in my halls, I didn’t make ~great~ friends. Anxious because I was gripping onto the hope that I would eventually build better friendships, but the year only became worse and worse; it felt as though I was reliving high school all over again. I began to suffer from panic attacks nightly and resorted to utilising the university’s counselling services. My fourth session in, even my counsellor muttered: “I don’t see you coming back here”. At first, I thought: “what an incredibly harsh thing to say”, as though she had no faith in that I could return and things would improve or change for me. The summer between my first and second year when I moved back home, however, it dawned on me: she was right. I couldn’t face returning to a place where I was so unhappy; the notion was sickening. After long and hard consideration, then, I decided that it was best to move back home and transfer to a London-based university.

September 2016. I successfully transferred to the University of Roehampton London, commencing from second year as the first-year content of my course of study, English Language and Linguistics, aligned with one another at both Sussex and Roehampton. I was happy again; returning to my beloved home in Surrey and commuting into my favourite city every day for university was the dream. If only I’d realised this back in sixth form, eh? Anyway, I made wonderful friends immediately at Roehampton – people I could resonate with, people with whom I shared commonalities, people who cared – and the professors were brilliant which only enhanced my experience. Nevertheless, October 2016 – as I draw on in much more detail in my blog about Daniel’s Crohn’s story – saw a daunting event for Daniel; after months of experiencing painful symptoms in his stomach and chest, his bowel perforated and required immediate medical attention. Hence, my anxiety heightened once again due to the worry of Daniel’s overall health; I was just glad I’d moved back home to cater to his needs as much as I could post-operation whilst simultaneously focusing as hard as I could on my university work.

After an 11-month rollercoaster of emotions, appointments and assignments, Daniel’s stoma was thankfully reversed, meaning the two of us could return to some form of normality again. That same month, I had began my final year of university which would just so happen to be the best year of my university life; I developed even stronger friendships, made the most of my experience outside lectures and seminars and enjoyed every aspect of my course’s content, even if it was more demanding. Of course, the worry about Daniel continued – and it always will – but his condition was under control and, in retrospect, the encounter only made us stronger as a couple.

Fast forward two years and, now, I have two first-class degrees, Daniel and I are engaged to get married, and I have an incredible group of friends. Of course, life still happens in between – I’ve lost several loved ones these past few years, confronted numerous job rejections before finally securing a managerial position I fought long and hard for, and had shitty days aplenty; but, most importantly, I never gave up.

If you’re reading this and feel as though you can relate to anything in my story, just know that it gets better. It’s okay to seek help. You will make friends. Hard work really does pay off.

I concluded my post two years ago with a particular quote that I have lived by for many years, and I feel it is appropriate to finish on the same today: “everything will be okay in the end; if it’s not okay, it’s not the end”.

Love,

Little Pav ♡

Why I’m (now) so into skincare

Of late, I’ve began to develop an ever-growing interest in skincare. It all started soon after I listened to the delightful Life and Lipstick Podcast hosted by fabulous makeup artists Lisa Potter-Dixon and Hannah Martin and, as I unfold in my blog about how this podcast encouraged me to reflect on my own makeup influences, I followed even more powerful women in the beauty industry on Instagram as a result. My favourite episode of the series was Season 3 Episode 2: Caroline Hirons where they chat with incredible skincare expert – you guessed it – Caroline Hirons. I won’t judge you if you don’t know who Caroline is if, like I was pre-Life-and-Lipstick, you aren’t familiar with the beauty industry. Now that I’m pretty up-to-speed with all things beauty and skincare, however, I will judge you if you too claim to be familiar with the industry. Many in the industry dub Caroline as the “powerhouse” of skincare and, believe me, they’re not wrong. As I do with many beauty and skincare professionals, including the lovely aforementioned Lisa and Hannah as well as the wonderful Emma Guns, Cher Webb and Ateh Jewel to name a few, I have continuously engaged in Caroline’s Instagram Lives and have thus learnt a hell of a lot; predominantly, how to take care of your skin.

If you follow Caroline, you’ll know that she says everything as it is. She’ll tell you which products are no good. She’ll call out brands that are misleading. She’ll highlight the blatant misogyny in our government, such as how women are still unable to open their salons amid the coronavirus pandemic, yet men are allowed to have their bloody beard’s trimmed (what the ACTUAL fuck, Boris?). Hence, I admire her honesty and trust her advice. Although I feel somewhat deprived of her expertise given that she has blogged about beauty for more than ten years and I only started following her just over two years ago, I also feel that I jumped on the bandwagon at a pretty good time. Why? Because, although she’s been blogging for this long, she only very recently – namely, just under two months ago – released her first book, appropriately titled Skincare. Her “freaks” (fans of Caroline, particularly members of her closed Facebook group Caroline Hirons Skincare Freaks which I proudly joined just a few days ago), refer to this book as their “bible” (as I do, too). Again, why? Because, like it says on the cover, it really is “the ultimate no-nonsense guide” to introducing an excellent skincare routine into your daily life and understanding the importance of skincare not just for anybody, but for everybody. Whether you’re in your twenties, thirties, forties, fifties or sixties+; have dry, oily or combination skin; have acne, eczema or psoriasis; have money to spend or a budget; whatever your situation, this book is for you. I, for instance, hadn’t a clue where to begin with my skincare routine before this book; now, not only has it helped me to ascertain my (combination) skin type, but it has also helped me to fathom which products to use based on my skin type, age and (now) occasional acne.

Image description: Me holding my copy of Skincare

You might be wondering why it is skincare that I’ve developed such an interest in. Well, we all have issues with our skin; it’s only human. Sure, some have more severe issues than others, but we all have problems we’d like to “fix”. Hence, the main reason I have begun to develop such an interest in skincare, and thus an admiration for Caroline Hirons, is due to my personal battles with – as I mentioned briefly above as well as in my Life and Lipstick appreciation blog – acne. For years, I hadn’t had a particularly healthy relationship with my skin because of my acne. If anything, it was quite abusive – only I didn’t realise that until about two years ago, around the same time I started listening to Life and Lipstick. Now, before I go on, it’s worth noting that the only people who are aware and have witnessed the severity of what I’m about to unveil are my parents and my fiancé. Other than those individuals, three of the most important individuals in my life, I have never told anyone about this; not extended family members, not my best friends, not anyone. So, sharing what I’m about to share is a pretty big deal to me. However, I hope that it will not only help my readers to understand why I’m now so into skincare, but also help others who have experienced similar issues in some way or another.

If you know me, then, you’ll be surprised to hear that I’ve been suffering silently with a condition called excoriation disorder – otherwise known as skin-picking disorder – for over a decade. Excoriation disorder is a condition related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) which involves the repetitive picking at one’s skin, thus resulting in skin lesions, scars and – especially in my case – hinderance on everyday life.

From the ages of 11 to 16, I suffered badly with acne on my face, chest, shoulders and back. My last memory of having smooth, spotless, scar-free skin is when I was in Year 6. It was during this school year that I began to break out in spots; nevertheless, I’d always conceal it with anti-blemish foundation, long sleeves and high necks, hence why – if you know me – you’ve probably never noticed. (Even now, it’s extremely rare that you’ll see me in a strappy, V-neck or low-back top and, when you do, rest assured I’ve assessed my skin and deemed it as somewhat acceptable or applied a generous amount of makeup to the exposed scars.) Then, I started high school: a period that would become the worst half-decade of my life. I wish I was exaggerating, but I’m not. I hated school and I envy everyone who says they enjoyed it; they have no idea what it’s like to go about their daily life wondering what you’re going to be mocked for next, questioning every hurtful name assigned to you just for being you and feeling like a misfit in the entire year group… for five whole years. As a result of my negative experiences, I suffered with depression for most – if not all – of my high school career. I can’t pinpoint when the skin-picking started exactly but, in retrospect, the start to my depressive episodes makes sense. Still, I have this awful habit of picking at every spot, lump and blemish on my skin in sight but, thanks to Caroline and her book, I finally have a prompt to work on it. It’s taken time – and probably much longer than it should have as a lot of the damage to my skin is done – but I am finally working to not only distract myself every time I feel the urge to attack my skin whenever I’m feeling stressed, anxious or depressed, but also to accept my scars.

And that is why Skincare is so significant to me. It has taught me to love my skin, not loathe it. It has taught me to understand why my skin still breaks out every now and then, and how to treat it when it does. It has taught me a brilliant routine which, for the past month, I have sworn by every morning and night. Apart from my obsessive skin-picking, I thought I had a fairly decent skincare routine before buying this book; I moisturised my face and body after a shower and before applying makeup daily, and again once I’d taken off my makeup (regrettably, with wipes – if you’re not sure why I regret that now, read her book!) nightly, I used facemasks one-to-two nights a week and I applied eye cream for my dark circles every so often. Now, if you too think that this is a decent routine, think again. While moisturiser and eye cream is good, it’s not good enough when you’re not prepping your skin beforehand and applying the eye cream after the moisturiser (when I think about it now, it makes so much more sense to apply it before!). Ever since I bought this book, I have introduced an array of skincare products into my routine which I’m beginning to see results from, such as (in order of application in the morning):

  • A non-foam cleansing balm (currently Clinique Take The Day Off, as recommended by Caroline)
  • An acid toner (currently Revolution Skincare 1% Salicylic Acid with Marshmallow Extract, as Caroline recommends a salicylic acid for an acne-prone skin)
  • A hydrating spray (currently Garnier Organic Argan Mist)
  • An eye cream (I have been using several for a while, including Clinique All About Eyes and Benefit It’s Potent Brightening Eye Cream)
  • A facial oil (currently The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane)
  • A moisturiser (again, I have been using several for some time, including Benefit Weightless Moisture Face Moisturiser and Nivea Crème)
  • An SPF (currently Bondi Sands Daily Moisturising Face SPF 50+)

At night, I follow the same routine but without the SPF. Oh, and I now use flannels to wipe off my makeup as opposed to wipes – yay!

If, like me, you have a skincare issue you’d like to treat, have no idea where to begin with your skincare routine or have a mere interest in the beauty industry, I – in case you haven’t gathered already – would highly recommend you follow Caroline Hirons amongst the others listed earlier and buy Caroline’s book Skincare. Skincare is an element of selfcare and is therefore a fantastic segue into introducing selfcare into your daily routine, and this book will help you to do just that.

Caroline, if you were to ever read this, thank you. Thank you for your expertise, for your book and for using your voice to name a few. It has certainly helped me, and I know it has helped so many others. You are amazing!

Love,

Little Pav ♡

If you haven’t already, and if you can, please sign the petition and donate at Beauty Backed, a campaign organised by Caroline, Millie Kendall and British Beauty Council to raise money for those in the beauty industry who are still unable to work and need help. Watch this video on Caroline’s Instagram feed to learn more.