I realize this meme is meant to be funny. It’s meant to show the silly futility and desperation for a quick fix for all our f—ckups. But funny enough, it hit home for me in a really meaningful way that I’m sure the creator never anticipated.
I’m going to get really real with you guys. I’ve never really talked about this publicly for fear of judgment, but I’m getting to the point in my life where eating secrets is toxic and I hope my honesty can help someone else.
So, here we go.
I have two things that hang around my neck constantly that give me stress beyond measure. No, it’s not my kids — well, yes it’s them, too — but I’m talking about serious anxiety and chronic illness.
I was diagnosed with lupus at the age of 24. What followed were years of living in serious denial. Between reckless disregard for my life and long-term health and the crazy number of resulting hospital stays, the seeds for anxiety were planted. I’m sure I was predisposed to anxiety, as I have suffered with a lifelong debilitating phobia of needles and doctors. The irony! It became a vicious cycle of avoidant behaviors leading to the very things I was fearing the most. I’ve had some incidents that led to very traumatic medical interventions; frankly there’s no reason why I should still be alive, but here I am. Off the top of my head I can recall five different times I was straying real close to death. I don’t know how I lucked out like I did, but I did. I’m really oversimplifying things here for the sake of discretion and/or embarrassment, but trust that I did everything wrong that I could have and lingered in toxicity that should have resulted in an early demise. Denial ruled my life and fear kept that beast fed.
At the tailend of those bad years, things were so out of control I was no longer functioning. Panic attacks were so severe I would lose my vision. I wasn’t leaving the house. And my health was in such a poor state that my liver was about to peace out and take my intestines along with it. I had had enough. I finally brushed away the shame and I reached out and finally told someone what I was going through. I got help. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. What made my GAD a little more tricky was that I actually did have things to worry about. I had a disease that will likely kill me at some point, so talking myself down from the worries that were clouding my life wasn’t as easy as gaining some perspective. A more intensive kind of therapy was needed if I wanted to get a handle on things.
I eventually learned how to stop panic attacks in their tracks with Controlled Behavioural Therapy. I learned to recognize the signs of what was going on and talk myself down and redirect my focus elsewhere. One of my coping mechanisms? Skincare. Namely sheet masks. I could pop a sheet mask on and center myself. I could talk through every single step I was doing: “I’m getting a mask. I’m opening a mask. I’m unfolding this mask. I’m putting this mask on.” Focusing on that gave me the grounding in reality that could help me recognize that I was not dying at that moment, I was just having a fleeting panic attack that would soon GTFO. I’d have my masks ready, waiting for me in the fridge (that shock of cold was really beneficial in snapping me back to reality). I’d talk through it, lay back, breathe, and come out the other side OK and with happy skin to boot. I had always been a tough girl, but this little ritual made me stronger. Yep, a sheet mask gave me super healing powers, and for that I am so thankful.
We can pull strength from the funniest little things. For some it might be a vice like cigarettes or a favorite TV show, a brisk stroll, or even a comfort food. My strength can be found in the fibers of a thin sheet of cotton, a little package full of serum for my skin, and control for an unruly brain.
A sheet mask won’t solve everything. It won’t make up for months of neglect. It won’t magically heal acne. It won’t close up your pores. What it will do is give your skin a nice fresh shot of hydration. And for me, it can soothe my nerves. It might just be the thing to center you. It has the potential to make things just a little bit better and a lot of times, just a little bit better is all we can hope for.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend I’m on top of everything and cured. I’m still avoidant, I still struggle with my phobias, I still put myself last a lot of times. But damn it, my skin is poppin’.
If you’ve ever turned to self-care with sheet masks or any kind of beauty to help you get through a difficult time, share your story with us.