Today, on the start of my 39th year on this planet, I’ve worn red lipstick, all day, for the first time in four years. This seemingly inconsequential act is the surest sign I’ve had to date that I am done with this condition.
Those of you who have read my low histamine beauty book will know that red lipstick, because it has a higher concentration of mineral pigments, often causes more reactions than nude colours. The last time I wore red lipstick, I ended up looking like Bozo the Clown: balloon lips, hives around the mouth, throat swelling, plus a whole host of other weirdness like severe tinnitus, trembling, nausea, feeling faint, you name it.
A common sight in the small town in the south of Spain that I grew up in, was me, all pouty in red lipstick, making a lap around the beauty store, shaking my head vigorously to see if I was about to develop a migraine. Though but a teen at the time, I already knew some lipsticks made me ill, I just couldn’t figure out the connection between them and why.
Back then I wore all kinds of toxic brands that now make me shiver in disgust.
Just four years ago I was unable to wear make up or use bath products of any kind. None. My eyelashes would fall out, my lips developed unsightly sores, my hair fell out in clumps, and I was covered in hives if I even glanced at MAC counter. As many of you also suffer/ed the same fate, you know how debilitating to the ego it can be to see yourself reduced to androgyny. And so it was that just two years ago I came up with my red lipstick index as an indicator of healing.
It first came up during one of my healing visualisations, as suggested by David Hamilton in his book How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body. I saw myself on a big white boat (why, I don’t know, it just seemed like an amazing place to be), doing yoga and meditating on the deck, then washing my hair with shampoo, really smelling it, luxuriating in it, lathering up my body with shower gel, and then standing in front of the mirror to apply my make up – with the piece de resistance being red lipstick. I was healthy and surrounded by people who loved me, strong, fit, confident and incredibly happy. I stepped into this person at least twice a day for years, allowing the emotions to really seep into my present day.
In my mind, the day I was able to wear red lipstick would be the day I was healed.
Sadly, my day-to-day life in those years was far from rosy. While excited with the progress I was making, a few niggling symptoms were still making it difficult to truly feel I had arrived somewhere I was happy to hang out for a while, but more importantly, my personal life was making me miserable. It’s not my intention to delve into any gory details here – all I can say is that when I love, it consumes me body and soul. I will walk through fire, willingly give up my life for theirs and forget I exist as a separate entity in order to truly merge souls.
All well and good, but sometimes we make a wrong turn.
I wrote this a few weeks ago:
“So what happens when those who committed to be the ones to lift us up to meet these seemingly herculean challenges are not who we thought them to be? My psychotherapists and psychiatrists over the years struggled to come up with the answer to why I put myself, time and again, in the hands of those who appeared to derive a great deal of their strength from sucking mine dry. I was primed for those who sought to further unravel the loose ends of my self-esteem. I was easy pickin’s for troubled, seemingly loving mates, friends and mentors who sought nothing less than complete submission to their terms. At the time they did not yet know that I was already slave to a far more fearsome taskmaster (illness), but they soon learned, and discord reigned free and hard in our reality.
The last few years have been pretty rough. Though I finally managed to get myself on the path to healing, I neglected a few really important pieces of the puzzle: happiness and safety/security. While preaching stress relief, meditation and re-wiring the brain, I refused to believe that I had other housekeeping to do on my end, convincing myself that the twisted life I was living was totally normal.
Eventually things ran their course and, with the support of the most amazing therapist I have ever known (read my interview on using the mind to heal the body with my Buddhist psychotherapist Dr. Miles Neale here), I was finally made to understand that I needed a safe environment in which to finish my healing. Dr. Neale pointed out that I had come such a long way, and this was the final hurdle to clear.
Thankfully I was finally able to walk away. Still madly in love, completely crushed, thinking I would never meet anyone as wonderful ever again, “knowing” that this incredible connection I had made was a once in a lifetime deal. I truly felt that no one who hadn’t known me before my illness would accept me the way I was: broken, still struggling with my health, having to make special provisions for travel, not able to get as physical as I would like to (due to various lingering issues), my meditation schedule, the fact I no longer find dining out as fun as I used to, someone willing to ignore the ruin I had allowed my physical body to become.
I truly believed all this.
The thing I hadn’t counted on, was that once I stepped away from the toxicity, I was a different person. Still broken, a little lost, technically homeless (though excited to be), but simply, unstressed, and no longer miserable. The hours of daily shouting, of living in fear, melted away from my being, leaving me floating on clouds. Suddenly I was free of oppression, free to live my life as I saw fit, free to be the person I had become years ago, but whose skin I had not yet been able to inhabit, for fear of shedding the shackles that had accompanied me for so long.
The blame lies fully with me. I knew we were destined for a bumpy ride – there are some people we’re not meant to be with. We may feel an incredible pull towards them, it might feel amazing to be with them for a time, but at the end of the day, you’re just poison to each other. It doesn’t make you bad people – you’re just not meant to be, no matter how hard you try to bash that square peg into the hole. I knew how to keep the peace, but chose not to. I fought tooth and nail at every turn, pouring gasoline onto the flames. Each passing day saw me sinking deeper into the quagmire, forgetting my strength, losing sight of my sanity. Despite this, the healing somehow continued (at a much slower rate than it should have I now know), with every leap I made, a new me began arising from those flames, till finally there was no way I could keep myself contained in the prison of my own making. I always possessed the power to walk away, but chose not to, now I understand there were karmic lessons to be learned and I am truly grateful for them.
We often don’t take the time to appreciate the light if it’s all we know.
But I’ve learned all I need to through pain. My mind and body had to completely break down in order for me to actually pay attention to what they were telling me: be good to yourself, respect your body, find happiness in the simple things, know that health is not a god given right, but rather a gift we must nurture, and most importantly: find your voice. In the same way that I woke up one day and decided I would no longer be sick (read the Last Best Cure for more), the idea of continuing my personal and spiritual development through happiness finally seemed like a really great idea.
And it’s funny what we attract into our lives when we’re ready for it.
There have been a handful of the people closest to me on this earth that have supported my every move, offering their strength where mine faltered. I count my lucky stars to have them still in my life, but time waits for no one, we’re no longer teenagers, and they’re now happily completely enmeshed in loving marriages and dote on the most amazing children I’ve known.
Feeling just a little sorry for myself as I pondered my next move, the universe sent me a wonderful gift: a new friend just on my wavelength. Someone with their own meditation and yoga schedule, whose very being radiated a love and understanding that completely floored me. A person who, though just newly emerging from a tough time himself, has shown immense compassion and patience in helping me find, and amplify, my voice. And let me tell you – it’s amazing what a little happiness at home can do. Now finally in a safe environment, I’m more than picking up the pieces. I’m becoming one with the empowered woman in my visualisations – I literally bounce out of bed, excited to greet the day, more determined than ever to be well, ready to enjoy all the world has to offer, be it alone, or as a team of like minded individuals (of which I’m meeting more and more), ready to take on the world. I never really grasped the concept of gratitude as a healing tool till BD entered my orbit. It’s now an integral part of my life, almost as natural and frequent as drawing breath.
Day after day I wake to the most incredible news, so many exciting upcoming things to share with you all…
Why am I telling you all this? Healing comes from within, no one can force it from us, but it doesn’t hurt to surround ourselves with those who inspire, and support us, in being the very best version of ourselves. I wish I hadn’t missed the obvious for so long – that the key to healing my body lay in first healing my soul, and knowing when to stand up for myself or surrender control to the universe became all too clear when I listened to my heart.
And now I’m off to celebrate my birthday, red lipstick and all.