I took a selfie after I cried in the kitchen last week–so embarrassingly loud that Austin heard me from the furthest room on the second floor of my parents’ house in Rhode Island, where we are currently living. He ran downstairs, assuming something catastrophic had occurred–but when he asked me, breathlessly, if I was okay, I covered my face and choked out a sob-adjacent laugh. Am I okay? A perfectly reasonable question. Lately my answer depends on the day, but regardless of whether it’s “yes” or “no,” there is a heaviness to my emotional state that remains persistent, strangely familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. Familiar because I’ve been depressed before–I know what it’s like, for everything to seem faintly slick with gloom, for a dulled sort of sadness to corrode my sense of time–but unfamiliar because historically it takes me a while to realize that’s happening, whereas right now I’m sharply conscious of the descent.
The urge to cry had been hanging over me for days like a shadow. I saw it coming from a distance, the culmination of absorbing so much crushing news about how the virus is impacting New York every morning and egged on by the looming reality that, yes, I will probably have to postpone my wedding, and it’s proving impossible to find an alternative date in the near future that all our closest friends can attend. I don’t do it very often, even when I’m upset, which I think is why I experience an impulse to chronicle it when it happens. I’ll snap a quick photo of my face, still red-eyed and puffy with tears, and forget about it until the next time I’m randomly scrolling through my camera roll. I’m always grateful when I come across them, because they serve as comparative references: remembering past sadnesses makes current happinesses even more tangible. It’s a reliable gut check for gratitude. This time, though, I studied the crying selfie while it was still fresh. It was probably the first time I’d examined my face up-close in weeks, and it occurred to me that my skin looked… great. Fantastic, even. I felt the urge to laugh again, for the same reason I did when Austin intervened mid-breakdown and asked a simple question that seemed suddenly, absurdly, humorously, agonizingly complex.
Am I okay? On the one hand, I am okay. I’m physically healthy and able to quarantine safely for the indefinite future–things I certainly don’t take for granted right now. On the other hand, my mental health has suffered. Is suffering. My loneliness feels solid enough to taste, metallic like a coin. My moods oscillate wildly.
My skin, however? Consistent? Thriving? Truly, I’ve been monitoring it vigorously over the past week, and I’m deeply confused by its behavior. My rosacea has essentially dissipated. My complexion is even and hydrated. Even my pores look smaller–a possibility I always discounted as mythological.
The irony that my skin looks better than ever when I’m not regularly leaving the house is not lost on me. Neither is the fact that in the midst of feeling pretty emotionally unmoored, the surprise gift of cooperative skin–trivial as it may seem–is a small but meaningful win from my standpoint. This might sound silly, but there’s something comforting about feeling like my cheeks (historically prone to antagonistic redness) are finally on my side for once, especially during a time when my mind feels more vulnerable. Or rather, something comforting about the semblance of an olive branch proffered by my external human form–an infinitesimal moment of harmony at this juncture of heightened discord between ourselves and the world.
That’s enough anthropomorphizing for one essay, though–let’s get down to the brass tacks (as they say in the skincare biz) of why I think my skin has turned a corner. In hindsight, I was using way too many products pre-quarantine. I know this because I simplified from a rotation of about eight to just four in an effort to pack fewer things for my stay in Rhode Island, and my skin is much more content. I’m also using a new prescription cream for rosacea that I think is finally paying off. Here’s my updated routine, for all you cool cats and kittens (sorry I finally watched Tiger King and believe I’m legally allowed to make that joke one time like everyone else on the internet):
–CeraVe Moisturizing Cream (that’s it! I don’t even wash my face)
–Biologique P50V (this is the version of Biologique P50 designed for sensitive skin, so it’s much less harsh–I use it *every other night* because I’ve found that every night is too much exfoliation for my skin. At certain points, I was using it mornings and evenings daily, which was wayyyyyy too much)
-Ivermectin (This is a prescription cream for rosacea. At first I didn’t think it was doing diddly squat, but I waited a few weeks and then really started to notice a difference)
–CeraVe Moisturizing Cream (only after the Ivermectin sits on my face long enough to fully dry)
While I’m at it, since I told you what’s been helping my skin, I’ll also tell you what’s been helping my brain:
-Crying (I know I said I rarely cry and in general that’s true, but during quarantine I’ve cried a ton and can highly recommend–did you know it releases endorphins? Yum)
-Cuddling (Sounds cheesy, but for me at least, just being held or hugged for a bit feels really restorative when I’m blue)
-Immersing myself in another world (I’m reading Game of Thrones haha)
-Letting myself wear the same sweatshirt and sweatpants every day without giving myself grief about it
-Donating to causes that are making a difference right now (I just contributed to this fund organized by small business owner Deepti Sharma–who we have featured on Man Repeller before!–that is helping vulnerable individuals in New York *and* restaurant partners at the same time)
-Calling my mom (she’s currently quarantining in Florida)
-Texting a friend
-Taking a bath
-Making gratitude lists (again, cheesy, I know, but they work)
-Intentionally focusing on what I’m doing right this second—i.e., in the present, instead of dwelling in the past or the future
Right this second, I’m sitting at a table in my parents’ house, typing on a wireless keyboard while I stare at Austin’s laptop, which months ago he told me I could “use whenever” (and which I took to mean “co-opt as your personal computer for eternity”). It’s propped up on books to make it eye-level for ergonomic reasons, but it’s a little bit too far away, and I can feel myself squinting. I’m wearing a gray sweatsuit, and my hair is clasped behind my ears in a messy half-ponytail. I’m grateful for how soft the sweatsuit is. I’m grateful my skin is having a great time in quarantine, and I’m grateful that even though my mind is not, I’m keenly aware of it and can take the necessary steps to care for myself accordingly. The comment section on Man Repeller has also maintained a consistent spot on my gratitude lists over the past month, so if you have any thoughts, whether about rosacea or emotional well-being, I’d love to discuss further. Or even if you just want to say hello and tell me what you’re doing right this second, that would be nice, too.