29 September 2016


i don't know what i was expecting from the candidates' debate monday night, but i'm pretty certain i wasn't expecting that. i spent a lot of time during the debate reminding myself that i was deeply biased and that i was probably just getting an exaggerated idea of how uneven things truly were. and yes, there was a lot of noise on twitter, but that's like an echo chamber, since i mostly follow people who land somewhere along the same political continuum as i do. even afterward, watching msnbc, i repeated to myself that the hosts were both liberal and pro-clinton, but, gradually, and after careful consideration, i had to admit what i had already known to be the fact: donald trump was so awful it defied belief.

howard fineman, global editorial director of the huffington post, proclaimed trump's performance to be the worst he'd ever seen, and while many will point out that hp isn't exactly an unbiased source, fineman has seen some things in the political sphere. but there's no need to take his word for it, because there has been no shortage in the last few days of republicans heading to america's national news stations to publicly headdesk.

there are lots of reasons why trump's performance could be said to be objectively terrible: he was unable to string together answers on fairly basic questions about cyber-security and nuclear armaments; many of his answers were so grammatically tortured that they bordered on word salad [something that journalists and comedians alike have skewered by reading his quotes verbatim]; he seemed to take perverse pride in the idea that he might not have paid taxes; he repeatedly made assertions about his past behaviour that were so easy to debunk one wonders if he was even conscious of what he was saying [or, as dom put it, "does he know how recording works?"]; and in one glorious trainwreck-within-trainwreck moment, he seemed to be claiming that he had done barack obama and black people in america a favour by being the public face of the birther movement.

what's truly shocking is that, if anything, trump's reaction to the debate fallout has been even worse. from doubling down on some pretty vile insults about a former miss universe [the sort of comments that will alienate college-educated, white-collar women, the group that he absolutely must win over in key states like pennsylvania] to complaining that his mic wasn't working, despite the fact that more than 80 million people heard him loud and clear to painting himself as noble for not using bill clinton's infidelities to bait hillary.

in a way, trump may have done himself a favour by calling in to fox news to defend his questionable honour in the case of the former miss universe, because talk of his always-hovering sexism has  been diverted to her and away from another fact that was floating around quite a bit in the immediate aftermath of the debate: trump interrupted secretary clinton more than fifty times during the debate. this is a man with no political experience [aside from the birther movement], who faces a serious deficit with women voters, and yet he still couldn't stop from shouting over her [often just to deny he'd said or done something, so that the rest of us could check on how many nanoseconds elapsed before someone had their hands on the proof he was lying], or from implying that he was a gentleman because he didn't bring up her husband's infidelities. so great was his confidence and so profound his disrespect for the person he was debating that he didn't even bother preparing to debate her.

she, on the other hand, spent days preparing to debate him. she ran through scenarios, did mock debates, crammed her head so full of facts that she could probably have talked for the entire 90 minutes herself without slowing down, even brought in a psychological profiler to help come up with tactics. [oh, how everyone laughed when they heard that. and oh, how little they are laughing now. the reason why clinton was so particularly devastating against trump was that she simply knew how to push his proverbial buttons. that's one of the uses of psychology people don't talk about very often.]

during the debate, during his rambling, lying responses, during the half-century of interruptions, the former secretary of state retained a kind of calm that would draw applause from a devout yogi. i got convinced that she was able to induce a sort of self-hypnosis by focusing entirely on her own blinking, because there is no way that a woman that smart and that experienced would have been able to stomach the thought of this orange buffoon being her equal. she smiled fairly often [for which she was criticized by bush speechwriter david frum, the guy who invented the phrase "axis of evil" to goad people into supporting a war in iraq, as opposed to in an earlier town hall event where she was criticized by republican national chairman reince priebus for not smiling enough]. she didn't roll her eyes like al gore, or get impatient with his ignorance like barack obama did with mitt romney, or make faces and interject the way that trump was doing to her.

and some of those who have commented on the debate have noted that she handled herself that way not just because it was classy or calm, but because, if she'd handled herself any other way, she'd have been eaten alive. even telling trump that he lived in his own world was slipping dangerously close to "offensive" territory. as this piece notes, it's a situation that's all too familiar to a lot of women in the workplace. the standards are different for the ladies. no matter how much of a bully, how much of an ignoramus, or how much of a liar you're up against, you can't really fight back. you have to demure and nod and go about things politely, in ways that men just don't. and then, a lot of the time, you get to have people like donald trump equate that sort of behaviour with weakness, with being "a loser". what is trump's bizarre fixation with hillary clinton's health and stamina if not a desperate attempt to paint her as frail and ineffective in comparison with his boisterousness? and yet she's criticized for shouting if she raises her voice at a rally.

the fact that trump felt that hillary clinton was unkind to him, that he'd done her a favour by not using her husband's philandering to build his case against her, is indicative, more than anything, of the fact that he is incapable seeing the double standard that is applied. she hit him repeatedly with actual statements that he'd made. she engaged in some speculation about his reasons for not releasing his tax returns. and we're supposed to believe that the proper response to this is to do whatever it takes to humiliate and hurt this woman. that's fair game.

trump hasn't exactly shied away from taking personal shots at his male rivals, but not one of them was ever expected to stand there and just take the abuse. when he has gone after the wives of his opponents [most notably heidi cruz], the media has made no secret of its disgust. but i don't hear any of that disgust now. because hillary is a candidate, not a political wife, everything is fair game. sure, there are voices that say bringing bill clinton's affairs into the debates could backfire as a strategy [and remember, trump literally tried to bring one of the women with whom bill clinton had an affair as a guest to the debate on monday]. but there aren't any media voices that are digging in and looking at what these threats say about the mindset of the candidate and, one presumes, the people running his campaign.

well, there is one voice.

i realise that not everyone enjoys msnbc's monday- thursday "irish block" of evening programming. i do. i know that their focus is narrow, i know that they are part of the mainstream media and i know that they are beholden to corporate owners. but in an age where news is about splashy visuals and breaking news, i like the fact that the hosts are generally allowed to go at their own pace, have their own personalities and to speak without getting hung up on moving to the next segment.

last night, laurence o'donnell, who hosts their 10-11 show "the last word" opened his show with what was expected to be a 6-7 minute monologue. it ended up running nearly 20 minutes, but i'm guessing that not a lot of people noticed until it was over. he's an engaging speaker, to be sure [and a good writer- he worked on the first few seasons of the west wing] and his charming, lightly humorous interpretation of hillary vs donald as the class president vs the class clown is easy to listen to. and then the monologue took a turn, one that left me feeling like i'd been punched in the chest. that's all i'm going to say about it, because i hope that you'll take the time to watch it. view video. [i apologise, but i could not get the embed function to work and it's two in the morning.]

and there, my friends, is the rotten core behind the orange hide and behind many of the faces who support him. the debates and the campaign will continue to unfold and, if trump gets desperate, there's no telling what he'll become willing to do. but rest assured that, whatever he does, whatever he's allowed to get away with, it will be predicated on that one idea.

p.s. :: i shied away from posting both the o'donnell video and the linked article above earlier on my personal facebook page, because every time i post something with a feminist lean on either facebook or twitter, it amounts to chumming the waters. i don't get that sort of reaction for other political posts, but pretty much every post about women unleashes an epic shit-storm. it's not that there are a lot of people who respond with vitriol, but they tend to respond passionately and become enraged if i question them. instead, i posted something to the effect that i had intended to post something that was a little feminist, but didn't feel up to the torrent of rage it was likely to unleash, even if my only reaction was to delete the posts. a lot of people encouraged me to do so anyway, all of them people who've never made my life difficult in any way... so if you're reading this and you're one of the people who encouraged me, thank you very much.

26 September 2016

mental health mondays :: sadly, it does happen

one of the worst things that a person with a mental disorder can hear from friends and loved ones is that what they're going through isn't real, or the close cousin of that accusation, that it isn't serious. the fear that they might be disbelieved, or the idea that they're somehow weaker or less capable people are among the chief reasons why people who have disorders seek help to begin with. but here's the bad news: some people do exaggerate or outright fake mental illness. the reasons behind this can vary, but it happens, and it's one of the hardest things for even a seasoned professional to diagnose.

the official term for faking/ exaggerating an illness [mental or otherwise] is malingering, a word of old french origin that, as you might have guessed, also gives us the english word malign. the reasons for malingering range from gaining financial benefit to avoiding legal responsibility to mental illness. wait, what? yes, you read that right. people who are faking mental illness can be suffering from a mental illness. we'll get to that shortly.

to meet the official definition of malingering, there needs to be some tangible benefit to doing so. one of the most obvious is to gain disability benefits. a one year study conducted by the american board of clinical neuropsychology found that cases of malingering constituted up to 30% of mental health claims. that's a horrifying statistic, but it does warrant a further breakdown of the numbers: the areas where faking illness was most prominent were the ones with the highest financial rewards, i.e., coverage from private insurance plans. it's also worth considering that that's where psychiatric evaluators are most prone to suspect malingering, especially those who are employed by insurance companies, which means that the number of cases may be exaggerated by findings biased against patients. the second highest percentage of fake or exaggerated illness [about 19%] was in legal context, where, again, there is a clear and tangible benefit to be gained. looking at cases of people hospitalised for mental illness, and the figure drops to an average of 8%. that's a lot less than 30% but, at just under 1 in 10, still a bit disturbing.

what should be equally disturbing, however, is the idea that 1 in 10 people with mental illness will fake or exaggerate symptoms to such an extent that they will allow themselves to be hospitalised, without any other marked benefit to them. yes, you could argue, it gives them free room and board, access to free food and access to some pretty funky drugs, but in return, they have to consent to be cut off from everything else and to allow themselves to be completely controlled by others.

this is where we enter a fuzzy area between pure malingering [where the individual is fully aware of the fact that they're putting on a show] and something called factitious disorder. this is the mental disorder that i mentioned earlier.

people who have a factitious disorder are partially unaware that they are being disingenuous, but may believe that they need to embellish in order to get what they need. the benefits they derive from their feigned illness are generally more abstract, or less valuable, than those who engage in pure malingering. for instance, someone with a factitious disorder may seek to be perceived as a victim in order to elicit sympathy or to be treated as helpless. the reasons behind the disorder aren't understood, although they can be related to past trauma. the important thing to note is that a factitious disorder is not the same as malingering; people with factitious disorders can and will harm themselves, sometimes severely, in order to perpetuate the narrative of their illness.

detecting either malingering or factitious disorder is a clinical nightmare. many doctors shy away from it out of fear of making a legitimate disorder even worse, or because they might be wrong. and if it's a difficult call for a professional to make, it's nigh on impossible for the rest of us. and parsing between the two conditions is as complicated as... well, brain surgery.

both malingering and factitious disorders share some features that can serve as red flags:

  • bizarre or inconsistent symptoms. mental disease, like any other, may not be completely predictable, but the group of symptoms and the course of the disease is roughly consistent. 
  • too-consistent symptoms. on the other hand, we all have access to wikipedia and webmd, so if a person's list of symptoms conforms exactly to the ones that are given on popular websites, that's surprising as well. [malingerers in particular are known to be much too precise and detailed in their evaluation of symptoms.]
  • adapting or adopting symptoms to suit a diagnosis. i'm guessing that's pretty clear.
  • failure to show any improvement. neither malingerers nor those with factitious disorders want to get better. malingerers may show improvement if it suits their needs ["i was legally insane when i committed that crime, but i'm fine now!"], but a person with a factitious disorder will not only refuse to admit improvement, but will go to some lengths [such as skipping medication or engaging in activity they've been advised can be harmful to their condition] in order to keep up their story. 
  • sudden onset of symptoms. a tricky area, because there are lots of people who have a mental disorder, but who only come to realise it, much less talk about it, after a long time. nonetheless, there should be some evidence of symptoms being present well before diagnosis. 

the key driving factor with malingerers is tangible gain. there is a reason why they are behaving in a certain way, and the reason is usually pretty obvious.

factitious disorders are also characterised by a dramatic, but inconsistent, medical history. these people can seem like the unluckiest people in the world, because they've had kidney stones, bone cancer, and heart problems in the last two years. when one diagnosis doesn't "work out", they move on to get another, or their symptoms shift in order to point doctors in another direction. in fact, it's fairly common for people with this disorder [or from this spectrum of disorders, since there's a considerable range] to have switched doctors often, even going to see doctors in other cities in order to avoid "detection".

the above paragraph can make people with factitious disorders seem quite devious, and there is a certain element of that, but it's important to keep in mind that these people are really sick, just not in the way[s] that they think they are. even between factitious disorder and malingering, there's room for confusion. some will act to gain advantages most people would find unworthy, and can make themselves quite miserable in the process. that sort of person can fall on either side of the "line", or shift from one side to the other.

so what to do if you suspect someone is malingering or has a factitious disorder? well, for starters, remember that identifying mental disorders is always tricky business. it's not like cancer or hiv, where there's a diagnostic test [yet], so, just as doctors fear they could be wrong, so should you. straight up confrontation a recipe for disaster more often than not and, in the case of a belligerent malingerer, could possibly put you in danger yourself.

in the case of malingering, keep in mind that the problem may well resolve itself over time. insurance companies are aggressive about weeding out such cases, and even public health care plans require significant clinical evidence and regular updates in cases of disabilities claimed for mental health. legal defenses of insanity in the united states have a success rate of under 1%, which, given the prevalence of serious mental illness in the general population, is not too high, but alarmingly low.

if you suspect someone you care about is suffering from a factitious disorder, assuming you don't mind engaging in a little deception, your best course might be to try to talk to their doctor[s] about your concerns. be prepared for the fact that the doctor may not agree with you; just as you see things the doctor doesn't, the doctor sees things you don't. no matter how confident you are, there are parts of the story you don't possess and parts of the path to a cure that you might not be aware of.

none of this makes you any less of an arsehead if your first inclination to someone telling you they have a mental illness is to say that it's not real, that they're playing it up, or that it's not that serious. take the time yourself to look at what the illness is, how it's dealt with, what the prognosis is, and what the best things you can do as a non-professional observer are. if you still think that there's reason to be suspicious, think about it and study it some more, then talk to someone who knows more about it than you do. 

24 September 2016

colour analysis is more than red, white and blue

best faces forward?
a few years back, i took an interest in the sci/ art system of personal colour analysis, an extension of the old "find your season" colour typing that took into account not just the temperature of colours that are suited to certain people, but also the level of saturation [how far the colour lies from grey] and tone [how light or dark it is]. i like this three-dimensional system because i find that it neatly encapsulates the ways in which we perceive colour. i also like the fact that it's based on how the skin reacts to different colours, rather than hair and eye colour, or just guessing based on skin tone. one of the first things that i learned looking into this world was that it is very, very possible to be surprised by what looks good on me. [yellow? rust? not things i would have expected.]

in these past years, i've experimented with colour-analysing my husband and my cats. i've dressed myself up and made myself up as every season and i've picked lipsticks i found appropriate to each season. some of those posts frustrate me now, because, as i've learned more, i can see where i was off the mark in my early attempts. but i don't have the energy to sit and wrap myself in all different colours again, so i'll just have to let those be.

although i'm no expert [as in, i haven't received training], my first hand experiences have been a lot of fun and the posts about them continue to attract a lot of views. so this week, i've linked one of the earliest posts on the subject as the "featured post. typical of me, i dove into the analysis without ever doing a proper introduction to the subject. that post has all the permutations in one place, but the most comprehensive description of colour analysis was given here. you can rummage through the history of posts by clicking the sci-art tag from the link cloud on the right, or just by clicking here.

i have this subject in mind for a wholly inappropriate reason, which is that i'm curious to see the effects of colour when the two candidates for president of the united states line up on stage monday. don't kid yourself: you notice it whether you want to or not, because something strikes you as relaxing or invigorating, or because something strikes you as uncomfortable. i've found that, since i started down this road, i can't stop noticing those subtle differences on both men and women, especially when watching news broadcasts, where there's often nothing to look at except long people on screen. i can't always guess what their perfect match would be, but i definitely notice when they get things very wrong or very right. those who wear colours that harmonise well with their own tones seem instantly more authoritative and more interesting. those who don't achieve that always seem to look either tired or sloppy to me. it's not going to convince me to believe things i wouldn't normally be inclined to believe, but it does have a slight effect on how i think about the person.

for the most part, i've found that whoever is styling hillary clinton for this campaign is doing a pretty good job. some of her "people" [i'm guessing she doesn't do this herself, but i can't be sure] have a bad tendency to put her either in black, because that's what's supposed to pass as serious and presidential, or in very bold shades, which should convey strength and authority. neither works on her very well at all. both tend to overwhelm her, make her look small and diminished. at the same time, when you put her in neutrals, she looks washed out.

i'm personally of the opinion that secretary clinton's colouring falls into the category of "light summer", meaning she benefits most from shades that are cooler, with a bit of warmth, somewhat saturated, but most of all, light rather than dark.


where are you, hillary?
that huge black block right under her face is just suffocating her. she looks ill and there isn't a bit of colour in her face, save the lipstick and eye liner.

that's a bit better, but she still looks a bit washed out. that ivory is a neutral shade, and it's light enough to work, but it feels hard. that's a good near-white for a bright season. hers would be a little softer.

definitely getting there. that jacket is a bit too saturated, but not by a lot. because of the presence of spring, which can take brighter colours, a light summer palette can look pretty lively. i do think the lipstick is too warm. i'd love to see the colour from the previous shot used here.

that grey probably wouldn't read as very dark on others, but it's plenty dark for her. the coral lipstick adds a nice hint of colour to a conservative ensemble. way better than black on her.

probably a little too energetic for a presidential debate, but i had to include this because i think that light summer people are the only ones on earth who can wear this colour and not look like they fell in a vat of cheap birthday cake frosting. the walls of my office were this colour when i moved in and i spent every moment hating whoever had chosen the paint. but everything clicks here.

this is a really nice neutral combination for a light summer. that blue-grey shade tends to work on all summer [cool, muted and light], but the jewelry keeps things from becoming too sombre.

now... the other candidate...

i'll say up front that i think that men get the short shrift in general with this sort of thing. they have an incredibly narrow range of acceptable colours available to them and only one available arrangement- the suit and tie. it's extremely restricting, which is why, even when people [me] try to talk about how men look at big moments, it's usually pretty boring. they look more or less the same and it's the luck of the draw whether a dark suit and stark white shirt looks good on them. cnn host anderson cooper, with his stereotypically bright winter colouring, looks like he was born for suits:

but does the same look work for donald j. trump? no, it really doesn't.

much like secretary clinton, he seems encumbered by black. everything about what he's wearing here is in a shouting match with him, and it's winning. that should tell you something about how wrong it all is.

we've got some of the same problems here, but i find this one just slightly better. yes, it's clearly a professionally taken photo where the previous one is not, but you would not believe how difficult it is to get off-the-cuff photos of donald trump where he isn't pulling a weird, distracting face. i still feel like all i'm seeing at first glance is the tie and the bright white shirt, but the navy seems a bit more forgiving on him than the black.

this one seems even better. that softer blue is taking down the orange in the skin and the brassy tones in the hair are less evident. he looks more human.

but all this is avoiding the main point that needs to be addressed: what the hell does donald trump actually look like?

he's often mocked for his eerie orange skin and strange cornsilk hair because they look fake and garish. if you look at the pictures of hillary clinton above, there's no doubt that she's wearing makeup and that her blonde hair is dyed, but they blend so easily with her natural colouring that it's nowhere near as noticeable. whatever donald trump actually looks like, it isn't what we're seeing now.

so to get some idea of what lurks behind his cheetos crust, i pulled a few photos from his younger days.

not the same colouring at all. first of all, that tie is way better suited to him than anything in the above photos. and while the suit is dark, it looks more like a deep, cool grey and it's not nearly as harsh. but what strikes me is how cool-toned he looks. the colour in his face is very pink, not red. also, his colouring seems quite muted.

i'm cheating a little, because that photo is old and a bit overexposed, but i stand by my evaluation: trump looks much more comfortable in colours that are cool, muted and somewhat lighter. that's the equation for the "true summer", although i couldn't find enough photos to be really conclusive.

the thing is, if that's his natural colouring, everything that trump is doing to himself, from the orangey fake tan to the too-bold power suits is precisely the opposite of what would work. i'm sure he thinks that blues and greys are much too wimpy and beta-male for him, but, even if you factor in his aging, i fully believe he'd be more presidential in that palette than the one he's chosen. all the decisions that he's made, and that are being made for him by his stylists [oh yes, men have them too] are dooming him to look like a clown.

now, as i've said before, all of the careful image tweaking in the world isn't going to help if what's coming out of your mouth makes you sound like a clown, but, hey, give yourself a fighting chance.

i will, of course, be watching on monday [you've been warned, twitter followers] and paying attention to the words. but if you do the same, when you see the two aspirant world leaders walk out onto the stage, ask yourself if you aren't just a little affected by how they're presenting themselves: how at ease do they look? how natural a fit do they seem to be to the job they're interviewing for? yes, it's mostly in the words and the ideas, but image matters and every advantage you can get is important. 

20 September 2016

mental health mondays :: trigger tuesday

actual trigger
in the last year or so, i've received a lot of requests to cover the topic of 'triggers' for mental health mondays. in fact, i did cover part of the topic back in 2011, but the fact is that that post is out of date considering how the use of the term has grown. when i wrote the piece originally, it was an attempt to explain how the term was related to panic attacks because i felt like it was a term that was misunderstood. four years later, i still think that it's a term that's misunderstood, but for different reasons. now, it's not merely necessary to understand what triggers are, but to understand what they aren't, because the term has gone from being misunderstood to being abused. so today, i present, trigger 2- the misunderstanding.

first of all, i want to make something clear: triggers are 100% real and not uncommon. they are reactions to past trauma that are uncontrolled and which may or may not seem related to the trauma itself. for instance, a survivor of domestic abuse who sees another person being abused can have a crippling, uncontrollable reaction to that. alternately, that person might have that same reaction to the sound of someone taking out the trash, because abuse often occurred around the time that this was done in the past. no one can predict what is going to constitute a trigger and many people are unable to identify that something is a trigger, particularly if it's unrelated. our abuse victim who is triggered by the clatter of garbage cans and the grunts of someone struggling to get bags of stinking waste to the curb might just think they are getting angry about the noise. identifying triggers is something that psychotherapy can help with. so, yes, triggers are real things, and they can be complex and unexpected. [if you want to know more of my thoughts on that, you can read the old blog post linked above.]

the problem with terms like this is that they have a tendency to tumble willy-nilly into common parlance, where their meaning gets diluted. we talked about this before with reference to people saying that they have "ocd". obsessive compulsive disorder is a serious mental illness with damaging consequences for those who suffer from it. but in common usage, it's used as a synonym for a quirky dedication to order and organisation. likewise, the term trigger, which is specifically related to trauma, becomes a synonym for feelings of anger, repulsion or sadness when certain topics are raised, because a person associates them with past bad memories.

those things might sound similar, and there is a grey area in determining when things are harmful and when they're not, but that should be taken as a red flag to leave diagnosing triggers and a condition like ptsd to professionals. never diagnose yourself or people you know as having triggers caused by ptsd unless you're a qualified professional in the field. [and even then, you probably want to get a second opinion on self-diagnosis.] the process can be daunting even for professionals, so as an amateur, you have to admit that you just don't get it. [and fyi, i don't get it. i'm an interested amateur who can understand some of the writing on the subject, enough to render it for the general public.]

one of the biggest problems with expanding the meaning of any specific term to include more than was originally intended is that it dilutes the true meaning, which is harmful to those who are really suffering. it puts the idea in the public imagination that the condition is something that's relatively common, the sort of thing that lots of people deal with every day. claiming certain things as triggers, therefore, seems less an appeal for help and more a demand for sympathy. this is complicated by the fact that not everyone who has survived trauma develops disordered  thought patterns related to it. no one quite knows why, but some brains recover differently from trauma than others. science is working on that and will get back to us.

probably the most inflammatory discussions about triggers and their validity, however, comes from their use in academia. we've all heard the horror stories about professors living in fear of students reporting them for teaching material that triggers a traumatic reaction, of literary classics being removed from syllabi because they could cause significant upset. now, as a caution, i would remind readers that universities have always been a crucible for these sorts of battles over language. they're where we see the extreme end of demands to conform to certain codes, but it's nearly impossible to document any effect they have in the real world. the political correctness movement of the 80s and early 90s was touted as the end of the world by those who disapproved of it, but the net result of all the talk was that courses covered a wider variety of voices and that it became expected that both students and professors would question accepted narratives of history written entirely by dominant cultures. it's the end of the world, i tells ya.

the topic of trigger warnings in academia is a big deal now, because it's going to end the world and turn us all into weak, floppy, incapable victims or frustrated alpha peeps and, of course, that will mean the end of the world. but chances are it won't, any more than political correctness did twenty years ago and such heated rhetoric helps absolutely nothing. what's more important is the tacit belief that goes along with it, which will not end the world, but is nonetheless a problem, that we need to be protected from that which is painful to us. of course, there are painful experiences from which we should be protected, and from which we should protect ourselves; no one needs to blow their hand off experimenting with chemicals at home or, to take an emotional example, no one should be forced by friends to discuss past instances of abuse if they don't want to. but to try to shut ourselves off from all pain is futile, and to equate all pain with the psychological term "trigger" is ignorant.

for starters, general things like the themes of books or topics of discussion are rarely triggers to begin with. rather, triggers tend to be highly specific and sensory rather than cerebral [see the psych central article linked earlier]. so even suggesting that material taught in classes is likely to act as a trigger to those who suffered past trauma shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept. to repeat what i said earlier, amateurs accomplish little by trying to interpret terms like this out of context, even when their intentions are good.

some have linked the desire for protection from perceived harmful elements to the culture of protection among parents that emerged in the early eighties [for instance]. faced with rising crime rates, and increasingly violent crimes, parents were forced to crack down on the amount of freedom they allowed their children and took sometimes extreme steps to block anything that might be harmful. [remember, the eighties were also the decade when record companies were forced to label music that had content that could be considered offensive, with the argument that such things could be harmful to children.] so the much-discussed "millennials" grew up with the understanding that protection from everything from violence to language was good [and that it was the responsibility of other people]. so this method of thinking did not emerge in a vacuum, nor is it purely the product of millennial thinking.

the other bad message that underlines the current obsession with triggering and sheltering is that this sort of avoidance is actually considered a symptom of ptsd- something that needs to be fixed. now, no one in their right mind is claiming that the way to overcome a trigger is to just expose yourself to it until you don't feel it anymore. but structured or limited exposure is desirable, because it will help the sufferer deal with their trauma and to overcome the irrational fears that disrupt their lives. learning to recognise that something is a trigger, that it is linked to deeper problems, and that it is not threatening in and of itself is part of the healing process. encouraging traumatised people to avoid triggers at all costs is like recommending someone who's been stabbed should get their wound cleaned, but not stitched shut.

and to complicate things still further, there's no proof attaching trigger warnings to posts or images online is helpful to anyone. in fact, it may encourage people who are depressed to seek out those images as affirmation of their hopeless world view.

so what's the meaning of all this?

tl;dr :: triggers are real and they are terrifying to those who suffer from them. but the term trigger is abused by non-experts in ways that can cause more harm than good. learn what you can, but leave diagnosis to people who've learned more.

sneak preview :: next week, i'll be covering the most frightening and most horrible topic yet on mhm. i'll leave you to imagine all the possibilities.

15 September 2016

making faces :: more scary stuff

i'm naked!!
i've ventured into uncharted cosmetic waters on this blog a few times; i dipped into the worlds of pastel blue eyeshadow and nude lips, neither of which is something i wear under normal circumstances. but today it occurred to me that there was one very obvious thing that's always been scary to me that i hadn't tried. and i don't mean that i hadn't tried it on the blog; i mean that i hadn't tried it ever. today, i put on makeup, but i didn't wear mascara.

now, i've gone mascara-less before, many times, but it's always been on days when i just eschewed makeup entirely [there are more of those than you'd think]. i literally cannot recall a single time when i've put on makeup but passed on the lashes. lashes are kind of my thing. when i was born, my mother tells me that the first thing she noticed about me was that i had long, curly lashes, so i guess that made me a bit vain and protective about them. they're somewhat sparser than they used to be [although, luckily for me, not a lot], but i still take care of them and do everything i can to show them off.

one of the reasons that i never go without mascara is that my lashes are also very light blonde. and since they remain fairly long on their own, leaving them in their natural state can make it look like i have cobwebs on my eyes.

but i'm supposed to be taking chances, dammit, and that's the biggest chance i could get myself to take. so damn the torpedoes and forward march!

i apologise for the fact that i have to do an extremely un-beautyblogger type thing and use pictures from my phone, but unfortunately my camera was dead today. [it wasn't dead. you drained the battery and, despite receiving warnings the last three times you've used the camera, you forgot to recharge it. -ed.]

here's what you're looking at

base ::
marcelle flawless skin fusion foundation
nars radiant creamy concealer "vanilla"
guerlain pressed meteorites 02 "clair"
nyx colour correcting palette [pink + yellow combination]

eyes ::
rouge bunny rouge e/s "papyrus canary"
rouge bunny rouge e/s "unforgettable oriole"
anastasia e/s "suede"
anastasia e/s "sangria"
anastasia e/s "chocolate crumble"
urban decay 24/7 e/l "desperation"
urban decay 24/7 e/l "perversion"

cheeks ::
nars blush "seduction"
nars blush "nico"
nyx wonder stick highlight/ contour "light"

lips ::
ysl gloss volupté "bordeaux sarouel"

i'm not totally put off by the results of the experiment, but it just did not feel like me. if the light hit me the right [or wrong] way, it did indeed look like i had cobwebs around my eyes, but i wasn't totally put off the idea of ever trying this again. now, a great deal of the reason it works at all is because i spent a lot more time than i usually would creating a halo of colour around my eyes. even more important, i put liner on my upper lash line ["desperation", a cool dark brown] and then i used the inky black "perversion" on my upper and lower water lines. so at least, i have a decent frame going. but i still feel like the windows to my soul are in need of some curtains. maybe some nice roman shades.

now that i've done this, i feel like i've conquered fear. skydiving has nothing on facing the world without eyelashes. [but just in case, i'm going to stay on solid ground for the time being.] 
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