21 May 2016

making faces :: bite me

i was sort of shocked to find out, earlier this year, that bite beauty was discontinuing their original "luminous creme" lipstick formula and launching another called "amuse bouche". [side note: an "amuse bouche" is a sort of pre-appetizer, generally served in a bite-size portion, meant to excite the palate and whet the appetite.] unlike a lot of cosmetic fans, i'm a bit neophobic, particularly when it comes to tinkering with my favourite lipstick formulas. i haven't forgiven chanel for messing around with my beloved rouge cocos. that said, as much as i loved the luminous creme formula for being kind to my lips, there were a couple of areas where i felt it could be improved. first and foremost was that the colour faded rather quickly on most shades and often in an uneven, unattractive way. second, i felt like they could have been more original in their colours, since a lot of the permanent items seemed easier than not to match. but i really loved their commitment to natural, food grade ingredients and their clever names that reminded one that each lipstick contained all the resveratrol goodness of five glasses of red wine.

the new "amuse bouche" lipsticks continue with the natural and food-grade part of the equation, but they seem to have done away with resveratrol in favour of a number of other things that promise to care for lips without skimping on pigment or longevity. there are 34 shades, almost all of them new, although there are some that approximate the favourites from the luminous creme range, so we don't have to feel totally bereft. there are also some that are close to previously released, limited shades in different formulas, which will be a sweet relief to those who missed out on some of them.

being a little nervous about all this newness, i limited myself to buying one shade on the first go-around. i didn't want to grab everything that looked vaguely appealing, only to find out on first application that my lips hated them. i did, however, lay my hands on a sample size of one of the shades that was being offered by sephora in conjunction with the launch [back in february, because i am really, really late getting to this]. so i have two shades to show you.

first up, we have "beetroot", which is the shade i actually purchased. i've always longed for a lipstick the colour of stewed beets. it's a deep magenta that just leaps out from the natural world. it doesn't hurt that i absolutely love beets, although, since dom really doesn't, i rarely get to eat them. it's described as a "bold berry", but it's called beetroot, so i mean it pretty much has to look something like beets, right?

beetroot

beetroot

well, it does... sort of. it's definitely redder than beets, the colour of which tends to run cooler. it definitely has that eye-catching combination of brightness and depth that makes the colour of beets so breathtaking. "bold berry" could mean a lot of things and while it's an accurate enough description, i think it would be even more accurate to say "deep but but berry-beet". maybe not quite as succinct. even if it's not quite my perfect beet-shade, it is something that i'm going to be reaching for a lot.

"radish" doesn't look exactly like the skin of a radish either, but it does compare to beetroot in much the same way as the colour of a radish compares to the colour of a beet. it's lighter, brighter and pinker, although not exactly in a different universe than beetroot. bite describes it as "deep magenta", but since beetroot is noticeably darker, i feel like the naming gnomes could do a little better on differentiating bold and deep.

radish
radish

this is the shade that i received as a points perk from sephora and i'd say that you only really need both beetroot and radish if you adore these sorts of colours. as i do. the amuse bouche lipsticks have more shades that seem harder to match, but they're still don't have the subtle undertones of a truly remarkable colour. [in all honesty, with the trend towards unidimensional mattes in the last few years, it's gotten harder to find shades that have those sorts of nuances.]

i made some comparisons from my collection, which might be heavier on these sorts of colours than the average person's.

l to r :: rouge d'armani 513, beetroot, radish, rouge d'armani 402 [d.c.], nars vera
rouge d'armani 513, maharajah, is cooler than radish and has a fine shimmer. the discontinued rouge d'armani shade 402 [i think it's discontinued; the rouge d'armani line is kind of in chaos right now] is pretty close to beetroot- definitely the closest that i have- but is darker and more muted. i honestly expected/ worried that nars audacious lipstick in vera would be an even closer match, but it's darker, softer, a bit greyer.

the bottom line is that the colours are beautiful, but not necessarily unique. some of the more neutral shades look like they'd be harder to match.

but what about the formula? isn't that what's really the issue here? well let me assure you: the formula is killer. the lasting power is as good as i've seen from any bite product, and while it isn't quite as soft going on as the luminous creme formula, it still does feel like a treat to wear. the longevity does not cause dryness or flaking, and when the colour does wear down, it does so much more evenly than before.

the feel of the formula actually reminds me of the deconstructed rose lipsticks that came out a couple of years ago and a bit of the nars audacious lipsticks. [yikes! i've fallen behind on reviewing those in the last year... there are more i need to share, even though they're not new anymore.] like those formulas, the amuse bouche lipsticks read as nearly matte on me and quite glossy on everyone else. i've never understood why that is, but look at my photos, then go look at the ones on temptalia or the beauty lookbook. clearly, our skin is made of different stuff.

the one slight problem i had was that i found it tricky to get a really crisp line around the outside of my lips. i would have forgiven this if it had just been the mini, but it was actually worse in the full size product. i suspect that this is because the edges of the bullet are softly tapered, with a precise point only at the top, so if you want a sharp line, you have to be very careful that only the point touches the edge of your lips. and even then, unless your hands are rock-steady, it might be tricky. [you could use a lip liner, of course, but i generally don't because they never look like the right colour, except with shades of red.]

i've worn both of these shades a few times, but a series of misadventures with smudged lenses and poor lighting meant that i have very little that shows these shades as they look in real life. i do have a couple that i was able to salvage of me wearing radish, which give you an idea of what it looks like in the context of a full face.



i'm also wearing shades from the tarte rainforest of the sea palette and on the cheeks is [i believe] a combination of dior pareo and hourglass incandescent ambient strobing powder.

in addition to the 34 permanent shades, bite has just launched 6 limited edition shades for the summer. i haven't purchased one yet [because i can't choose just one, or two, or...], but i can tell you that they represent bite's most unique and daring shades to date.

i will miss the wine-themed names and, clearly, i will have to be sure to drink more wine in order to get my resveratrol, but the amuse bouche lipsticks are a definite step forward, and a very welcome addition to the world of lipstick formulas. 

18 May 2016

scottishnotscottish

as scottish as mjölnir
probably the first thing i ever learned about my ancestry was that i am scottish. the scottish part of my family are way proud of their scotch-ness. they know their particular tartan. they have their family crest displayed in their homes. they've been to the town from which the family first sprouted. they like their bagpipes and burns and gaelic. and indeed, the clan lines in scotland go far back.  [not as far back as the irish strain of the family they won't admit exists, but that's another story.]

but in my continuing genealogy project, wherein i am endeavouring to trace my lineage all the way back to its pre-human form, i've come across a little "hitch": my scottish family, at least the part of them that gave us our clan name and identity, isn't scottish. well, they are. but they're also not. in fact, they were enemies of the scots, even though they were, in a way, scots themselves and related to the scottish royal family. of course, that didn't stop them from pretty much declaring war on the scottish royal family, since, in olden times, being family didn't imply loyalty so much as the right to take all your stuff.

here's how this works:

my family, the macdonalds of keppoch, part of the larger "clan donald" were actually descended from the "lords of the isles". these were the people who lived, as the name might imply, in the islands on the west side of scotland "proper": the hebrides, mull, islay, arran and generally every place where scotch is made. the kingdom of the isles even stretched as far south as the isle of man. although it wasn't always a well-defined entity, the kingdom was distinguished by the fact that it had a turbulent relationship with the scottish crown since the scottish were always a little concerned about have people basically sitting on their shoulder and occasionally trying to murder them.

so what? i hear you say. they were all "scottish" anyway. well, yes and no. the rulers of "the isles" were actually norse-gaels, which is a term that means exactly what it sounds like: a mix of norwegian and scottish gaelic blood. the norse-gaels were partly scottish, but they were mostly just nose-gaelic, and considered themselves their own sweet entity, equally norwegian and scottish, but not either.

the norse-gaels reached the zenith of their power under a figure called somerled, "lord of the isles", in the twelfth century [yes, i know i'm going pretty far back there, but it still counts]. he's revered as a highland hero in scotland, because he supposedly drove the vikings out of the country. however, the truth is that he came from a prominent family of norse-gaels, which meant that he was part viking himself. furthermore, in order to curry favour for his plan of world domination [well, at least scottish domination], he married a daughter of the jarl [earl] of orkney. the orkneys at that time were a colony of norway, and hence closely tied to the royal family of that country [although the orkneys had, over centuries, also evolved into their own separate thing, which would persist for centuries]. and the vikings that somerled expelled from scotland were actually just one ruler, whom he deposed from the throne of the isles in man, and who happened to be his brother in law. so to recap: somerled was a half-norwegian, who married a norwegian, who deposed another half-norwegian from the isle of man and is now credited with saving scotland from the vikings. wish i knew the name of his publicist.

what's more shocking, at least if you're scottish, is that the lords of the isles were closer to the english and irish royal families, or at least more inclined to make alliances with them, than they were with the scottish royal family. [although they weren't above marrying into the scottish royal family, as somerled's sister was married off to the scottish king malcolm.]

so where does that leave me, almost a millennium later?

well, the clan donald is descended from one of somerled's two sons. so all the macdonalds [as well as several other clans] trace their heritage to him. and that's not just a legend. genetic testing done on members of the clans who claim him as a progenitor found that a huge percentage of them have dna markers indicative of a single common ancestor. it's entirely possible that somerled's extended family numbers in excess of half a million people, which is impressive, but kind of sucks if you're looking for any inheritance you might be due.

that means that the oh-so-scottish macdonalds, the most scottish of all the scottish clans, are just as much norwegian as they are scottish. many common scottish names, both surnames and forenames, are actually english corruptions of gaelic corruptions of norse names like rōgnvald [gaelic ragnhall, english ronald or roland] or Þormóð [gaelic tormod, english norman]. and while we can brag about how our heritage goes back to times bc/ bce, that's really only true of the norwegian [or, alternately, the irish] parts of the family, because the actual scottish parts get pretty foggy, which is par for the course in scotland.

so, in celebration of my scottish family, i would like to wish a very hearty, although slightly belated, national day to my norwegian progenitors. someday i hope to visit your exquisite fjords and experience the true nature of my scottishness.

p.s. :: i would love to close with a salutation in norwegian, but it's not one of the languages i've started learning and i don't want to do the obnoxious thing and say something in swedish under the assumption that all you scandinavians speak the same language, even though, from what i understand, your languages are at least close enough that you'd probably understand me. i'll speak proper norwegian someday.]

p.p.s. :: the photo at the top of the post is taken from this post on the history of the vikings on the isle of man. 

16 May 2016

mental health mondays :: #mentalillnessfeelslike

a few weeks ago, i posted a notice in honour of canadian mental health week. however, i failed to mention that our neighbours to the south dedicate an entire month to mental health awareness. of course, if you take into consideration the difference in population, canada is still dedicating more time per capita, but, you know... it's a whole month. and it's one of the long ones, too.

the theme for this year's campaign, as you might have gathered from the hash-taggery in the title of this post, is "what mental illness feels like". that can encompass a lot of things, because mental illness covers depression, psychosis, dissociative disorders, eating disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, panic disorders... but you know all this already. the idea is to simply get people to talk about mental illness as much as possible, to give a sense of all of the different ways in which it can affect people's lives, the number of people who suffer from it, and also to let people know that others feel the same way that they do.

you can get information on mental health month here. i've already spoken quite a bit about my own experiences with mental health on this blog, so i figured i would share these adorable drawings from british artist gemma correll, created to mark the month.





i've felt all of these things and a lot of people i know have felt them too. 

other observations about how mental illness feels that i've heard from people include things like: 

  • being paralysed :: when panic attacks and anxiety are at their peak, you feel physically as if you can't move- like your brain isn't in control of your body. 
  • painful :: when you're stressed, your body releases inflammatory substances capable of causing real, physical damage to the body. you're not imagining that it hurts and you're not being overly sensitive.
  • being crazy :: one of the saddest things i've ever heard [and it's come from more than one person] is that many people who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder are perfectly aware that their rituals/ ticks/ beliefs are irrational, but that doesn't do anything to reduce their power. 
  • having no idea who to trust :: john nash once said that the voices in his head came to him in the exact same way as his ideas about mathematics, so he couldn't discount them. it's something i've heard from others as well- your own brain is lying to you, often using the same channels that it uses to allow you to do really important things. 
  • not knowing what anything feels like :: this is a little understood problem with dissociative disorders and one that's often used to portray them as unfeeling monsters. dissociative disorders can cause people to "split" from their emotions, so that they can be unaware of what they're feeling, or unable to feel the "appropriate" emotions in certain situations. 


and none of this gets into what mental illness feels like for those close to someone with a mental illness. 

whatever your experience, i encourage you to make your voice heard over the next two weeks. join a conversation, start a conversation. it won't bring about change on its own, but no change can happen without it. 

11 May 2016

mental health mondays :: bad mood disorder

or is it?
monday, you say?? yes. it's wednesday. more to the point, it's 11:48 on wednesday night, which means it's technically close to being thursday. but this is the post that was supposed to appear on monday, before my own mental health decided to rewrite the week's script a little.

thanks very much to those of you who sent well-wishes here and on facebook. i am doing better than i was yesterday and certainly better than i was on monday. things are gradually returning to normal, as they say.

so this is the final instalment of my look at personality disorders, wherein i look at psychiatry's red-headed step children, those ones we never like to talk about...

*

a friend posted this article on facebook a little while back, which raises some very good points about some very maligned mood disorders. lots of us are proud to say that we support those with mental illness, that we want increased funding to study and treat mental illness, and that we believe that the stigma against those with mental illness needs to be addressed and eliminated. but, and i believe this is entirely without meaning to in most cases, a lot of us also struggle to sympathize with certain disorders. and let's be honest: those conditions can be very difficult to sympathize with.

a few years back, dom and i visited toronto and i was showing off the city's collection of indie/ edgy video stores [pretty sure they're all gone now]. while we were inside one on queen street, a homeless person, speaking loudly to himself [i'm making a conscious effort not to use the word "raving" there] walked up and stood in the doorway, blocking it. he then proceeded to whip out is visibly filthy member and start masturbating. so there we are, wanting to escape, but also not wanting to get caught in a shower of hostile stranger jizz and not particularly wanting to live the waifish young woman at the counter alone in the store.

on reflection, i'm aware that this man was probably a victim of the massive cuts to hospitals in ontario [particularly toronto] in the 1990s and early 2000s. among the facilities that lost a large number of beds and staff was the centre for addiction and mental health, west on queen street. when i first moved to toronto, i remember being struck by the tragic spectacle of those who had been pushed out of the facility, still addicted, still psychotic and still in desperate need of help. unable to think of anything else to do, they had set up camp directly outside the centre, as if they were waiting to be let back in. i sympathized deeply, but i'd still make sure to walk on the other side of the street.

over the next six years i lived in the city, the abandoned gradually started to spread out. as a result, toronto, particularly queen street, has not just a homeless problem, but a psychotic homeless problem. these aren't just people who will ask you for change, but people who will stop in random doorways and masturbate in the middle of the afternoon.

i was aware of these things at the time, but i have to admit that the principle thing going through my head was "i want to get away from here". as the author of the linked article points out, psychosis, whatever causes it, can feel like a punch to our sympathetic gut. logically, we know these people aren't truly aware of their surroundings, or of the effects of their actions. but "trapped inside because a man is jacking off in the doorway" has a sort of immediacy that pushes everything else well into the background.

there's also that fear that interrupting, whether to escape or to try and engage such a person, could trigger aggression. statistically, people who are psychotic aren't prone to violence, but that doesn't help quell our natural inclination alerts us that we can have no idea what the person will do. our brains are hardwired to be cautious of unpredictability.

that said, i would still argue that psychosis is better viewed than the other disorders mentioned in the article, because we can clearly see there is something terribly wrong. it never occurred to me that the man masturbating in the doorway was just a selfish asshole who felt entitled to gratify himself wherever he wanted. as much as i was put off by the situation, any anger i felt was towards the government whose cuts had deprived him of the help he needed.

mood disorders are very different, because they are largely invisible. anyone can have them, they're difficult to treat and they can have a massive effect on a person's interactions with others. the internet is replete with advice about avoiding "toxic people" and how to judge if you're being manipulated by one. what's less commonly addressed, however, is that the people we categorize as "toxic" might have issues that go beyond being harmful, manipulative, and abusive. they may be sick in the same way that depressed people are sick. they may need help in the same way that the people turned away from the centre for addiction and mental health needed help.

mentioned in the article is borderline personality disorder, which is certainly one of the most problematic diagnoses a person can get. bpd is controversial in almost every way: there are those who debate whether or not the condition even exists, others argue that it should be treated as a subset of either bipolar [because of the characteristic swings in mood or emotion] or post-traumatic stress disorder [because of its high correlation with incidents of childhood abuse, gross neglect, or catastrophic separation]. in fact, there appears to be both a genetic and an environmental component, both of which are necessary to development of the disorder, which would actually indicate that it falls somewhere between the worlds of bipolar and ptsd.

one of the most controversial aspects of bpd, however, is its "gender gap": those diagnosed with it are overwhelmingly female. that has led to accusations that the disorder is a way of stigmatizing behaviour in women that would be acceptable in men [frequent anger, sexual promiscuity]. alternately, it's contrasted with antisocial personality disorder, where the overwhelming majority of sufferers are men. there are clear distinctions between the two, but both seem driven by an apparent callous disregard for others and frightening shifts in mood and emotion.

when you read a description of so-called toxic people, the characteristics look a lot like a list of symptoms of both borderline and antisocial personality disorder. they're generally manipulative and dishonest in order to get what they want, prone to violent emotional outbursts, they can be incredibly paranoid, hostile and negative about the rest of the world, and they tend to be focused on themselves, what they want, and on the benefits that any situation brings to them.

that sounds horrible, right?

well, consider what i said about the correlation between borderline personality disorder and childhood trauma. the same goes for antisocial personality disorder. so if these are people who are self-centred and harmful, it's usually because they were forced to learn some pretty extreme methods of self-preservation in order to survive their own childhoods. if they are manipulative or have a pathological fear of abandonment, it's because they were "programmed" to be that way in their formative years. if they are violent or prone to emotional aggrandizement, it's likely because they have a lot of righteous and unresolved anger about the circumstances in which they were forced to live their early lives. if they are unapologetically dishonest, it's because they were brought up in an environment where telling the truth was dangerous and where lying was, again, essential to survival.

interestingly, though, the original article that inspired this jog through the dark corners of personality disorders, has one glaringly obvious omission: narcissistic/ histrionic personality disorder. [i'm treating these two as a single subject, because the distinctions seem entirely driven by gender.] aside from the most extreme examples of antisocial personality disorder [serial killers, violent abusers of people and animals], i don't think that there is any group that is easier to hate than those with narcissistic personality disorder. perhaps because it's because their pain is hidden so well behind a wall of entitlement, self-importance and mistreatment of others. perhaps it's because, even when caught in criminal behaviour [you can read my theories on two high-profile cases here and here], they seem not just unapologetic, but still possessed of a sense that they are the ones who have been wronged.

this is where speaking up for the rights of people with mental disorders gets thorny. the vast majority of people with any of these disorders are not dangerous to the public at large, but that doesn't mean they can't inflict some pretty significant damage on those close to them. how far is sympathy supposed to extend? how much do you really want to defend someone who's caused real harm to others?

the fact that these people are potentially harmful is the reason we're told that their symptoms are a checklist for people we should make significant efforts to avoid. as if isolating them will solve the problem, rather than reinforce it. but how much personal risk is acceptable in the name of helping someone who is suffering? even lifesaving courses caution us not to put ourselves at risk to save someone else, lest we both end up dead. even if we realise that these people need help, it's likely that most of us would take a "nimby" attitude towards actually having one of these people in our lives. someone else can take care of them, thank you very much, we've all got our own problems. what's the point of treating someone medically if having them acknowledge their condition only makes people run away from them?

this just scratches the surface of what there is to deal with when it comes to dealing with "ugly" personality disorders, but the fact that it's not often addressed [or if it is addressed, it's often mocked as excuse-making for bad behaviour] shows just how uncomfortable subject is. in a world where we struggle to de-stigmatize and advocate for sufferers depression and anxiety, asking people to consider that manipulative, dishonest, or even violent behaviour might be deserving of some sympathy is a tall order. but the flip side is that we simply write people off as permanently damaged, unsalvageable. i don't even want to start going through the uncomfortable arguments that raises.

i've written a lot and thought more about the issue of mental disorders and, in the last month or so, about personality disorders in particular. a brief perusal through the history of mental health mondays should reveal that i'm a pretty passionate advocate for better mental health treatment. but i'll be honest: even i struggle with some of this. assuming, for the moment, that we leave out the extreme cases of antisocial personality disorder- the sadistic/ serial killers- and focus on the majority, there are personal risks to having someone with narcissistic, borderline, antisocial or histrionic characteristics in close proximity, especially if their disorder is untreated or inadequately treated. but a few decades ago, public discourse about mental disorders at all was rare. we enable progress by challenging ourselves to think and talk about things that are uncomfortable. so while it might not have provided much in the way of answers, i hope this little post has given you some things to think about. 

10 May 2016

mental health mondays :: ...to be continued

mental health mondays should be up tomorrow. i had started the post and then had to stop, because i had an overwhelming panic attack. then i couldn't do anything but sleep. so basically, one attack- about something that turned out to be fairly easily resolved- robbed me of several hours of my life, stopped my productivity dead in its tracks and, since my sleep schedule is somewhat derailed, threatens to mess me up for tomorrow as well. as a special bonus, even writing this short post about my evening is making me extremely edgy, because i'm desperately afraid of triggering another attack which, in the middle of the night and with very limited resources available to me to calm myself, is a terrifying thought. i'm trying not to panic over the possibility that i could panic.

post-panic, i even look different. my face is puffy and my eyes look swollen, although there's no reason for that. i haven't been crying or yelling or using my facial muscles in any abnormal way. nonetheless, the face i see in the mirror tonight is not the same as the one that greeted me this morning. anyone who tries to tell me that these things are all in my head had better have an airtight explanation for how my head changes my face.

i am sharing this with you because, 1. i think it's sort of hilarious and ironic that i have to postpone mental health mondays because of my mental health; 2. i want people to understand how suddenly a real crisis can throw someone off-kilter and how the after-effects can cascade from what seems like a fairly minor event. for people who suffer from anxiety disorders [which is part, although not all, of my profile], an attack isn't just upsetting, but crippling. and not everyone has the good fortune, as i did tonight, of being at home and able to work through these feelings in relative comfort. anything can set off this chain reaction, not just known "triggers", but virtually any obstacle or any of the causes of stress that people deal with every day. obviously, regular sources of stress are more dangerous when you're already prone to panicking, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you will have an attack when exposed to regular sources of stress. in fact, people with panic or anxiety disorders can often manage what seem like stressful situations just fine, only to crack under the pressure of having to decide what to make for dinner. [no, in case you're wondering, that wasn't what set me off.]

for those of you who don't regularly have full-blown panic attacks, be happy, because it's nothing you would ever want to experience. imagine getting in your car, driving somewhat faster then you feel comfortable doing and turning your car in a direction of a large tree. then imagine closing your eyes and trying to steer away from the tree without touching the brakes. that's an approximation of a panic attack, only it can last for hours, not seconds. that combination of helplessness, mortal fear, and responsibility for the situation.

for those of you who do suffer from anxiety and/ or panic disorders, i'm putting this up here so that you know you're not alone and so that you know that it's ok to say what's happening to you in public, even on the internet, where anyone in the world can see. the world we live in often places unfair and onerous demands on people, including a lot of people who are more fragile because it might be damaging to their interests. it's a hideous thing. i feel it and i know many of you do too. stress is a natural reaction to that.

but anxiety and panic are thieves. they rob you of time, of happiness, and, as is increasingly evident, of life. what's worse, they rob the world of you, because often your inner self, your real self, just can't fight through the fog and be present. that's a loss for everybody.

breathe as slowly and deeply as you can for ten minutes, focusing on nothing else. hug your cat or dog or rhino, whatever you have, i'm not judging. use whatever tricks you can find on the internet to keep the thieves out of your house and if those start to fail you, learn more. protect yourself. don't let them steal more than they already have.

i can't get back the time i lost today, but i can at least try to turn it into something that might help someone else. 
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