Moody Bitches by Julie Holland

“Medication can make a bad situation tolerable and mask the need for change.”

“We are not men. We are women. We feel more deeply, express our emotions more frequently, and get moody monthly. It’s normal. It’s nature’s way. And we don’t necessarily have to medicate away the essence of who we are to make others more comfortable.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 432 pages.
Read from September 17, 2017 to September 26, 2017.

I will admit, this is not normally the type of book I would read but after a bad batch of PMS symptoms that I am just getting reacquainted with, I felt I needed a bit of reassurance and validation with my lady cycles. You see, I came off the birth control pill for a variety of reasons after being on it for 13 years. That is a long time to take a medication regardless of its positives (like, you know not having babies). After coming off the pill I came to realize just out of sync I was with my body and coming to the realization that I had not had to deal with any of these natural symptoms since I was a teenager. tenor

This book discusses how to deal with your body’s natural monthly hormonal changes and how society has stifled them. The author also delicately talks about the use of other medications and how they affect your mood and other aspects of your life and just how society views women and our perceived neurosis. She always enforces that many of these medications are necessary for a lot of people and encourages the reader to analyze their own use and assess it. She finds a good balance between discussing our natural cycles and how medications can affect us as women without being accusatory or denying the importance of medications. The author also subtly endorses the use of cannabis. I am not a user, nor will I likely ever be but I can’t deny the science behind its use. It is important to note that the author is a legit psychiatrist and her work is full of science-based references in facts with everything that she writes about

<blockquote>”The problem with taking your happy pills and puttering along as before is that it’s no better than sweeping dirt under the carpet. I want you to take that rug out back and beat the hell out of it.”</blockquote>

You cannot deny the benefits of birth control and the liberation that it has brought to women for so many reasons but what is not discussed, ever, is the potential side effects it has on women’s health and that fact that it is currently the millennial generation that has become a guinea pig to its long-term use. The pill is amazing and is very much needed but I was never told of any side effects of being on it and it is not something that is ever discussed in the doctor’s office and it needs to be. I feel more mentally stable after coming off the pill. I have had friends who were not themselves while they were on the pill as they had trouble with being a weepy and depressed mess. Like many other women, I also lost my sex drive while on birth control and my ability to have an orgasm while on other medication.

Women’s bodies go through a variety of hormone changes throughout the month of our cycle and we are never really taught about each stage and how to deal and welcome it. Instead, as a society, we stifle our feelings and natural cycles with Midol, anti-anxiety/depressant pills and hormonal birth control and are told that we are irrational and that our feelings are not valid. That is a major problem. It is no surprise that so many women drink, don’t get enough sleep and doubt their self-worth. We medicate away our problems, often with added side-effects, to deny ourselves our emotions and lack to find value in them. For example, that same anxiety that you may feel is also what makes you good at your job or a good parent, provided that it is not debilitating these are natural emotions that the author finds do not need to be medicated as often as they do based on her observances of the women that have frequented her office. By reconnecting with our natural cycles the author advocates for an improved well-being for women.

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While the book provides some solutions, mostly cannabis-based, the value in this book comes from the facts and information that this doctor provides in recognizing your own cycles and with validating our experiences and feelings as women.

As silly as I felt purchasing and reading this book I am so glad that I did. I think that every woman needs this book as a re-education for their well being and sexual self  Ladies, take care of yourselves and be a badass ass moody bitches.

Stockholm Syndrome: Dermatillomania Makeup Tips

Learning to use makeup and learning about skincare has helped me with many self care techniques for my dermatillomania and otherwise.

Originally written for the Canadian Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviour Support Network (CBSN) during BFRB week October 1-7, 2017


I love makeup. Or rather, I should say that I have a Stockholm syndrome relationship with makeup. At 19, I was held hostage by makeup and my dermatillomania, having never before worn it or had any interest in wearing it.

When my dermatillomania was at its absolute worst in my early 20s, I quickly learned the ins and outs of how to conceal my awkward condition. Everyday I prayed to and thanked the makeup gods that I was able to cover up my horribly red, weeping, and marked face (or arms) just to give the appearance of functioning like a normal person. But I was not okay. I needed help. Makeup made me feel better and calmed my rising anxieties about my appearance. Even when I was home alone or ready to go to bed sometimes just applying makeup and wearing it through the night was enough to calm me and temporarily halt my urges.

At first, I did not know what I was doing at all with make-up. It started with just concealer but when I started using half a tube on face every day and realized it wasn’t blending well, I discovered foundation. And then I learned that powder can help create a smoother and lasting appearance and that it also seemed to work better on slightly open wounds. I then started using all three and tried every drugstore brand under the sun. I bought brushes and sponges, watched YouTube videos, all to perfect the technique of smothering and soothing myself. I needed makeup and started to carry an emergency kit of concealer and other supplies around so that my flaws never showed. I did not go swimming. I did not wear tank tops or short sleeve shirts. I hid in my makeup that kept me safe. I remember feeling so frustrated that I was a slave to this commodity and felt that I needed it like a junkie needs their drugs. Wearing makeup was a consolation that provided me the facade of happiness.

skin picking
Image credit: http://bit.ly/2hgUH1S

After years of misery perfecting my cover-up techniques and learning about the different aspects of skincare, I finally started working through the healing stages of my dermatillomania. I started to improve to the point that dermatillomania no longer controlled my life or all of my waking thoughts. I began to enjoy the makeup process as it did not feel like a necessity anymore. I felt attractive for the first time since I could remember.

While I can probably get away without wearing makeup most of the time now, I don’t. Makeup is still my comfort and still brings me some degree of happiness wearing it. I have even noticed that if I am having a hard time with my skin I will sometimes splurge at Sephora to make me feel like I am some how being proactive about my skin.

Learning to use makeup and learning about skincare has helped me with many self care techniques for my dermatillomania and otherwise. Would I have found this comfort and interest in makeup and skincare if I had not had dermatillomania? As I spent half of my life as a tomboy, it is hard to say. Regardless, I am grateful for what makeup has given me even if it was not something I would have chosen.

makeup tips
Image credit: http://bit.ly/2AgYZKo

For those that need it, here are some derma-friendly makeup tips that have worked we for me:

  • Primer and setting spray: I use to scoff at it. Seemed like another layer to add to my face that was already bordering on way too much but it truly helps the make up adhere better to your skin and makes it last longer so you do not have to worry about your carefully placed make up accidentally rubbing off.

  • Invest in quality concealer and foudation: Not only do better quality products cover better they are often better for your skin (oil-free, paraben-free etc). Take the time to find a brand that works best for you. Make Up Forever carries a water-resistant brand of concealer that lasted me 2-years even with regular everyday use (they have a foundation too). When applying concealer, dab it, don’t swipe it for better adherence.

  • If your skin is weeping and open, it is hard to cover and you run the risk of infection – The best course of action is to let the wound get some sort of barrier on it before you put on makeup. Here are a few techniques that can help:

    • Liquid bandages – Found at practically every drugstore, using this requires a bit of technique to get right. The key is to get the thinnest layer possible for the best coverage in the end. It sting a bit when applying it but it will protect your skin once it is dry. Make sure it is dry before applying makeup.

    • Honey, lemon and cinnamon: These ingredients are naturally antibacterial and will reduce redness. If you have time, put a mixture of these three on the area for 10 minutes or more to allow a barrier to form (the sticky mixture helps you from touching it too) then very gently wipe away with warm water.

      lemon-honey-cinnamon
      Image credit: http://bit.ly/2m0PSLR
    • Tea tree oil: Naturally antibacterial, tea tree oil can help dry out open wounds. Make sure to check the bottle to ensure that you get 100% tea tree oil as many brands like to add a small percentage of tea tree oil and fill the rest with rubbing alcohol and then charge too much (I’m looking at you Body Shop). Be aware, that the pure essential oil can be strong so if you have sensitive skin dab a cotton bud with water and then add the tea tree oil before applying it to your skin.

      polysporin cold sore patches
      Image credit: http://bit.ly/2jaTCcI
    • Purchase Nexcare acne patches or Polysporin cold sore patches (these ones are thinner and are better but more expensive) for more severe wounds. You can then apply make up on top of the patch. The patches still show a bit but chances are if the wound is bad enough it still looks better than the wound would with makeup. You’re also protecting it and it will heal faster. These are also great to wear at night time when you want something to heal fast!

  • After primer and concealer, follow with foundation and then a loose mineral powder (with or without colour) for a more natural and lasting finish: Investing in quality products and applicators will reduce the caked on look but it is also important to work within your budget! There are decent cheap alternatives. Maybelline’s Fit Me foundation and FaceStudio Master Fix primers and powder are budget friendly. Makeup brushes/sponges really do make a difference for the look, feel and coverage.

    • Flat foundation brush: Put the foundation on the back of your hand (not directly on the brush) and swipe your face in a downward motion starting in the middle of your face. Reapply more concealer after if need be and dab with a makeup sponge for a quick smooth finish after.

    • Stippling brush: These brushes are great if you want a more airbrushed finish. With the foundation on the back of your hand, dab the makeup on to your face. Do not swipe or twirl the brush as it defeats the purpose of the technique. Give your skin a chance to absorb the makeup afterwards as well for best results.

    • Powder: Loose is better than pressed and mineral is better than not. Use a kabuki brush and dab it on wounds instead of swiping in order to get it adhere better. Powder ensures the longevity of your makeup. For those with mature or dry skin, loose powder can set in wrinkles and dry patches so just stick to a good hydrating liquid foundation and setting spray.

    • Brushes don’t always have to be expensive: Granted quality ones last longer but it is still hard to cough up the money for them, even if they do make a difference. Check out these cheaper sets by ELF Cosmetics. Amazon also offers plenty of options.

    • Setting spray: Essential for hot summer days or a humid climate, a setting spray keeps your make up locked in place and your skin looking moist and fresh.

  • Keep your makeup tools clean: Whether you use your fingers, brush or a sponge to apply makeup it is even more imperative for those with dermatillomania to keep these items clean to avoid infection. Use a daily spray cleanser on your brushes and sponges and then deep clean once a week. If you use a sponge make sure to replace them once every 3 months.
    dirty make up brushes
    Image credit: http://bit.ly/2haYsCj


    • Homemade brush and sponge cleanser: Mix water, rubbing alcohol, tea tree oil, antibacterial dish soap, olive oil, and micellar water in a spray bottle. Use daily.

  • Less is more: I know it is tempting to smother on the concealer but it is important to apply it on in smaller layers in order for it to look natural and blended.

  • Blotting papers: These are especially imporant for those with oily skin. They remove excess oil but not your makeup. It will help to keep the shine down and keep your makeup looking fresh. Tissue can be used in a bind but will remove more makeup.

  • Wash your makeup off before bed: It is tempting to leave it on sometimes and I have definitely done it many times but you are ultimately making your skin worse in the long run by leaving it on. Your skin can become infected and will be more prone to break outs and wrinkles.

  • Face masks: These can as sooth your skin, pamper it, and can help you to stop touching it. Find ones that help reduce redness, like clay masks.

  • For immediate relief of redness: Stick a spoon in the freezer or on ice and apply it to your face. Witch hazel (though try to avoid putting it directly on an open wound, it stings), moist tea bags and cucumber slices are also great redness relievers.

  • Make your routine about self-care, not self-loathing: Touch your skin with kindness and allow your makeup routine to become a positive aspect of your derma struggles. Make an effort, no matter where you pick, that you will touch your skin with kindness and that every act of your routine is done gently.

I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb

Books likes this come only ever so often. I have not loved a book like this in years.

Love grows from the rich foam of forgiveness, mongrels make good dogs, and the evidence of God exists in the roundness of things.”

5/5 stars.
Hardcover, 897 pages.
Read from March 28, 2017 to April 5, 2017.

I can go for years sometimes without reading a book that truly blows me away. A book that I need to devour, can’t put down, and find few faults with. This book has become one of those rare books for me. The last time I read a book a like this was back when I read  Jane Eyre, which was back in 2012.  Like Jane Eyre, this book will give you all the feels. Unconventional and real, this book brought me to near tears numerous times. That is a feat that almost no other book can claim.  This book is now one of my personal favourites.

Dominick and Thomasare identical twin brothers. While the two of them may look identical the brothers have remarkably different temperaments. Dominick is masculine while Thomas is soft and fragile. As children, only Dominick seemed to be able to withstand the harsh and abusive nature of their step-father. As the boys grow, Thomas continues to exhibit peculiar behavior until it finally becomes clear that Thomas is more than just different; he has a severe form of schizophrenia. Dominick has spent his whole life trying to get away from Thomas’ shadow as tragedy seems to envelop the two men.

As adults in the present day, Dominick is regrettably divorced and still in love with his wife but he is unable to deal with the anger and emotions of a lifetime of living and dealing with Thomas. Dominick loves his brother and would do anything for him but the turmoil of dealing with the severely mentally ill takes its toll. When Thomas acts out violently in a public place Dominick is there to help him. As more tragedies befall Dominick, he attempts to sort out the legal mess his brother created and reluctantly start on his own journey of self-healing and forgiveness.

What is beautiful about this book is that it highlights the real trouble, guilt and anger that comes in loving someone with a mental illness over a lifetime. The imagery of emotions in this book is full spectrum. At one point, I remember thinking that it there is no way that Dominick could handle another major incident in his life but really, it was because as a reader my heart was aching for the character that I was now so attached to. Dominick’s journey is one of resilience, understanding, and ultimately about forgiveness. Mostly towards himself. Thomas’ story is also one of resilience; one that is often less understood. His inner turmoil to make sense of the world around him with his paranoid and invasive thoughts is exhausting. Thomas truly believes that his acts of paranoia will save the world from war. He is genuinely distressed that he cannot control any aspects of his life and that no one listens to his ideas and pleas. Can you imagine how that would feel? As is the case of many people with schizophrenia, the comprehension of their world is so different from our own but it does not make it any less real for them.

The style and approach of this book is both delicate and masculine, an intentional approach to help address the frail concept of North American masculinity and the trouble that it causes so many men. Dominick hates that Thomas is gentle and soft but really it is because he was afraid that he too might also be like that. Dominick treats these traits as if they were the worst fault a person could have; a testament to the harsh upbringing of his overbearing father and passive mother. The themes of forgiveness and growth demonstrate everyone’s journey and progress through life, though both the ups and the downs.

While many readers have found fault with the length of this book, I could not. I was sad when I finally finished this nearly 900 page tome and regretted reading it so fast.  I found that the author’s work was concise, necessary, intricate and well-thought out.

I want to recommend this book to everyone as I believe there are many facades of life that the characters in this book either embody or go through that few adults would not be able to relate to.  Do not be afraid of the length of this book, I assure you that every page is well worth it.