Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Blind Love and Blessings: Practical Things, Part 1

Have you heard the old joke about the preacher who was asked whether it was okay for women to wear makeup? He answered, "if the barn needs painting, then paint it!"

May I also suggest that if the barn needs a new roof, then get it some new shingles?

Beginning today I will offer tips concerning how I keep my "barn" painted and shingled even in those occasional difficult times and under unusual circumstances.


But first, let me explain something:

The type of alopecia (a fancy word for "baldness") that is an auto immune system disorder affects sufferers in different ways and is totally different from genetic male-pattern alopecia. 
  • Alopecia Areata is the mildest form but attacks of it are still extremely traumatic. It causes the round quarter-sized bald spots on top of the head. These might heal and  the person could experience hair regrowth. When the hair grows back it might be white. I used to dye my hair (or have one of my two trustworthy hairdresser friends do it for me) whenever I was in a regrowth stage. The strange thing was that sometimes the hair would change back to my natural color before my appointment! This was additional proof that the hair follicles themselves remain undamaged during an attack.
  • Alopecia Universalis is when the disease attacks hair on other parts of the body besides the head. As odd as it may sound it is not unusual to go to bed "normal" and wake up the next morning with half of  the eyelashes on one eye totally gone as though someone touched the eyelid with a depilatory on their index finger. Or missed the eyelid and landed smack-dab in the middle of one eyebrow! (Both of which have happened to me.) Like the mildest form, sometimes the body totally recovers and the missing hair grows back completely. However, the new hairs may be of different composition (thinner) than the original ones. Or they may grow back identical to what it was originally lost! (Again, both conditions have happened to me.) I am not too upset when "Universalis strikes my legs and underarms but am very much upset when I awaken to find gaps around my eyes!
  • Alopecia Totalis is when every hair follicle on the body is attacked leaving the person with no hair of their own. (This has never happened to me.)
You probably know someone who suffers from this disorder (I mean besides me) because estimates are that it affects 1 in 50 people. 1 in 50!!! Think about how many people you know. Staggering, isn't it?! It is such a widespread disorder that it is hard to determine whether it is also hereditary. After all, I am the only person I know in my family that is afflicted and yet I know many to whom I am unrelated that also suffer, perhaps only once or twice in their life! (I refuse to name names. I keep secrets.)

(We have our own foundation and support groups. Click here for more information.)

When a woman suffers with Alopecia Universalis the phrase "putting on her face" takes on a whole different meaning. Eyelashes and eyebrows add beauty but they also serve another more functional purpose. These hairs are designed to protect the eyes by acting as dust and perspiration catchers. When they are not there to do their job something else needs to take their place.

Helpful Tools
  • Eyeglasses - I used to wear contacts for my bad eyesight. After the progression of my disease I began to wear eyeglasses exclusively. I suggest that anyone who has lost their eyebrows and eyelashes wear glasses even if their eyesight is perfect. Remember how we always were made to wear goggles in science class in order to protect our eyes? I rest my case.
  • Sweatbands - Wear one while working outside or exercising to catch sweat and debris.
  • Pocket handkerchief - Thanks to my Grandma for teaching me at an early age the importance of always having one of these on my person. When I was a child it was because I constantly needed something in which to blow my nose (allergies) but as an adult I am in constant need of one with which to wipe my eyes due to this other dreadful "a" word.
  • False eyelashes - some people swear by them and some swear at them. I tend to fall into the latter category. It's funny to watch Lucille Ball struggle with hers while out on her date with Henry Fonda in the movie Yours, Mine, and Ours but in reality I have found that whenever I wear them I am moved more to tears than to laughter.
  • False eyebrows - I have never tried them but they are available for sale on the Internet. Where else? You can find almost anything on the Internet!

Painting the Barn

This is how I prepare my face for meeting and greeting my world each day. My primary goal is not to look beautiful but to look normal. I try to blend in with others as much as is humanly possible.  There's nothing more disconcerting to me than to have someone stare. Pastor Dad says people stare because I am beautiful but Pastor Dad is prejudiced and is allowed to be. (I am not being falsely modest or fishing for compliments.) I, on the other hand, suffer anxiety attacks when people stare. You can imagine exactly the thoughts that go through my mind when I notice someone intently studying me! It could be something as innocent as someone thinking I look familiar but they can't quite place my name. That may be but it isn't the first impulse going through my brain.

Anyway, here is what I do to "put on my face":

  1. I always assess the eyebrow situation first. Any more fall out? Any growing in? I use my trusty sharpened eyebrow pencil to fill in the gaps. I do this EVERY DAY even if I do nothing else. I consider this my "without makeup" look and do it even if I have no plans to leave the house. Trust me on this. If I forget - and I have - the doorbell will inevitably ring and the person on the other side will REALLY stare!
  2. I then assess the eyelash situation. This step was hard for me at first because I used to have long, thick eyelashes that smudged my eyeglasses with mascara on the days that I didn't wear my contacts. Usually I didn't wear mascara and eyeglasses on the same day because I wasn't leaving the house anyway but the mascara-contacts made a nice combination. That's an example of my personal vanity, I guess. Moving on. This is what works for me. First, I paint a thick line of liquid eyeliner on my top eyelids at the base of any remaining lashes or where the base of the lashes would be if I have none at the time. Then I take a cotton swab to taper and smudge this line so that it is thinner in the corners of my inner eyes and irregular everywhere else. I also check to see where I have eyelashes and if these are of equal length and fullness on both eyes. For example, if I have few lashes regrowing on the outer corner of my right eye but full regrowth on the outer corner of my left eye I will only apply dark mascara to the roots of the one on the left eye and leave the long length uncolored. I will also apply mascara to the root-tip area of my right eye, even though there are few lashes there, because the brush stroke helps to blur the eyeliner line even more. I do this so that my eyelashes look symmetrical.  I do not use false eyelashes anymore because when I did get them to stay on(!!!) I found that the glue pulled out any regrowing lashes. THAT was obviously not what I wanted! Plus, if all the natural lashes are gone there is little to hold the false ones into place. If you really are determined to wear false eyelashes I suggest that you find a professional to teach you the proper application techniques.
  3. Finally I decide if I want to wear eyeshadow. I have found that a smudge of dark color in the same area where I have natural eyelashes, and then mirrored on the other eye whether it has eyelashes or not, provides the optical illusion of longer, fuller lashes when viewed from a distance (like when pictures are being taken).
  4. Finally, I assess which facial features to highlight that day. If I am rather heavy-laden with eye makeup I go easy on the lipstick and blush. But if I have downplayed my eyes then I will wear vibrant lipstick in order to draw attention downward from my eyes. There are times when I either do not have the time to experiment with my eyes or it is so hot outside that I know I will end up removing most of my eye makeup while dabbing perspiration with my handkerchief that I don't even bother going beyond the eyebrow pencil and a very thin line of eyeliner.
  5. As a finishing touch I put on my glasses, which are a fine piece of camouflage equipment in their own right, and go on about my life (praying all the while that no one will stare at me).  :)
This is how I ~ uh ~ paint the barn. Next time I'll tell you some of the things I've learned about keeping it shingled.

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Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
Psalms 19:14 (KJV)