Mental Health

Jeffree Star, Self Harm, and Taboos.

To many of us, Jeffree Star is infamous. We’ve watched his Myspace superstardom, his music career, his many feuds with beauty influencers, his makeup brand, and now his latest resurgence into pop culture. He is a rather controversial figure, with public fights and fall-outs dividing public opinion on him, and his racist actions in the past. The image built up around him was the subject of a 5 part documentary series by YouTuber Shane Dawson, who delved into Jeffree’s secret life.

The series followed Shane and Jeffrey over the course of what seems like a few days, as they explore Jeffree’s home (a mansion in Calabasas), drive his cars (a pink Tesla being among them), and explore his local WalMart. They also explore Jeffree’s makeup business, see the warehouse that ships his products, and the lab that creates them. With all of this success, Shane decides to take Jeffree back to his past, and they head to his old apartment.

Secret Life of Jeffree Star Thumbnail

It is here that Jeffree opens up to Shane about his past with mental illness. He discusses his insecurities, addresses some of his past friendships, and what his life was like before fame.

He revealed that in his teen years, he self harmed a huge amount. When he shows his legs, he reveals that he had “over 5,000 scars” on his thigh.

Link to video in question. Trigger warning for discussions of self harm, and images of healed scars.

When he felt that he had overcome the urge to self harm, he decided to cover his entire body in tattoos. He tells us how he used to hide his body under long sleeves, leather, full coverage, in all weather. He says he’s more comfortable now, but he’s still careful to hide any hint of this past in his videos now, using bracelets and long sleeves in his videos.

Today, Jeffree Star uploaded a new video to his channel, where he goes into these subjects in a little more detail.

 

In this video, he reveals that it has only been 4 years since he last harmed himself, and not 10 years as he stated in the last video with Shane. He mentions that telling the world about this has left him feeling embarrassed, exposed, and vulnerable.

Despite Jeffree’s life being very different to most of ours, that is something I think we can all relate to. If you’ve ever tried to open up about mental illness, especially self harm, those feelings will be all too familiar to you.

While many of us are trying to break down the massive stigma against talking about mental illness, self harm remains a massive taboo. Even amongst the fiercest mental health advocates, it’s difficult to find regular open discussions of self harm. It’s heavily misunderstood by many, which makes it even more difficult to reach out and admit to doing it, because you can never be sure what reaction you’ll get. Will they understand, be compassionate, maybe share their own experiences? Or will they jump immediately to the stereotyped image of someone who is “attention-seeking”?

What we need to understand, is that people self harm for many reasons. There is no single answer to explain why we do it. Even a single person can have multiple reasons behind it. If we truly want to help, we have to open up a dialogue about it, and let people share their experiences without judgement.

It’s about time we do away with the judgemental image of “attention seeking” behaviour. Aside from the fact that this is generally completely false, as most people who self harm actively hide themselves away, just as Jeffree Star admitted to doing in his videos. Ask yourself, if a person is so lonely that they turn to hurting themselves in order to be seen, shouldn’t we be paying attention to them?

I hope that, from Jeffree Star sharing his experiences, and receiving an outpouring of responses from people who have been through the same thing, that we can perhaps begin to break down this taboo against self injury. After all, it is only through talking about things openly and with compassion that we can begin to help.

Mental Health

Sunshine Is Not Medicine, But It Helps

If you’re a depression aficionado (or depressionado as I like to call us) much like I am, then I’m sure you’ll have heard all the usual advice from people who got their psychology degree on Facebook. Eat lettuce, do yoga, think happy thoughts, and go outside.

Of course, we know that depression is so much more than just diet and exercise. It is a fundamental issue with our brains. We simplify it as a chemical imbalance, but there’s also stuff like neural pathways, family history, past traumas, and a whole bunch of other sciencey bullshit. So we know that the advice from Dr Facebook MD, doing a downward dog and eating a leaf, won’t cure us.

I know this advice is too often parroted by people who don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s frequently used to invalidate our struggles, by telling us that we can prevent this all if we just go outside for five minutes. Believe me, I know how frustrating it can be to explain the reality of depression to someone who has nothing but misconceptions in their mind.

No, it won’t cure us. But it can help.

When I get really down, to the point where all of my thoughts are negative ones, and I’ve already pushed everybody away, I like to think of this comic from poorlydrawnlines.com

poorlydrawnlines houseplant
[Image transcription: Three panel comic, with the heading “Don’t Forget”. The first panel shows a bottle of water with the heading “Drink Water”. The second shows an open window with sunshine outside, with the heading “Get Sunlight.” And the third shows a small potted plant, with the heading “You’re basically a house plant with more complicated emotions.” There is a watermark for poorlydrawnlines.com at the bottom right corner.]
Of course, it’s a huge simplification. But it’s true, we do need water, and sunshine, and sometimes it’s good to recognise that while our minds may run wild, we still have a body to take care of too.

Right now, let’s talk about sunlight.

 

Sunlight in particular, is an oft-neglected part of our self care routines. It’s very easy to sit in your depression cave, curled up in the dark, watching Emilia Fart videos on youtube for 7 hours solid. But as difficult as it is, sometimes we need to give ourselves a kick up the arse and take care of our physical bodies. Going outside for five minutes is one of the easiest ways to start that journey.

I’ve written about this before in my 15 Tiny Ways article, but it’s very important to note that you actually don’t have to go to extremes to start getting better. Even just spending 5 minutes on self care is a good start. And I mean literally five minutes. Set an alarm. Be nice to yourself for five exact minutes, then you can go right back to wallowing and I won’t judge you at all. But do the 5 minutes.

 

Here’s a tiny bit of science to back up my reasons for digging sunlight so much. A brief disclaimer, I am not a scientist, and I’m talking about studies, not accepted scientific fact. Do not take medical advice from someone whose only qualification is paying for a web domain. Speak to your doctor.

Sunlight, of course, gives us Vitamin D. It’s well established that vitamin D promotes healthy bone growth and maintenance, among some other things. There are some studies though, that actually show a link between vitamin D deficiency and depression. Although I will point out these are just preliminary studies, and this has not been fully researched yet. The study in question is a meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, wherein some scientists did find that people with depression in their sample also usually had lower levels of Vitamin D. They concluded from this that there was indeed consistency between vitamin D deficiency and depression. While of course, one study just shows that we need to do more work on this subject, it does give us something very interesting to think about.

We also know that in cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder, light therapy is often effective in treating it. Light therapy is a treatment wherein a person is given a lamp that simulates sunlight, and they use it at times where they usually would get sunshine in the summer months. SAD tends to affect people the worst in winter, where we have far more dark and cold days. There are, of course, other reasons behind SAD, such as an interference with the circadian rhythm and a greater likelihood of staying indoors and becoming inactive, among other things.

But still, sunshine shows its benefits. A lack of sunshine is, of course, not the only reason you’re depressed. But getting a little bit extra sunshine in your life may help you along the way to recovery. Maybe. Hopefully.

 

Now, what does that mean for you?

 

Well. I know it’s easy for me to sit here on the other side of a screen and tell you how great it is to go outside. To tell you that getting some sun will help you feel like less of a bag of shit. Maybe you’ve had a bad day, it’s late at night, and you’re desperately searching for something to grab hold of, something that says maybe you’ll feel okay some day. I do that too. I grip tightly to every self help article that floats my way, as if it’s a raft and I’m stranded in the middle of the Atlantic. Point being, maybe it’s not possible for you to go get some sunlight right now. 

 

I’m not gonna tell you you’ll be cured by getting some sunshine. I won’t tell you to go guzzle down some Vitamin D pills. Actually, if you’re on any medication, you shouldn’t take Vitamin D unless your doctor says so. Serious talk, if you add that and most antidepressants, you’re at a higher risk of serotonin syndrome. Which is not a fun disease. So I’m certainly not telling you that. Don’t do that.

 

Here’s the thing, man. There’s no easy cure. No easy way out. And I mean, yeah, that’s an absolute bummer to hear. But that’s the truth. I’m not gonna lie to you just so you get the warm fuzzies for a second. Us depressionados, we’re pretty good at sussing out lies and empty platitudes for some reason. It’s a long slog, and it’s gonna be hard going, but even on your absolute worst days you can get through it. You don’t have to get through the entire year. Not even the entire month. Just get through today. Through the next ten minutes, if that’s all you can face. It can be done, even though it sucks while you’re doing it. And that’s the truth. I’m not lying to make you feel better here. 

If I can be real with you for a second, and I think I can because this is my website and not anybody elses, I wrote this whole thing because I bought a hammock recently. I’ve loved sitting outside, even if I’m just on my phone. Same thing I’d be doing inside, just a little brighter. Last Thursday I went out to hammock as usual, and it just didn’t work. I sat in my hammock, under a blanket, and cried. Over nothing. I just cried about crying. I did that for an hour then called the doctor to make an appointment, then went back inside. But the next day, I went back outside. Because even if I felt like absolute complete and utter shit, it’s a little nicer to feel like that in a hammock. And slowly, it does start to feel a little nicer.

I’m not gonna shame you for not being able to jump enthusiastically over every hurdle that you meet either. God knows, there are plenty of hurdles I encounter, and I just sort of sit there and wait until the wind blows them over so I can crawl past it. If that’s all you can manage, that’s plenty. You’re doing enough. Shit’s hard. Shit’s way hard. I know. I see you there, struggling along. It’s hard. But you’re doing it.

 

And it might be nicer to struggle along in the sunshine.