A woman with a big pair of glasses is looking right at you in a slightly tilted-positioned black framed rectangular mirror. Her blue baseball hat slightly shadows her face. The shadow has slight purple and blue hue. Black-framed glasses with gold temples and a bridge are sitting on her nose. She’s listening to something with white retro-style headphones with bright orange-colored ear pads. Short dark hair is pushed back with the headphones. The tip of her lips picked out of the slightly lowered light grey mask. You can see a piece of her black sweater’s zipper from the right lower corner of the mirror. The mirror needs some cleaning—smudges on the upper right, invading her face to her left eyebrow. Also, on the lower left, the smear is spreading. The background is grey on the bottom of the mirror, and the top is mint-colored.
Since I got diagnosed with my illness, my physical appearance changed drastically. My face was getting thin so fast. My eyes were popping out more. My skin got pale. And many days, I got this dark shadow under my eyes. I looked sick. I was sick. And I was getting sick of looking at my face looking sick. So I started avoiding looking at mirrors. I looked down anytime I washed my hands in front of the bathroom mirror, even at the hospital. With all the tubes coming out of my body, I was more afraid to confront my Frankenstein feature.
After I got slightly better, I started to think about myself more. And I wanted to record about me for myself and for everyone that loves and cares about me. So I started taking more selfies. I’m not a huge fan of selfies, but I started taking them to show what’s happening in my surroundings. At the hospital, I also recorded some videos while I was eating. After I got discharged, I started treatment as an out-patient. The treatment took over an hour, so I decided to draw something, and I thought it was an excellent time to start making a self-portrait again. So I took my portable mirror out.
I set it on a small table. It was tricky to angle it right since it was a small mirror. I used to draw a face starting with an eye. But this time, I started with my face and head outline. My eyes came in pretty late stage. At that time, I didn’t overthink it. But looking back on what I was doing, I realized that I avoided looking at my eyes. I was still uncomfortable with myself. But once I started drawing my eyes and looking into my eyes, I got my confidence back. And I enjoyed making the drawing a lot.
Since this drawing, I started practicing staring at my eyes every chance I got. It helps me feel at ease. Also, I started noticing differences in my face, skin condition, color complexion, or something depending on my overall condition. Also, it can be beneficial for me to observe changes.
I’m proud of myself for overcoming the fear of facing my face. It leads me to decide to make a series of self-portraits. I’m going to record my face as much as I can. Each drawing or painting will be different, and it’d reflect my day. I’m looking forward to building this series to look back and remember all the days with ups and downs.
If you are interested in my self-portrait series, please visit my Instagram; @hwanleehwan.