Today, the blogging community is coming together under the banner #fightforlifeandlive, urging others to post green manis for Depression Awareness. Previously, this is something I'd have jumped at, but for some reason, I've been really reluctant.
It's taken me a few days to work out why, and I think it's mainly because I have no more story to tell. I have written frequently about depression on this blog (you can find them all under this label), and I didn't want to just regurge myself today. So I decided to sit it out.
Then yesterday, I spent half the day in the nail room, with the gorgeous new Literary Lacquer polishes, doing nail art after nail art, and I realised, THIS is the story I have never told. So, with a little help from Literary Lacquers Who Which Whatsit, here is the story of how nail polish genuinely helps me fight my depression.
We need to do the science first. I am a voracious reader. Love it. Devour books in a day person. But one of the really vicious "perks" of depression is an inability to read more than a paragraph at a time. Books are just too much to absorb, because there is not enough brain left to process it. Magazines are ok - they're more of a buffet than a meal - and social media is ideal, as you can flit over the words like a butterfly. Blogging? Perfect.
So with a ravaged mind that can't be soothed with the medication you have used since you were 3 years old, where do you turn? Well, eventually, as you know, I turned to nail polish. I've joked with people before that it's like my yoga, and it really is. When my depression hits hard, and I can't even be bothered to do my nails, THAT'S when I really value how much it helps me. So how DOES it help?
For me, it works on a number of levels. It's the fact that it's a "still" and largely silent activity - craving of silence (from others, and the voices in your own head, is so integral to this illness), and I like that you have to slow your breathing down to a more yogic pace as you concentrate on not being a messy pup.
Then there's the peace of creating something, of watching the seed of nail art grow from the toxic barren soil of your mind. The soothing strokes, the magic (albeit sometimes muted) pop of a great idea.
And I like to look at them. They're pretty. Just looking at that spectrum of colours or stroking the bottles (yes, I DO do that sometimes) is therapeutic, especially when your cats are nowhere to be seen (let alone hugged).
When you're in a dark place, and you feel like you've gotten nothing out of your day, it's nice to look and see that colour and creativity on your hands. It's an inversion of the famous "I hurt myself to prove that I can feel". It's "I made this so I must exist", as well as a reminder that colour DOES exist, and the entire world is not as grey or sludgey as your mind.
It's a little like a nail polish equivalent of The Giver. Our world feels grey, sounds grey, veers to black. This is the way I add colour back in, especially the colours that help me feel - the tranquil touch of lilac, the "please help me feel this bright" of orange or pink, or the "dammit, I'm fighting" of red.
And finally, the real win - it comes with no threat. A lot of us who love doing our nails have body issues. We're too fat, we're too ugly, we have this, we have that. Nail polish carries no judgement. People don't like your nails? They blame the polish, NOT YOU. For those of us with brittle self-esteem, this is crucial. When the mani is gorgeous we get to soak up the praise, but when it's shit, we don't have to absorb it, because the criticism isn't directed at us. Nail polish is SAFE.
I've deliberately not done nail art today - I didn't want to "put on a show", I just wanted to do something simple. One of the things I am proudest of with this blog is the number of people who have said my writing about depression has helped them - either because it has articulated what it's like to suffer, or because it's helped them understand what a loved one is going through.
So again, we are not in this alone. But man, it often feels like it.