I wear nail polish all the time. It is one of my benchmarks for how I’m doing – how I’m feeling.
All of a sudden, I’ll realize: I haven’t worn nail polish in weeks. Chipped off into oblivion. Taking the time to focus on my nails has become one more task on an already lengthy list. Even through the brain fog, showers or hair brushing is chosen over painting my nails. So they go bare, their natural hue.
Depression beauty is an odd thing to pin down. I’ll realize I can’t remember when the last time was that I took a shower or washed my hair. Don’t get me wrong, I have shame around that. I think, Oh god, people can’t find out. It takes so much effort to complete what people see as ‘basic’ tasks, as non-negotiable parts of their day.
There was one day in particular which was a struggle to get up and out. I felt like molasses was dragging down all my limbs. I somehow had managed to get dressed, brush my hair — even to eat some breakfast. I arrived at work, mentally congratulating myself for not calling in sick — for being brave when I didn’t feel well.
And all it takes is one crack about my hair looking like a birds nest and I just about crawled home.
Depression beauty is about pulling it together as best you can for yourself and other people. Depression beauty can be embarrassing. It’s like lifting a veil on already rampant mental health stigma to reveal even deeper beliefs on how it should all be done. When I’m in the midst of my depression, everything is more difficult. Each action requires additional effort. Winston Churchill called his depression, “the black dog”, constantly trailing after him. It’s embarrassing to admit to what lengths I’m not able to participate in ‘normal’ day-to-day tasks. Showering daily is out of the question. Clean hair is unlikely. Getting dressed is a victory. Going to work is triumphant.
When I’m depressed, these things seem like Everest. When I’m not, my brain conveniently forgets and I self-shame my lack of ability. That’s because when it is at its worse, I simply don’t leave the house. I’m in bed, tousled, smudged and unbathed.