I stopped painting my nails.
I have 3 plastic tubs of nail polish. I have all the colors. Well, not all the colors. There are always colors that I don’t have but I’m telling you, I have a ton. My nails were always painted mainly because nail polish always looks good. Your hair can go to shit, your clothes can turn against you, but your nails will always be there for you (I mean, you have to work at it but still…they’re less likely to betray you).
I was wearing bright red a few months ago, and one finger started to chip. It’s not a big deal. I usually let it chip for a day, then I remove it and repaint. This time though, I let it chip until all of it was gone and my nails were bare.
And I said to myself, “Meh.”
Days went by. I woke up in the morning, disgusted by my bare nails and did nothing about it. They started to get long and I’d just bite them off because the thought of painting them exhausted me.
At the same time, I started hating my job. Everything about it was an absolute fucking chore. The kids made me anxious and angry. They weren’t amusing anymore; they all wanted something from me and I just did not want to give it to them. Granted that “something” was to check out books and that’s in my job description but when you have one after another trickling in like Chinese water torture they end up sucking your will to live every time they ask how many books they have checked out, or if the book they put on hold 5 minutes earlier had come in.
Even Annie, dear, sweet Annie, with her quirky 9-year-old sensibilities that closely resembled my own 31-year-old sensibilities, felt no love from me. When she rejected my suggestion of our latest hamster graphic novel I vowed never to suggest anything to her again. She had lost me as a grown-up ally and she didn’t even know it.
Something was wrong.
The holidays started, and I sat on my couch, biting my nails and dreading work even though I’d have two weeks off. We put up our Christmas tree which I enjoyed, but it stopped there. That feeling…the Christmas feeling. When you’re really excited to give people presents and eat cookies and get dressed up and all the GLITTER. That didn’t come. I tried. I made lists, I checked them twice, and I still felt like I was forcing myself to act like a human. I hit a breaking point the week before Christmas. I had bills due and gifts to buy and no money and just showering was an absolute fucking chore. I was scared, but too covered in existential mud to care.
The only person I told was my mom. I told her that if this didn’t go away by January I was going to see someone. She understood and did the Mom Thing (for the record, no one does the Mom Thing better than my mom). It helped as much as the Mom Thing can, but I felt so fucking guilty. The guilt hit me like a Mack truck. Who was I to be this needy? Who was I to sit there and be an energy-suck when everyone around me was trying to get in the holiday spirit? Who the fuck am I?
Anxiety teamed up with guilt and wouldn’t let me sleep when all I wanted to do was sleep forever. My mantra became, “Is it going to be okay?” (said with that deer-in-the-headlights look). My heart would wake me up at night, racing and exploding out of my chest. I’d sit up and the blood would rush to my head and I’d think this was it. I’d wait for the pain to reach my left arm but it never would, and I’d go back to being angry and worried and not giving a shit about my nails.
Somehow, there was a part of me that didn’t give in. She stood in the shadows with clenched fists, seething at the fact that I was being such a goddamned pussy about everything while at the same time completely understanding what was happening. It’s like she was saying, “Girl, I get it. I totally get it but you need to work through this ASAP because this is not you. This is not healthy. You’re not a fucking pussy.”
She helped me find things that I found comforting. I went through all 10 seasons of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I played Grand Theft Auto, and Dragon Age, and Bingo Bash just to keep my brain working. She told me when to ask for a hug from my mom, and when to apologize for being a bitch, and when to tell my boss that I was having a hard time and to take it easy on me should I stab a child. She held on to my sense of humor for me, and most of my personality. She helped me to appear relatively normal to most people.
The holidays ended and I felt instant relief. It wasn’t total relief; I still had a hard time getting back into the swing of things. It felt better to stay on the couch with Charlie Day and run from the Los Santos police department than to clean my room or go outside. Going back to work helped, too. I was still burned out and overwhelmed, but the kids seemed a little nicer. Annie loved my Cold War book recommendation and we were friends again.
They say that every day it gets better, but that’s not true. Some days are better than others. Hell, some hours are better than others. And going through something like this doesn’t make you stronger, at least not right off. I’m weaker and more susceptible to falling back into it. I feel it in the back of my head and I sometimes have to actively push it back. But at least I’m able to recognize when things are actually bad and when I’m making them bad. I have a ways to go before I feel like my total self again, but I am feeling lighter these days. I’ve never gone through depression like this; I don’t know why it happened, I don’t know what caused it, and I never want to do it again.
Also I really need to paint my fucking nails.