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Yellow Nail Polish: The Cyclical Nature of Depression

At about the age of seven, I begged my mom to buy me a bottle of neon
yellow nail polish. After a few minutes (or what must have felt like an eon to
my dear mother) of pleading, she caved. Insisting on carrying it all the way
home, I cradled it in small, sticky hands and sat it on my lap until we
arrived. I showed it the sights: the colorful matatus rushing past the
window, the dried shrubs by the road, and the dusty potholes that speckled
the sidewalk. We entered the gate and I dashed to my bedroom, surveying
for a spot to place my new trinket. I couldn’t wait to decorate my crusty
nubs , ‘cinderella-ing’ them into glossy works of art.
After a whopping ten minutes of waiting for the thick, unevenly applied
goop to dry, I insisted on checking if my nail polish was dry. I took one of
my fingers and pressed the top of each nail, leaving deep fingerprints on
each one. Frustrated, I rushed back into my room and applied another
sloppy coat. Again, after waiting a few minutes I checked – and again, the
same result.
Over and over again I pressed, smudged, reapplied, countless times, each
result being worse than the last. I was over it. I tiptoed up to the sink and
swung the handle all the way to the left. One hand gripped a ball of steel
wool and the other bathed in the scalding water spurting out of the tap. I
relentlessly scrubbed at my nails, the hot water causing my hands to first
feel tingly and then numb.

‘Stupid. I am stupid. How could I do this to myself?’ Warm tears ran down
my cheeks as salty snot dripped down my lip and into my mouth – but I
didn;t care. The job was done. I looked down at my palms and faced the
damage I had done. My cuticles bled and my palms were cherry red. My
fingertips were raisined and had been rubbed completely raw. ‘Stupid. I am
stupid. Why hadn’t I just been patient, willing to wipe my nails and ask my
mom for help?’
Looking back at this incident, this was my first act of self-harm. But it does
serve as the perfect metaphor for the things we constantly do while
ignoring our negative emotions. We notice what we think is a shiny new
‘solution’ for the depression we are feeling: denial. ‘Finally! This is perfect,
I’ll just sweep all my issues under the rug and ignore them, simple’ – but we
mess up again.
The mask slips and those thoughts reemerge. Again we cover it up,
convinced that we can fix it this time…until it happens yet again. It
becomes a cycle of pain, guilt, delusion, and denial.
Finally, the mask cracks and crumbles away and we are worse off than
when we started.
Depression deceives you and convinces you that it can just be ignored. On
the contrary, it is like a persistent tumor; it continues to grow and mutate,
overriding and hijacking the entire self. It is not to be ignored. With early
acknowledgement, help, and correction, we don’t need to stage at which it
could be fata

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