Friday, March 1, 2013

Keep Fighting Manicures

Sandra Bickel of Nails Love Polish and I have teamed up together with some fellow bloggers to bring you awareness manis.  Today, March 1st 2013, we all want to show our love, support, and encouragement to the many teenagers who self-harm.  One in six teens self-harms, which can easily lead to suicide.  Before I share my manicure with you, I want to share my own story of struggle with self-harm.

My mother died on my 14th birthday.  This caused a lot of difficulty for me.  As a kid, I was labeled "weird" because I didn't have any real friends, and preferred to read over watching TV.  I wasn't into all the things the other kids were into, and I was extremely shy and had social anxiety (I still do!).  Because of this shyness, I was bullied.  Kids called me names like "Smelly Kelli" and would hit me or blame stupid things on me.  I took it, going home to bury my sadness in my books. 
I loved to draw and in second grade, my art teacher begged me to let her enter a drawing of mine into the school's art competition.  I won, and went to the regional competition, where I didn't place.  The teacher loved the drawing and asked to keep it.  Because of this, the other kids amped up the bullying.  My love of creating still goes strong.
Even at home there wasn't much peace.  I couldn't seem to do anything right, my klutziness and accident-prone nature was an irritant.  The only solace I had was in visiting my grandparents for the weekend, where I could read to my heart's content, go fishing with my grandfather in the quiet dawn hours, or spend Friday nights watching my grandparents and their friends dance.
Around sixth grade the bullying really got bad.  I had developed depression around third grade but kept it hidden.  I went to a total of four different schools, two different elementary, two different middle.  Seventh grade was absolute hell; I was in a brand new school where not only the kids were mean, but the teachers too.  The only teachers who were ever nice to me were the art and gym teachers.  I hated the school I went to and, thankfully, Mom decided to homeschool me for eighth grade.
I passed eighth grade with A's and B's.  No, Mom didn't cheat for me, she made me study HARD.  I loved it though, because my introvert nature was satisfied with plenty of reading time and a lack of peer bullying.
Seeing Mom die wasn't easy.  I'll never forget the events that happened, or seeing her stagger down the hallway and collapse into a chair.  She spent three days in a coma, and right after my small 14th birthday party I was asked to let Mom go.  She wasn't getting any better, and it was best to take her off life support.  I finally agreed, but just two hours later, she died.  I resented not being there with her to say my final farewell.  After the worst of the pain dulled into that horrible nagging ache, I started cutting myself.  I wanted to die, but I didn't want my grandparents to lose someone else they loved.  I hid my pain behind cussing and extreme rebellion.  In my junior year of high school, the cutting got really bad.  My forearms and wrists were covered in cuts where I used a filet knife or just my own fingernails.  I was bullied right from the start in my new high school, and just couldn't deal with the pain of Mom's death AND the bullying.  To me, the physical pain was an outlet, a way to release the inner pain I felt.  My grandparents got worried and almost ended up placing me in a mental hospital.  I would go into screaming fits because it seemed that absolutely no one understood how I felt. 
I was an outcast, I didn't fit in anywhere.  I didn't know how to talk to people, how to act, how to dress, how to be.  Well-meaning family would try to tell me what to do, but I always failed at it.  I hated my difference.
You see, I'm almost a textbook introvert.  I love to read, I love to be creative, I hate crowds and having to make small talk.  I'd prefer a discussion about Austen or Poe over talking about who wore what to the Oscars.  That kind of stuff just doesn't interest me at all.  Because of this, I developed social anxiety and would quake at the thought of talking to even one person. 
I struggled with self-harm up until my early twenties.  It's been many years since I took a knife to my skin, and in that time I've been through a very hurtful situation in a place that should have offered acceptance and love.  I left that place three years ago, and things have improved.  I have been going through Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and things have improved.  I've learned to not fuse with negative thoughts, I've learned defusion techniques, how to expand and make room for thoughts, feelings, and sensations in my body caused by these thoughts and feelings.  It's helped me tremendously.
My scars have faded but still show in the right light.  The ones that are visible I count as battle wounds.  I fought with depression and the desire to, if not die, cause harm to myself.  I'm 32 now, approaching my forties not caring if I act my age or not.  I've been learning to accept ME, especially when others don't.  I'm learning to love myself, to love how different and unique I am, and it's not without its discomfort.  I accept that discomfort, because there are people and goals that I value far above this discomfort.  I hope to one day be that purple-haired old lady with bright pink lipstick, leopard-print EVERYTHING, that doesn't care if others think she should act her age.  Oh, and plays a mean bass guitar (a goal I'm hoping to start on soon!).

I hope that sharing this with you has given you encouragement.  Whether you're reading this today, or years on down the road, I hope you are encouraged.  You are not alone.  You are not the only one like you.  We're all different and it's so hard to find kindred spirits when so many are putting on masks.  Take the mask off.  Be YOU, because you are beautiful and wonderfully and fearfully made.  you are a masterpiece, no matter what the art critics say.

I leave you with a "poem" that I love, written by Poe.  I'll only say this: The demon in his view is what I interpret as those who desire us to be a cookie-cutter image.  We're not supposed to be like that.  We're supposed to be unique, daring individuals who defy convention and dance to the music we make in our hearts.

Be yourself, but you are NOT alone!

From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then- in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life- was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold,
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view. 

Without further ado, here is my Keep Fighting manicure:

 The purple ribbon is for suicide prevention, the green is for depression awareness.  We have to be more than just "aware", we have to ACT and do all we can to help those we love who suffer from depression.  I used Essence Gray-t To Be Here and Lush Lacquers' Salt 'N Peppa on my pinky to show that not everything is black and white, not everything comes in absolutes.  There is room to maneuver.  On my middle finger I used Essence Cafe Ole and Lush Lacquers' Lite Brite to show that there is absolute beauty in diversity.  Together, we all make up the colors of the rainbow.  The name of the glitter is fitting, because there IS light no matter how dark things may seem.

I combined the green and purple colors for my HOPE thumb design.  This happened a bit by accident, as I was painting the "O", I suddenly saw a ribbon.  There is hope, no matter how bleak things may seem.  As long as there is hope, there is victory!  You can do it!

As long as we keep fighting and don't give up, the defeat of depression and suicide will come. You are a masterpiece, and those who insult you insult the Artist who created you.  You are so much more valuable and beautiful than you think.  I don't know you personally and may never meet you, but I know that you are an amazing and wonderful being, full of possibilities, talents, gifts, and love.

With love and support,

The Nail Nerd