As a nurse, specifically a surgical RN, acrylic nails are a major no-no. There are plenty of documented cases of nurses’ nails being the source of some pretty horrendous infections. Given that, nails were never really on my agenda. Lately, however, my nails have been a pretty extreme source of despair for me. Since I am now in an administrative role (read: paper pusher) and do not provide direct patient care, the possibility of nails became real and you guessed it, I got them done over the weekend. Since I’ve included a photo of my new nails, this should be the end of the blog post, right? Well, maybe. The reason getting nails was important to me is much bigger than vanity.
I feel compelled to share. I also feel really uncomfortable sharing. Two and a half years ago, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. My symptoms had been happening for years, but I chose to ignore it until I couldn’t ignore it any longer. A big part of me wishes that I had never pursued the diagnosis, that I hadn’t allowed myself to be “labeled” with this. I’ve alluded to my condition in other posts, but I’ve never jumped in to detail much. I created this blog as an outlet, and escape. I’ve never wanted it to be anything more than a lighthearted, fun place to connect with others who are as product-obsessed as I am. In fact, The Fabulush was intended to be the antithesis to the RA – an escape from the painful reality, a lighthearted and fun focus that was other than that. I’m beginning to realize, however that (for better or for worse) this corner of my world only exists because of the RA and as such, is part and parcel of The Fabulush just as it is part and parcel of me.
I had always loved beauty products. I have vivid childhood memories of listening to compacts snap shut as my mother applied her makeup in the morning and of sitting at my grandmothers vanity applying candy-apple red lipstick and magnolia-scented face powder. My deep obsession didn’t set in until the RA took away everything else I loved.
Unrelenting foot pain meant that my shoe fetish was literally torture. Toxic medications took away red wine. Running and running around became too painful to fathom. My professional aspirations? Those took a left turn at trying to imagine explaining constant appointments and rough mornings. Don’t even get me started on friendships. Suffice it to say that chronic illness teaches you very quickly who your real friends are – and you can bet money that you’d be able to count them on one swollen hand. Through this, I realized that I had to find an outlet – something to enjoy, something to make me feel hope – and something that would make me feel pretty. The steroids and grotesque weight gain took a real toll there, too.
I don’t want to belabor the point and dive into all of the gory details. The reality is that managing a chronic disease is far more debilitating that simply managing the disease. With it comes constant battles: doctors who minimize, insurance companies who deny, children that don’t understand (and who should never have to) and a strange loneliness that comes from never really being authentic with people because you just don’t want to hear yourself explain or complain one…more…time…
In my case, my hands suffer the most and mornings are such a challenge. I keep pliers and wrenches in the kitchen and in my vanity drawers to open the things that my hands can’t manage. I’ve shattered more cell phone screens than I can count. I know exactly how far coffee grounds will travel when you drop a full bag from roughly four feet. While some aspects become easier to cope with, the situation with my hands is getting progressively worse. Every morning, I look at the horrid little piggies with their varying shades of red and white an I curse. It’s painful, sure…but the frustration is in the disability, not the pain.
My fingernails will not grow. But the shortness isn’t what makes them ugly. They are pitted. They split and peel. I can try to make them pretty with polish, but within a day the polish is peeling off making them look worse than when they were naked.
Jewelry? I keep my wedding ring on. Most days, taking it off wouldn’t even be a possibility. I tried on a ring in a store not too long ago and had to buy it – once it was on, I couldn’t get it off my swollen little sausage. Walkin up to the counter was shameful, explaining it to the store clerk was beyond embarrassing. As the cooler weather continues to creep in the pain continues to worsen. It’s karmic payback for making fun of my grandmother and her “rheumatizz”. Every single time I looked at my hands, I became angry. Angry that I can’t have pretty hands that work. Angry that I can’t have cute little reindeer painted on my ring finger. Angry that I’ve collected jewelry for years that now sits in a drawer, unworn. So I finally decided to do something about it and I got nails. Now I’m not angry when I look at my hands. I’m happy. I’m happy that I took some control back. I’m happy that my hands look a little bit prettier, knotty knuckles and technicolors notwithstanding. I painted them tonight and they look pretty.
Beauty is about so much more than a lipstick brand or a hair color. When you feel like shit, putting on makeup goes a long way to making you feel better. Beauty can help restore a sense of control. Beauty can provide a welcome distraction from the painful days. Beauty can be fun – I think we all realize that you just can’t get that serious about something you can wash off with soap and water. What has been most important for me though is that beauty can provide a connection. Through this journey I have met so many women who turned to beauty when chronic illness robbed them of everything else.
Thank you for reading. I’ll leave you with this amazingly cheeseball picture of me trying to pose in such a way that you can see my new nails. Looks natural, right?!?!? 😉 I have no excuse for the graphic eyebrows or my fivehead.