Mental Health Nail Art Collaboration

I would usually be coming at you with my weekly manicure wrap-up post today. It is Friday, after all. And we all know how I love to celebrate Friday by looking back at all my mani shenanigans over the past week. And I decided to do a “wear all the reds” theme for this week, so I have a lot of stuff to show. I think I managed to sneak in more manicures than usual, since I was really focused on wearing as many reds as I could. But (!!) … Today’s post isn’t that.

For today’s post, I have something different and a little special. At the beginning of April, @dragonsnails on Instagram contacted me to ask if I wanted to participate in a nail art collaboration. This was the first time anyone had asked if I wanted to collab, so I was beyond excited. I said an enthusiastic yes in about a second and a half. The final collage of all the manicures in the collaboration was ready to post on IG yesterday. I had planned, all along, to do a blog post about the collab and my manicure. I intended to get this up yesterday, but I ran out of time. So. Here I am today.

This is going to be a different kind of post. It’s going to be a LOT chattier than normal, and it’s going to have fewer pictures. If you don’t enjoy chatty, picture-light posts, I apologize. This isn’t the norm, but I want to explain my own background with the condition I chose, as well as the meaning behind my manicure. If you just want to see my finished manicure, skip to the bottom of the post. It’s down there. I promise.


For the Mental Health Collaboration, there was a list of mental health conditions. Each participant chose one of them as inspiration for his or her manicure. The idea behind the collaboration is to bring awareness to the struggle people with these conditions experience on a daily basis, as well as (hopefully) humanizing each condition to cut the social stigma and isolation these can bring.


This is the collage of all the manicures in the collaboration. This beautiful collage was created by @dragonsnails. Here is a list of the IG user names of all the participants: ; @nailandcreate ; @pishnguyen (that’s me! woo!); @nailedit67 ; @dee_seven_eight ; @trishamoon333 ; @veenus34 ;  @olga_petra ; @jill.friesen ; @fingertipmasterpieces ; @nails_by_jamaica_nb ; @azpolish ; @osmovaara ; @dropped_stitches ; @glamournailart ; @bsreya ; @krissycardnz ; @lunaaaaaatica ; @stylenail101 ; @dees.nailart ; @andrussnails ; @dragonsnails .

I’m not sure if actual links work within a WordPress post, but hopefully you can go to Instagram and cut and paste the user names into the search box to find all of these beautiful pages. I hope you will visit them to see more detailed pictures of their manicures, as well as the inspirations and stories behind them. I feel like this was a creative group, and a lot of beautiful manicures emerged from this collab.


I chose PTSD as my inspiration. As soon as I saw PTSD on the list of available mental health conditions, I knew it was the one for me, because it is near and dear to my heart. PTSD is a condition that affects many of us on a day-to-day basis. You read that right. I said “us”, because I also deal with PTSD every day. I was diagnosed with it, as well as anxiety and depression, several years ago. I remember feeling surprised when I got my diagnosis. Up until that point, I thought of PTSD as something that affected people who had been through something violently traumatic, like soldiers returning from war or survivors of a violent crime. But this isn’t true. It affects a lot of people, and it affects us all in different ways.

I kept my depression, anxiety, and PTSD hidden for a long time. Really, saying I “hid” them isn’t accurate. It’s more like I actively pretended like nothing was wrong with me. I actively pretended like my life was perfect, like I had everything completely together, and like none of this was happening to me in the background of my mind and my emotions. I did this in a number of ways, but the main way is that I tried to organize and control everything in my life down to the Nth Degree. I was obsessive over it. Now, I realize this was me trying to control my emotions and life by controlling the little things in it that I could change. It’s hard to explain, but I was so good at pretending that I believed myself. I had no idea how much I was coping until everything in my carefully constructed world fell apart. After I had my daughter, and after she reached a certain age, something just clicked inside me. I realized things were not right with me, and that things had never been right with me. I couldn’t cope any more. And I got into therapy. I got my diagnosis, and I began the process of learning how to live my life.


Although I have PTSD, it is very hard for me to talk about it or write about it. Part of PTSD is that you try not to think about or remember the events that led to the disorder. For me, this has included not thinking about or trying to qualify my feelings about PTSD, even after years of therapy. In some respects, it’s like I still try to ignore my PTSD, which isn’t the best thing for me to do. I’m working on it.

In researching what I wanted to do for my manicure, I found an article or blog entry by a woman who wrote about living with this illness. I stupidly forgot to note her name or the name of her blog. I have gone back to find it again, and I haven’t been successful. This woman talked about how she lived so much of her life in shades of black and white, with white representing her belief she had to be perfect to make those around her happy and black representing her feelings of failure when she was unable to do this. As she started to heal, she realized most of her life really was gray, because that’s where her own feelings and emotions lived. She talked about how it was hard to have her own feelings and emotions without alienating the people around her.

This article resonated with me on a deep level. Because I could have written it, if I was capable of writing about my own life. PTSD has touched every aspect of my life. I have probably suffered with PTSD, without realizing it, for my entire life. It has turned me into a “pleaser”. Someone who feels she can’t say no, even when she wants to. Someone who believes she has to ensure everyone around her is happy at all times, and who feels anxious and scared when that isn’t the case. I’ve lived my life in the white and the black. As I went through therapy, I also realized my own feelings were in the gray areas. I realized I really wanted and needed to live my life in the gray, so I could learn to be comfortable and confident with my own emotions and feelings. I needed to learn to have my own emotions and feelings, which is a lot harder to do in your thirties than your childhood years. So I knew I wanted to include some idea of the black, white, and gray in my manicure. I discovered teal was the awareness color for PTSD, so I knew I wanted to use a teal color in some way. And I wanted something in the design to show there is hope or a light at the end of what feels like a very long tunnel.



This is my manicure for the collaboration. At last! If you managed to wade through the rest of my post, huzzah! You have made it to the end.

For the water marble, I used OPI, Black Onyx (a black), China Glaze, Blanc Out (a white), and China Glaze, Street Style Princess (a gray). As I mentioned above, I wanted to use some form of the idea that we live our lives in shades of black, white, and gray in my manicure. I decided to water marble with these colors to represent how PTSD feels in my own life. I’ve tried, in the past, to live my life completely in shades of white or black. Really, I tried to live in a way that would make everyone around me happy. I thought that, if I disappeared completely, that would be good. And that’s what I tried to do. As my coping mechanisms started to fall apart around me, my life switched more toward black. I felt like a failure. I felt like a nothing. I felt like I shouldn’t exist at all. Through therapy, I realized I needed to have my emotions and feelings. Not only did I need to have them, but I wanted to have them. Because they were mine. But I was going through such strong emotional shifts that it felt almost too much to manage. It still feels like that, sometimes. I feel like an emotional three-year-old stuck in an almost-50 body. The water marble mixes all these colors together to represent the emotional turmoil and jumble that is PTSD.

I used Zoya, Charla, which is a lovely teal, on two accent nails to represent the PTSD awareness color. I stamped a design on them with Funky Fingers, Gesso. The design is from Born Pretty plate BP-24.

I decided to use swallows to represent hope. In my internet wanderings, I discovered that swallow tattoos were historically worn by sailors to indicate their years of experience on the sea. A sailor would sometimes get a swallow tattoo at the start of his first voyage, and he would add a second swallow when he returned safely to his home port. If a sailor drowned at sea, there was a legend that said the swallows would carry his soul to heaven. Because swallows don’t fly far out to sea, sailors would know they were nearing the end of a journey and a safe port when they started seeing swallows in the sky.  All of these resonated with me on a deep emotional level. PTSD feels like the longest, hardest journey. But, I wanted the swallows to show there is hope for an end. There is hope for the strength to persevere through the bad days, and there is hope for a better day at the end of each bad one. There is hope that I can become the person I want to be, without guilt or fear.


Not much of a conclusion today, because I feel like I said everything I wanted or needed to say. I’ve never written about my PTSD, not even in my “daily life” blog. I’ve never talked about it with anyone other than my therapist. So, this post was scary for me and emotionally exhausting. But I think this is a good thing, in a way.

I am so happy I was able to participate in this collaboration. It was wonderful to work with such a positive and supportive group of talented nail polish lovers. It’s always great to find more members of the nail polish addicts tribe. Many of the manicures have already posted on Instagram, and I have loved seeing them, as well as reading about the inspirations behind them. There is a lot of meaning packed into these designs!

Thanks for visiting my blog. And thanks for sticking out what was a long and difficult post. I’m planning to be back tomorrow with my weekly manicure wrap-up.




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