How Nail Polish Got Me Out of Bed

One woman turned illness into awesomeness with a trip to her local drug store.

| November 15th, 2011
Simcha Whitehill
Nail Art & Illness

I had meningitis and I lived to tell the tale. At the time in my life when I felt my most un-pretty, little did I know that beauty would help me get better.

Before I got sick, I was your average New York City working girl. My closet was bigger than my kitchen and it took me over an hour to get ready in the morning, from picking out the perfect accessories for my outfit, to coiffing my pompadour, to applying my favorite shade of red lipstick. I took a lot of pride in my appearance. I mean, how could you not wear high heels when you’re strutting next to skyscrapers?

In one headache, I went from being girlie by nature to bedridden for nearly 2 years.

During that time, I was stuck lying flat out on my back all day. I’ll spare you the gory details, but to me, nothing seemed uglier than my appearance, which had gone from something I constantly worked at to something I could no longer control.

I felt hopelessly trapped in my broken down body.

When you’re in constant pain, there is no escape from it; it’s like an intense alarm constantly racketing through your brain. I would have given anything to make it stop for just ten minutes. The pills weren’t doing the trick.

Luckily, I discovered relief could come in another kind of bottle: nail polish.

After watching one of my favorite movies for the millionth time, “Earth Girls Are Easy”— the story of a colorful Los Angeles manicurist played by Geena Davis who falls for a hairy Jeff Goldblum (haven’t we all!)—it occurred to me that rad nail art was something I could even do in my situation.

So I started painting—and didn’t stop.

Ashley MacknicaWhen life hands you lemons, make lemonade in glitter on your nails!
Lemonade Nails

Free to create whatever design I wanted—pink poodles, polka dots, Poké Balls, bows, pizza, plaid, palm trees, you name it, nail polish gave me back my sense of self. It turned my life around.

Insomnia became the perfect free time to absorb nail art how-to videos on YouTube. The promise of a new shade of polish motivated me to struggle to walk to my corner drug store. I gave myself a nail art alter ego and started to blog my designs at MissPopNails.tumblr.com. Nail art even made me feel more comfortable allowing friends to visit and so they could also play with my beauty goodies.

Crafting detailed mural manicures made me feel like I wasn’t a worthless lump.

Now, I was a nail artist. I was painting just like Michelangelo did the Sistine Chapel— on his back! Maybe my images were, uh, quainter, but soon, my sick bed had turned into a salon.

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