The Common, but Unspoken Symptom of Depression I Struggle With
When you’ve studied psychology long enough to understand how mental illness works, you start to analyze your own life and behavious and put the pieces together.
I’ve been experiencing depression and social anxiety for many years, but it wasn’t until eight months ago that I received an official diagnosis of major depressive disorder. That wasn’t news to me. The psychiatrist wrote me a prescription for a new medication and told me to taper off of my previous one.
I know that antidepressants and other psychiatric meds are often a “hit or miss” when it comes to treating symptoms. Personally, I find my new medication helps with upping my mood a bit. There’s still that sense of emptiness inside me, but at least I can smile more often.
But medications don’t treat the other aspects of depression. Things like lack of motivation, fluctuating sleep patterns and anhedonia — these are the ones that everyone talks about. There’s one all-too-common-yet-no-one-mentions symptom that affects me particularly hard, however, and that’s neglecting self-care.
I’m being real here. I can’t remember the last time I took a shower. I’ve skipped brushing my teeth two nights in a row. There have been many times I’ve left the house without putting on deodorant. My diet has been crappy and I’ve either skipped meals or binged on unhealthy food.
For most people, hygiene is something that’s second nature — you jump in the shower every morning without even thinking. Because that’s what we’re supposed to do, right? Well, when you’re dealing with depression or some other mental disorder, performing daily hygiene activities can be a battle. For me, it’s not that I don’t want to shower… it’s just, I don’t have the energy or motivation to do it. And I struggle with chronic foot pain, so that makes it even harder to stand in a shower stall barefoot.
Before you cringe at me and retort something like, “Eww! Who in the world is 21 and doesn’t shower regularly?” please try to understand where I’m coming from. When you’re depressed, your mind and body doesn’t want to do anything except lie down on the couch and be as still as possible. Your energy levels are low. You don’t have any plans to go out in the world and be productive, so you don’t bother with showering since you’re not going to be interacting with anyone anyway. You know that you haven’t washed your hair in a week and you can already feel your scalp itching, but you can’t motivate yourself to get up from the couch. You know it’s not healthy to go days without cleaning yourself, but you just don’t care.
I wrote this while in bed wearing week-old socks and four-day-old underwear. I haven’t changed my bedsheets in two weeks. Last week I got a haircut and rinsed my hair in the bathroom sink. Because that’s how depression is for me.
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Unsplash photo via Floria Perennes