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What ‘Treat Yourself’ Means to Me as Someone With Depression

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I’ve found myself saying these words more often lately, usually encouraging someone to take care of themselves, even if it’s just in seemingly small ways. I’ve used these words when a work colleague has asked if she should buy a doughnut today or when a friend has asked if they should buy a new dress for the weekend. These are pretty “normal” instances when one would treat oneself — but what does “treat yourself” mean to me?

1. Being sociable.

Something I’ve always been conflicted about when I was depressed was how much I knew I used to love meeting new people. When I was buried under layers of self-loathing and rock bottom confidence, I had no energy to start a conversation, let alone start a friendship. Living with depression can make me want to isolate myself from the world, but at the same time, all I want to do is go out with friends and be surrounded by people. A phone call with a friend can make my twisted and chaotic thoughts mold into rational thoughts that don’t make me feel completely overwhelmed by my mind. I know I am doing well in my recovery when I want to meet new people and put myself out there. Having that same confidence I once used to have has always been the end goal for me.

2. Buying a coffee in the morning.

People often wonder why I am always late, and I have nothing to say to them because it’s just what I’ve done for so long. I can remember being so sad the moment I woke up that I was often late to school because I could not even bring myself to dress myself for school. I would spend at least an hour getting up enough courage to face the day that I would almost always be late. On the rare occasion that I’m not late due to not being motivated enough to get out of bed or dress myself, I treat myself with getting a coffee. For me, it’s a little reward for deciding the day was worth getting up for and a reminder that small things can make a big difference in the day of someone with depression.

3. Listening to music.

I used to love music. I loved singing and teaching myself new songs on the piano. In the darkest days of my depression, I couldn’t listen to the bands and songs I used to love because any emotional songs would make me feel 10 times worse than I already did. This really affected me because I was at war in my head. I thought to myself, Why can’t I love something anymore that I know is a big part of who I am? Do I not know who I am anymore?

On days when I feel stable and calm, I like to go in search of new music and look up the lyrics to understand the full power and emotions the song evokes. Music is so powerful and can make us feel so many wonderfully diverse human emotions. This is why I cherish listening to music as I know I am strong enough to relate the lyrics to my reality without caving into my depression.

4. Going outside.

When I was in the most desperately low point of my life, the only way I could see was down. It could have been the sunniest day, but I could not acknowledge the brightness and happiness the sun evoked nor feel the warmth on my skin.

Something so simple as being able to recognize when the sun is dancing in the sky is a feeling I will hold onto for as long as I can. I try to treat myself every day the sun is out by sitting outside for a while, just taking it all in. I was so far deep into my own depression that I couldn’t recognize or appreciate anything happening around me, and the sun reminds me everyday how I missed something so simple and how I missed so many other things around me when I was in my extreme depression. Something that still gets to me is how I missed out on this glorious act of nature and I never want to miss out on the amazing things in life because of my mental illness again.

5. Putting effort into my appearance.

This has been something I always cherish as a deep central notion of what it means to practice self-care. To some this may seem vapid, but to me, this is a reward for making it out of bed and out of the self-loathing thoughts in my head. In my first year of college, I read an article about ways to make yourself feel better on your most tumultuous of days. One thing really stood out to me was taking a shower. It seemed so simple, yet was so hard for me.

I strive to take a shower as though I have something purposeful to do that day. Then, if I’m not feeling up to doing anything, I just get back into bed, knowing I accomplished one thing that day.

This helped me on so many days when all I wanted was the world to go away and bury myself under blankets and pillows where no one could hear me cry for hours on end. The feeling of accomplishment just from taking a shower made it possible for me to feel glad I had made it through another day, and gave me hope for the next day. Now I am in recovery, I find taking pride in my appearance is a small thing most people do but one that gives me a positive outlook for the day. Something as simple as taking the time to brush and style my hair gives me hope for the stability of my mind that day.

All these things seem like such simple daily tasks that many people do without even thinking. To me, these activities show me how far I’ve come in my recovery and give me hope for the future.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Unsplash photo via Frankie.

Originally published: June 19, 2017
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