self-care for those who suck at it

Having lived with severe depression for about eight years, I can tell you a lot of things about the disease. It’s debilitating, it’s hopeless, yada yada yada. Chances are, you already know what depression makes you feel and do. Or, more accurately, what it doesn’t let you do. There have been times when I’ve gone days without showering, simply because the effort of getting up and standing for ten minutes seemed overwhelming.

I also have a very good friend who frequently has depressive episodes that keep her from eating properly, taking care of herself, and doing well in school. It is from my own experience I am sharing some tips about how to help a friend with depression, or help yourself. Depression makes you feel inhuman, and self-care can actually help to put you in a better mind frame. It won’t fix anything, but it will remind you that you are a living, breathing human who deserves some care.

This stuff seems stupidly simple to people who aren’t going through a mental illness, but it’s often the difference for me between a three-day episode and a two-week one.

  1. Shower

I cannot emphasize enough how much better I feel once I’ve showered. As I’ve already said, my episodes usually leave me without energy to feed myself, much less take care of my body. This is not something I can manage in the middle of an episode, though. It’s something I do towards the end to help pull me out of it. It’s very symbolic, washing away the past, starting new. You also just forget how nice it is to feel like a human being, with clean hair, shaved legs, and the scent of body wash on your skin.

With showering comes a lot of other self-care things, such as moisturizing your skin, maybe using a face mask. I’ve recently started using the L’Oreal Pure Clay masks, and they make me feel like I’m washing away all the shit from my episode. It’s just helpful to me to have a physical representation of my mental state.

Whenever my friend (let’s call her Allison) tells me she’s trying to yank herself out of an episode, I remind her to just go and take a shower. If it doesn’t help her actually feel better, it at least helps her present a solid face to the outside world. It’s bad enough your head doesn’t feel like it works, you don’t need the rest of the world to be asking you questions constantly about it.

  1. Environment

One of the other things I make sure to do when I’m towards the end of an episode and looking to shorten it as much as I can is fix up my environment. As unpleasant as this sounds, my room always ends up with a very stale smell after an episode, mostly because I keep my door and windows closed and rarely leave my room (also, the not-showering thing. So gross). A really easy thing I do for this problem is light some candles. If I can, I open the blinds to let some natural light in. Depression makes you feel like there’s no point to anything, but if you can manage to go through some of the motions, it’s almost like you trick your brain into following suit. Right now, my favorite candle is an older Bath & Bodyworks one from the fall (it’s not in season so it was on SALE. It’s the little things that get you excited). It smells glorious while not being too overwhelming, perfect for fake-airing out my room when windows seem like too much.

If I have any energy towards the end, I pick myself up and just clean up my room a little. It helps focus my brain when nothing else will. In case you don’t know, depression often puts a kind of filter over everything. It’s like when you’re tired and you can’t seem to think straight, except it’s all the time. When I’ve gotten some energy, I just try putting my clothes away, or taking dishes to the kitchen and cleaning them. I’ll throw some pictures of friends on the wall to make my room seem less like that of a mental patient in an asylum. You know, the normal things.

  1. Do something you enjoy in little pieces

For instance, I pick up one of my favorite books and just read a few pages. Reading has always been something of an escape for me, as well as for thousands of other people. There’s something so comforting about being between the pages of Harry Potter, where I know everything will work out in the end. Another favorite is The Night Circus, which I’ve definitely noticed before.

If I’m lucky, I’ll get completely absorbed in the story and be able to almost take myself out of my depression, even from fifteen minutes. It doesn’t last very long, but it’s a welcome relief from the nothingness.

Books have always been able to excite some kind of passion in me, whether it’s the nostalgia of Potter or the newness of other fantasy books.

It goes without saying that these things don’t work for me every time. Depression specifically makes you lose interest in the things you love, or things that normally make you feel better. And, I’ve noticed that the above really only work for me at the tail end of an episode. At the heart of it, depression knocks me on my ass and even reaching for a book is completely impossible.

That said, I try to do anything possible to make sure the episode doesn’t last too long. Luckily, my medication has been able to lessen the severity and length of episodes, but I still need a little help. That’s where this list comes in. It’s just some stuff that reminds me I’m a living person who, often, is able to enjoy things.

10 things about me.

This past week of blogging has been pretty fun, actually, and I didn’t expect to enjoy getting out my thoughts this much. It’s become almost part of my morning routine that I wake up and write, which can only be useful for an English major. It’s cathartic for me. I constantly have thousands of thoughts bouncing in my head, battling for dominance and each one fails. As an INTJ (Meyers Briggs people out there, hello!) my thoughts are often hard to collect into one understandable string for others, and this seems to be good practice for being clearer. Also, I get to just talk about how much I love books to people who seem to be on the same page!

I’m definitely going to continue, so I figured it might be good to remind whoever reads this that there is, in fact, a real, live human behind this screen. Not sure why…could I have run out of ideas already? Hush.

  1. I just stated it, but I score as an INTJ on the Meyers Briggs test.

This means I’m “the coldest human” to many people, but mostly it just means I have pretty reliable intuition and I value logic above most things. Also, I suck at feelings. But who needs those?

  1. I’m 21…

Though you might’ve figured that out by the frantic job search that I’m doing for after I graduate. The panic usually sets in around 3am and lasts for the foreseeable future.

  1. My dream job is to be a book editor.

Any kind of book, any genre, anything. I just want to work with books every day. I always joked with my parents that my perfect job would be one in which I’m paid to read. Book editor seems closest.

  1. I started as a pre-law student.

From senior year of high school to the summer before my senior year of college, I was pursuing a career in the law. All of my internships and extracurricular up to that point had been focused on things that would get me into law school. Hence the feeling of unpreparedness. Which I’ve been told by my advisor is actually a little unfounded because all of my law internships involved writing and editing, just exclusively law information.

  1. My favorite book right now is…none of them.

I find it physically and emotionally impossible to pick a favorite book. They’re like my babies. But I do have several that I almost always go back to, including Harry Potter, The Night Circus, Wuthering HeightsFrankenstein, and The Fault in Our Stars (as someone who’s family is cancer-tastic, that book is required reading during every crisis for comfort). There are also a few books that have really made an impact on me recently that stick in my head, such as Fates and Furies and Hausfrau. Fantastic books that I would highly recommend.

Image result for harry potter books Image result for night circus

  1. I have depression.

It’s something I’ve been struggling with since I was thirteen, so I’m pretty used to it by now. Personally, it comes in waves for me, where I could be fine for several months and then I have a month where it’s hard to even move. I’ve been on medication for it since I was about fifteen, on and off, and it’s helped immensely with the whole functioning thing, but depression still affects me every day.

  1. I’d like to move to New York City.

Image result for new york city stock photos

Like every up-and-coming recent grad, my plan is to get a job in NYC and live there for several years. Logically, I figure it’s the best place to get into the publishing industry, and NYC seems to be the place that it’s still somewhat relevant as a career path.

  1. I love BookTube.

In case you didn’t know, there’s a section of YouTube known to those who adore it as “BookTube”. In this magical place, people discuss books, unbox book subscriptions (like in this post), and generally make all sorts of book-related content. Some of the more well-known people I always watch the videos of are PeruseProject and booksandquills, who also branch out into other content in case you like a little variety.

  1. I’ve had a Renaissance of my love of reading.

I honestly felt a little burned out from my English major after a couple of years—taking about three English classes each semester adds up to a lot of reading you don’t pick yourself. It was fascinating, but it left very little energy for reading books for fun. After my semester abroad, however, I came home refreshed and ready to consume any book I could get my greedy paws on.

  1. My best friend in the entire world often asks herself “What Would Jane Do?”

Image result for jane eyre

This is not a fact about me, exactly, but I am not an interesting enough person to have ten facts about myself. Move on. My friend does this because she was so impressed by Jane Eyre’s independence and strength in, you guessed it, Jane Eyre. When she told me this, I kind of tried to adopt the outlook because it seemed like one that could lead to self-fulfillment. Will update you when I have reached nirvana.