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.

Portugal.

The sun is out with a brisk wind and I keep thinking of Portugal. I was there for all of two days while I was abroad and each day was full of sunlight and warmth. It was an amazing feeling. I was travelling from England and I had a few extra days without class Flights to Faro were €9.99. Being something of an opportunist, there was no way I was going to pass that up. I’m so happy I took that trip.

First of all, Faro is not a tourist city. Everyone and everything is local, and no one is trying to cheat you. The city itself isn’t crowded or congested, but there are people going about their everyday lives.

It isn’t on the sea, but there’s a small marina so that you can smell the freshness in the air. It smells like heaven. The sun beats down on you and it feels like summer. It was 65 degrees when I went there, and I soaked it all up. I sat by an old church in the sunlight and wrote in my travel journal.

Faro is so peaceful. There are cars and buses and whatnot, but when you walk even a little further away the place goes silent. All you hear are the birds and rustling winds in the trees. There are mini parks all over, so it’s not hard to feel like you’re not in a city at all. There’s even a park with peacocks roaming around it, as though they were just meant to sit with humans.

The shops aren’t spectacular, but that just adds a little something to the city. Instead of searching for souvenirs, you look around. I don’t want to sound like one of those hippies who doesn’t think we should have cell phones, but it is very relaxing to almost forget that world exists.

I spent a lot of time laying on a bench like a homeless person (or a whale) feeling the sun on my face. Coming from England, I hadn’t gotten a lot of sun for a few months. I appreciated every day that fell on me.

I didn’t have time to do any of the site-seeing—I was there for only one full day. But my hostel had beautiful reed blinds and light coming from all directions. I didn’t get to see the famous Bone Chapel, but I got to explore a new city. My feet were on brand new ground. Everything was beautiful. I miss it. If I could go back to any of the wonderful countries I saw, I’d go back to Portugal.

listening in.

I’m four glasses of wine in. I don’t really have anything to say today. Except that life is very hard. I’m listening to my roommate get broken up with in the room next to mine, and all I can think of is when I got broken up with over six months ago. And it felt like shit. I’m listening to Jimi Hendrix to drown out the sound of her crying and the sound of him pleading with her to understand. And everything is terrible right now. “All Along the Watchtower” is now etched in my head as a song of tragedy.

The playlist has moved on to Metallica now, and I had to use Word’s spellcheck function to spell the band’s name correctly. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were tons of typos in this. I’m doing the best I can. I’m currently listening to Hazel Hayes’ playlist “In Case of Emergency” playlist on Spotify. The company I’m interviewing for in less than a week creates the database that gives Spotify its information. All I can hear is anger and sadness. I want to hear anything but that, and yet I listen to Metallica. Rather counterproductive, if you ask me. Not that my opinion matters, since I’m the one listening to it.

I just don’t know why people go into things knowing they’ll hurt other people.

Here’s a picture of study abroad to lighten the mood. See if you can guess which one I am:

Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, indoor

 

the job search.

Here I go, delving into the world of blogging. It might be mostly because my friends are sick of hearing me complaining as I apply to any and every job I am even remotely qualified for. The internet wouldn’t judge me like they do, right?

Have you heard the one where the recent college graduate whines that every position somehow wants 1-3 years of experience while still calling the position “entry level”? Of course you have, because almost every new job-seeker has the same issue. I just want a place to start my career, and nobody seems to want to give me that.

It is not helpful that all my internships throughout undergrad were in the law. You might ask why, and I might answer “because-sometimes-you’re-convinced-you’re-going-to-go-into-one-field-and-then-you-realize-you-actually-kind-of-hate-it-and-you-want-to-go-into-publishing”…or the answer might be different, I don’t know.

I’ll be honest, I’m blogging right now because jobs want portfolios, and they want a web presence. I’ve actually specifically tried to keep myself off the web (for stalker-concerned reasons) but if this is what the jobs want, this is what they’ll get. The difficulty is in writing to nobody, when as an undergrad English student I’ve always had a very specific audience in mind with each paper I’ve written. Basically the industry’s thought is that you love to write so much you just CAN’T CONTAIN IT so you MUST WRITE.

I find it curious though, because the part of the publishing industry I want to be part of (editorial) edits other people’s work. So why on earth do they care about what I have to say? Anything I feel compelled to share, I can share through book or movie reviews. You know, criticizing someone else’s hard, creative work. The good life. So I’m not sure what this “blog” will turn into. Maybe it’ll have reviews? Maybe it’ll have job rants? Maybe I’ll get into listicles to gain an audience and sell my soul? Who knows! The world is my oyster and whatnot.

I’m a bit of a pessimist, in case you couldn’t tell (who even are you?). All I can say definitively is that I currently work at my college’s food service company and I’m very sure I don’t want to do that for the rest of my days.

I guess this is a weird plea to let me prove myself. I love reading, I love books, I love the culture surrounding it but I’m a little late to the party. That doesn’t mean I don’t really appreciate the party and want to invest everything into the party! The party is just kind of exclusive and intimidating, and I don’t have any friends there, and when I knocked on the door to come in I received a punch in the gut.

We’ll see.

P.S. I’ve just gone to publish this and realized that I already had a WordPress blog. News to me. Apparently I needed to rant as a youngin about my abundant different-ness. Now I just know I’m an INTJ (shoutout to Meyers Briggs for letting me know what I’m weird). I’ve made some changes (because it was terrible) and hopefully now people’s eyes will not burn out of their heads from the ugly. I can only hope.

Also, definitely not pre-Med anymore (I did dream) but most of the other shared information is still correct.