As someone who goes through periods and waves of depression, self-care can get terribly difficult for me. Brushing my teeth, taking showers or washing my face becomes something I do every few days. Recently, I found one way to make myself take showers. Still working on other self-care methods, but I think taking a shower can be one of the things that make a person feel more refreshed. A slightly cool shower running down the face and body can be very effective in upping one’s mood slightly, being clean and all.
Illustrations were drawn by me in Illustrator. I know, they’re sub-par.
1. The Problem: Taking a shower
Sometimes I just don’t feel like taking a shower. Darker thoughts weigh me down in bed or on the sofa and taking a shower is one of those small, sometimes meaningless things that are way too difficult, tedious and “pointless” at times. It’s very difficult for me to explain why self-care gets difficult – but the best way I can phrase it is that – life can get to the point where daily routine things like showers and brushing your teeth becomes so meaningless when compared to depression.
There are 2 ways of taking a shower: the easy way and the hard way.
2. The Easy Way
Most people do it the easy way. It’s stepping into the shower and turning on the faucet, applying shampoo, soap and what not, drying yourself and putting on a fresh set of clothes. That’s it, pretty simple. Mostly routine for many people. But taking a shower the easy way sometimes doesn’t give me enough satisfaction for me to actually do it.
So, I result to the hard way.
3. The Hard Way
My way of convincing myself to take a shower is to find a reason to exercise. For me, it’s riding my bike. But that means I need to wipe down my bike, leave the house, cycle for a bit, get tired and sweaty by the time I finish my ride. This also means I travel upwards of 20km on my bike, enough for it to tire me down and allow me to actually feel fatigue and the need to freshen up. Then I return home and – give the bike a good rinse first – step into the shower, turn on the faucet, apply shampoo and soap, drying myself and putting on a fresh set of clothes. My ‘shower’ lasts hours.
So, a ‘shower’ that lasted 2 hours and 33 minutes, plus 22km of riding. I’m starting to doubt the return on investment on my bike rides.
4. Final Word: It’s Not Easy
It’s not easy. For me to go for a ride, this magic 8 ball inside of me has to cycle through what is an infinity of messages to tell me to ‘go cycle’. Many times I find myself finding excuses – from the weather, to crowds, to even the condition of my bicycle – to not go out for a ride and subsequently missing opportunities to care for myself. This is absolutely stupid but it is what it is.
For my friends who find it tough to provide decent self-care to themselves, you are not alone. I miss days where I had a decent morning routine and stayed clean and fresh all the time. I am disgusted at myself sometimes, for being unable to provide that self-care everyone needs. But everyone has their easy way and hard way of self-care. Maybe the hard way works. Finding alternative motivation, maybe squeezing something in in the meantime, might see yourself achieving the small goal of brushing your teeth or taking a good shower.
The routine won’t snap and come back magically. Your mental illness can be scary and it can deter you from doing simple things like caring for yourself. But as we try to beat our illnesses every single day, finding new (harder) ways to do things might mean that you feel better. And that is key – mental illness is not like brain cancer – if you feel better, you’re one step nearer to being the way you were before your illness took over your life.
If you have brain cancer, and you say that standing on your head for 20 minutes every morning makes you feel better, it may make you feel better, but you still have brain cancer, and you’ll still probably die from it.
But if you say that you have depression, and standing on your head for 20 minutes every day makes you feel better, then it’s worked, because depression is an illness of how you feel, and if you feel better, then you are effectively not depressed anymore. So I became much more tolerant of the vast world of alternative treatments.
– Andrew Solomon from his TED Talk on Depression
It’s never easy, but I stand with you and I believe you can do it. Me, Sean, I stand with you. We can do it.