One of the more embarrassing and therefore less talked about aspects of mental illness is the difficulty in keeping up with your personal hygiene, particularly if you are going through a period of depression.
Depression makes it hard to function
Depression saps away your energy; it can make it difficult to function on so many levels. It can be tough on really bad days to even get out of bed, and I think people who haven’t been through it don’t always realize that it isn’t just because you’re feeling so low. It’s a very physical, heavy feeling that you can go through, which I sometimes describe as feeling as though you are trying to move through thick jelly or walk through water. It feels as though you are weighed down, and this is very much a physical symptom.
It’s hard to keep up with hygiene
On really bad days it can be tough to even get out of bed, never mind shower, brush your teeth, wash your hair, put on clothes and walk around in the world. Often with this, personal hygiene gets left by the wayside. If you do have energy, often you need to use it to keep up with commitments, to eat and to keep your life ticking over.
We shouldn’t feel ashamed
Although this can be embarrassing, and it’s easy to say don’t feel embarrassed about it, I feel as though it should be talked about more so that people don’t feel so down on themselves about it. It’s a very real part of the illness and if you are doing your best to keep going, you shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed of anything.
If you were physically ill and didn’t have the energy to do these things, that would somehow be more socially acceptable. This is truly a physical aspect of the illness, the fatigue, the lack of energy, the despair that makes it hard sometimes to even think. It’s not a choice, it’s not laziness, it is not something we can help and we shouldn’t be judged by others or judge ourselves for it, although that’s easier said than done.
Quick hygiene tips
A few tips to help you maintain hygiene that I have learnt from experience when I don’t feel able to keep up with my normal and preferred routine are included below:
Baby wipes: these are great if you don’t feel able to take a shower, to keep yourself as clean and fresh as you can, to wash your face, to keep you feeling nicer.
Dry shampoo: this is an amazing one that I use a lot, if you aren’t up to washing your hair it really helps with the grease, it makes your hair feel cleaner and look much nicer.
A nice body spray or perfume: this can help you to smell just a little nicer which can often make you feel a bit more confident and comfortable, even if it’s just for yourself in bed or around the house.
Chewing gum, mouthwash, mints or fresh breath spray: these can be great to keep your teeth just a little cleaner and make your breath a little fresher if you aren’t up to brushing your teeth.
A bath instead of a shower: if you don’t have the energy to stand in a shower, sometimes a bath that you can just sit or lie in and relax can be easier. This can even be a great form of self care, I like to add bubbles or bath bombs to mine.
Wearing fun pyjamas: if I don’t feel up to getting dressed, it’s nice to have funny or cute pyjamas that I enjoy wearing around the house to cheer myself up a bit.
I’d love to hear any of your tips if you have some to share so that we can all help each other. Feel free to leave them in the comments.