Do you have habits that aren’t serving you? We all do. Getting fast food after class or work because it’s more convenient. Procrastinating on papers until the night before. Blowing your paycheck at Target the first day you get it. While not everyone has these particular habits, they’re pretty common. But, what about habits that are tied to our depression?
Not all habits are as common as the ones listed above. Even if you don’t have those habits, you probably know someone who does or can easily understand them and even forgive them. But, some habits are formed as a result of limited mental and emotional capacity we’re working at when we’re depressed. We can be affected by habits that are formed during depressed episodes even long after the depressed episode has ended.
It may not feel like we’re working toward a habit when we’re depressed, especially because we tend to think of habits as something positive that we work toward building on purpose because we want to improve. But, habits are really anything that we repeat over and over and becomes second nature to us, whether that’s thoughts we say over and over to ourselves or actions we take.
For me, I have some really negative habits that have developed out of long depressed periods I had during high school and college. When I was in these longer bouts of depression, just getting out of bed was an effort. So, certain daily maintenance rituals were out of the question--even if I knew my overall physical health would be adversely affected by failing to take these actions.
Here’s where I have to come out and own up to the specifics--and, I’m super scared because I don’t want you to judge me. But, I know I can’t be the only one, so here they are.
- I got in a bad habit of not brushing my teeth every day. Forget flossing.
- I wouldn’t wash my face before I went to bed. Even if I had makeup on. Sometimes I left makeup on for days before finally washing it off.
- I’d crawl into bed without taking a shower or washing my hair. Didn’t matter how dirty I was or how clean the sheets were.
- I'd leave dishes in the sink for days. We're talking overflowing. Crusty. Gross.
Yep. General self-maintenance was not happening.
This probably sounds shocking (and disgusting) to anyone who has never experienced depression or lived with someone who has depression. Honestly, my fiance still finds this stuff a little gross and hard to believe, even though he tolerated it for a long time. It’s not easy to accept someone who is actually unclean.
The problem is that a lot of people who don’t understand depression think we’re unclean by choice. But, let me tell you, it felt like a huge physical and mental effort when I finally did took those actions. I had to psych myself up like nobody’s business just to get in the shower, to wash my face, to brush my teeth.
I felt so exhausted all of the time, that even these small tasks that are so mundane and everyday to most people felt like a huge undertaking. I tried to tell myself to just do it--just get it done. I told myself I was gross. That everyone knew. That I wasn’t a valuable person if I didn’t do these things. And, I still didn’t do them.
Fast forward to today. I’m a fully formed adult human. And, you know what?
I’m proud that I now brush my teeth at least once a day. You heard that right. I brush my teeth once a day. And, that habit was a big feat for me to form. Because, after years of brushing my teeth irregularly (yes, I know, it grosses me out, too), I got used to not doing it. I had the mental and physical capacity to do it for a long time after getting medicated and doing so much work on myself. But, I was in the habit of not doing it. And, I had to retrain myself to do it.
I still use makeup wipes as a crutch. Sometimes I don’t even use those--even when I have them on hand. This one seriously boggles the mind because in this post-30 season of my life I know how important skincare is. And, I actually get more breakouts now than I did in high school or college. It’s obvious that my pores are clogged by nasty old makeup and sweat. But, I formed a habit of not washing my face. And, that’s been hard to break. I have to make a massive conscious effort to wash my face each night--something that I’m still working on.
I’m sharing this so you know if you’re in that depressive state and you haven’t brushed your teeth in a few days or there are dishes overflowing in your kitchen sink, you’re totally not alone. I get it. I’ve been there.
I also want you to use me as a caution that you don’t have to stick with those bad habits forever. Don’t keep them so long that they become your only way of living. When you’re starting to come out of that depressed state, assess any negative habits you may have formed during that period. Try to incorporate positive habits back into your days slowly. Don’t be hard on yourself if you slip up. But, remember that you want those healthy habits and you can handle them now.
Do you have any bad habits that have formed during a depressed state?
Do you have someone to help you form healthy habits? If you don't have someone, don't worry! I want you to join MY internet tribe over on Facebook. We're here to support you and be your cheerleader.