Last week I read two posts on two different blogs, How Is Bradley? and Catatonic Kid, about personal hygiene during depressive episodes. Since I feel very strongly about this topic, I decided to write about it.
Having survived more than 120 depressive episodes, I feel uniquely qualified to write about the importance of maintaining personal hygiene during depressive episodes. I believe that being depressed is no excuse for not maintaining personal hygiene. As awful as I have felt--and there have been times when I was lucky to survive--I have always brushed my teeth, and almost always showered, blow-dried my hair, and gotten dressed--even if I only changed into sweat pants, and went back to bed after my son and husband left the house.
For those of us who are parents and spouses/partners, I believe it's our responsibility to try and achieve a certain level of normalcy for our families, if not for ourselves. It's difficult enough for our spouses/partners and children to have to deal with our depressions, but to have to deal with someone who is unkempt and doesn't even try is far worse.
In my case, when my son was in elementary school, no matter how bad I felt, I forced myself to wake up in the morning, shower, and dress, and make his lunch, and his breakfast before my husband drove him to school. On my worst days, I usually felt well by 2:00 (it rarely lasted the entire day), and I would shower again, get dressed, and drive to pick up my son.
While I may not have felt well enough to chat with other moms who were waiting to pick up their children, in the worse case scenario I still forced myself to stand across the street, and cross when I saw my son get out of school. Because he's an only child, I also forced myself to arrange play dates so my son would have someone to play with--even though I wasn't feeling great.
I believe it was this self-discipline that enabled my son to have a fairly normal childhood, and for my husband to feel hope that at some point our lives would return to "normal." When I see the divorce rate among BIPS (bipolars) and when I read comments by children of BIPS, I feel like I've done the best I could--under the circumstances.
And I also want to say that I believe, no matter how bad we feel, we need to try and put ourselves in our childrens', spouse's/partner's, relatives' and friends' positions. How would we feel about living with someone who doesn't bathe because he/she is depressed? How would we feel about someone who doesn't do everything possible to try and elevate his/her mood by maintaining certain standards of personal hygiene?
What do we owe the people we live with and love? How can we expect them to "stand by us" if we let ourselves go and stop trying?