Thursday, August 6, 2015

Who Was That Woman Wearing Eau de Fish Emulsion?

I Began to Inch My Way Out
. . . of Depression, Part Two
Take a Shower and Get Dressed
It’s Not Glib Advice
Dirty feet, oily hair, and a slap-dash outfit grabbed from an overflowing basket of unfolded clothes were yet more signs that I was depressed. I probably didn’t look like I was veering toward bag-lady status, but I felt that way. I avoided mirrors and did minimal self-care.
When I scanned the “Everything Is Awful and I’m Not Okay . . . list, I read the question: “Have you showered in the last day? If not, take a shower right now.”
I knew I hadn’t showered that day, but was it the day before, or the day before that? I had been procrastinating about early-morning showers because I wanted to wait until after I gardened. But then it got too hot, or I didn’t have the energy, so I didn’t garden and because I wasn’t that dirty, I didn’t shower. Or I had plans to go somewhere later in the day and told myself I would shower right before I went out. I then would change my mind because it took too much effort to go anywhere.
On a particularly low day, I forced myself to fertilize the plants on my patio before they suffered malnutrition. After I finished, I realized I needed a vitamin formula for my plants and had to go to Lowe’s. “It’s the garden center,” I rationalized, “so it doesn’t matter what I’m wearing. I’ll wash my hands to get rid of the fish emulsion odor.”
I look back and shake my head. I don’t recognize myself or my thinking process. “Who was that woman in the filthy Levi’s and stained tank top wearing eau de fish emulsion?” I answer with relief, “She has now left the building.”
I read the question again, “Have you showered in the last day?” I heard a command to do it right now, and I obeyed.
Taking a shower isn’t a cure-all for depression. But it has value we often don’t consider. When we don’t shower or groom ourselves daily, to put it in the simplest terms, we aren’t clean, nor are we fresh, ready to greet someone at the door, or go to the grocery store without embarrassment.
Being depressed is trial enough and a weight that is difficult to carry. Skip a shower for a few days and the depression is compounded by self-chastising and a sense of physical unease. Even minimal self-care gives a depressed person one small thing to boost sagging spirits. Rather than thinking, “I’m gross. I can’t even pull it together to take a shower,” one can say, “At least I’m showered and dressed for the day.”
Every day, since I answered “No,” to the shower question, I now can answer “Yes.”
Inching my way out of depression started when I left my room. It continues when I’m well-groomed with unwrinkled clothes, brushed hair, and bit of makeup each day.
Again, a daily shower isn’t a magic pill to chase the demons away, but neither is it glib advice to say, “Take a shower and get dressed.” It is an essential inch toward wholeness that doesn’t take much effort.
If someone you love has gotten careless with their personal appearance and grooming, take an extra step and go beyond the superficial in your communication with them. Ask how they really are doing. If necessary, encourage them to seek help. Seek help yourself if the lack of personal care resonates with you.
I am not a therapist, so if you or someone you love suffers depression, reach out; get help. However, I do believe we can do some simple things to help ourselves. My own continuing counsel about inching away from depression follows:
Ask yourself if you have showered in the last day.
If your answer is no, then take a shower or a bath and get dressed. You don’t have to go anywhere afterward or even pretend that all is well in life. The simple act of even minimal self-care can be the beginning of inching your way back to wellness.

Aside from getting out of bed and taking a shower, an article I saw on Facebook also helped immensely. I was not contemplating suicide, and was not ready to give up, but I was darker than I have been in years. Please read the article and if you are having dark days of your own, take the suggestions to heart.

The original can be downloaded in printable form at the following URL:

Note: I welcome comments, even private ones, especially because depression is not something we want everyone to know we experience. If you would like to speak further about this subject, please feel free to contact me at and we can communicate by e-mail or I will share my phone number. Be well. ~ Chris

I will share additional steps I took to inch my way out of depression in a few days.

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