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Mental Illness and the Importance of Taking Care of Yourself

People with mental illnesses such as depression, severe anxiety, PTSD, and other mental issues are often not in the habit of taking care of themselves.

We will neglect our personal hygiene like taking showers, brushing our teeth and brushing our hair. We don’t tend to go to the beauty shop or the barber to get our hair cut every 2 months like other people do.

We rarely wear makeup or brush our hair. When we are in a state of severe mental torment, these things just seem like a waste of energy or we don’t think of them at all.

We don’t think we are worth the trouble or we are too depressed to get out of bed to get into the shower.

Our diet becomes neglected. We either under eat or overeat. We don’t think about the food groups or vitamins. It simply does not seem important and we don’t see the point anyway.

Behavioral patterns become imbedded into our brain and they are hard to break. Once we develop the behavioral pattern of taking a shower once every 2 weeks, we become used to that.

The mere thought of increasing our number of showers to 2 per week sounds like a huge undertaking. The problem must be dealt with gradually with patience. We must be patient and forgiving of ourselves.

The problem is that when we neglect our personal care and our diet, it snowballs the mental health problems. Our self esteem about how we look goes down.

We do not feel good about how we look in the mirror. We fear how we will look to others and that we will be judged unfairly.

Bad nutrition will make our bodies and brains weak and less effective. Our thought processes will be slowed. Our ability to fight off infection is lower. All of these things will increase depression.

If we do not feel like we are taking proper care of ourselves then we will have more social anxiety and much lower self-esteem. We need self-esteem to heal.

It is very difficult to begin taking care of ourselves if we have been out of the habit for a long time. It requires “baby steps” to get back on the right track.

If you are only taking a shower every other week, try to add one more in between. Try for once a week. If you cannot tolerate that, then try just washing at the sink in between the showers. Buy a new toothbrush and brush your teeth and brush your hair.

If you can feel a little better about your personal care then your self esteem will go up. The self esteem is so critical to our healing. If we do not feel good about ourselves the we are not going to bother to take any other steps towards healing.

The cycle needs to broken up a little bit at a time. Bit by bit. Little by little, let’s try to take care of ourselves.

Take a shower, brush your hair and wash your clothes. Have something nutritious to eat that you enjoy eating.

Other people do all of these things without a thought. They get exercise, watch their favorite tv shows, eat their favorite food, get their hair and nails done and buy themselves underwear and socks when they need it.

You are no less deserving of being taken care of than anyone else. You must take care of yourself. No one else is going to do it.

The more we snowball into a cycle of neglecting ourselves, the worse our mental illness will become. Sometimes a change in schedule, like a shower in the morning or before bed, will help our boredom with the schedule.

Even a slight change in our routine, can have mental health benefits. You will feel cleaner and feel better about yourself once you begin to take care of some of your basic needs.

Even if you do not feel as though you are worth the effort, try to add something into your personal care routine.

Our behavioral patterns can gradually be changed. Along with the routines being changed, our thought behaviors can follow along.

We are stuck in bad self-care routines of the physical self. We are also stuck in bad self-care routines in our thoughts. A good place to start is with some basic self-care.

You are worth a little effort. Take baby steps and do it a little at a time.

Namaste,
Annie

PTSD and the Habit of Neglecting Our Own Personal Care

People with depression, anxiety and other types of mental illness are usually not in the habit of taking care of themselves. Once you are out of the habit, it is hard to get back into it again.

If you have PTSD from domestic abuse then caring for yourself was likely something that was not “allowed” in the relationship. From my experience, anything I did for myself was a trigger to the abuser to become angry at me.

I would hear “Oh You have time to do take a shower and dry your hair but you have left me to starve to death. You haven’t made me anything to eat all day.” In fact he would say that , even when I had made him an omelette for breakfast and a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch. I was just taking a shower before I made dinner.

Then he would rage at me about all sorts of things I apparently did not do properly. What nerve I had to take 15 minutes to care for myself.

If I went a week without a shower , he would complain that I was dirty and not “keeping myself up for him” So I guess the rule was I could take a shower but only if I told him I was doing it for him.

So then, I would be afraid to take a shower for fear of angering him. I would only take a shower when he was out of the house. Even then I would try to clean up the evidence.
The showers got less and less frequent because the fear of him coming home while I was in the shower and vulnerable (naked) was severe.

The thought of him barging into the bathroom drunk and angry, while I was in the shower was terrifying. It was a risk that I often was not willing to deal with.

Once the behavioral pattern is altered, it is hard to get it back. You go a long time with taking sowers every 2 weeks and you feel strange taking a shower every day. You have to slowly get the routine back. It may take a very long time to feel like taking a shower even every few days.

The best thing is to start with a small change such as adding in one shower a week. Even washing at the sink in between will help get back into taking care of yourself.

Make-up! That was a tuff one. It took me a long time after living in severe mental abuse situations to be able to wear make-up and fix my hair in anything other than a ponytail.

If I put make-up on to go to work, he would call me a slut and ask me who I was sleeping with at work. This was completely irrational since he knew I worked with elderly people and almost all of the health care workers were female.

he would get very angry if I put on make-up and brushed my hair. I asked him one time why he did not want me to look my best. I asked him, “don’t you like when I get prettied up for you?”

His response was “NO. I want you to look plain. I can tolerate you plain and that way no other guys will look at you.”

It was so crushing to my self esteem that I was basically required to look “plain” going out of the house and even in the house. I was conditioned to feel like a plain or ugly girl that did not deserve to feel pretty.

After I left that situation, it took me a long time to begin to wear make-up and fix my hair nicely. I felt self conscious the first few times I wore make-up out of the house.

Years before that, I wore make-up and fixed my hair all the time. The behavioral pattern of doing that and the mental / emotional association I had with wearing the male-up were very uncomfortable.

So, we can slowly begin to take care of our appearance and this will improve our self-esteem. I remember the first time I got a nice hair cut. I had not done that in a few years. I felt so good about it.

I felt how my hair had that bounce to it. it styled and brushed easier. i felt more like a “normal” girl again. The elevation of self-esteem from a hair cut was amazing. Then I bought nail polish and painted my nails. It felt so good to be allowed to be pretty again.

Taking care of ourselves is critical to our self esteem. it helps to get over the trauma of the past. Maybe not fully, but it helps for us to be able to move on.

So long as we stay in the same patterns of not caring for ourselves, we don’t move our thought processes forward. We have the right to be a person. We have just as much of a right to basic care than anyone else does.

Once we begin to change to healthier behavioral patterns then we can begin to heal.

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