The other day my daughter came into our room to wake me up for the day and greeted me by saying, “Mommy, you forgot to change into your pajamas last night before bed!”
I thought to myself before responding to her, No, actually, I’ve been wearing the same pajamas for three days and you just now noticed. *palm to forehead*
I’ve heard many women struggle with showering every day once they become mothers. I’ve also heard many mothers talk about how they can’t remember the last time they did their hair or applied makeup. I’m in the same boat. But, truth be told, I’ve always been this way. I’ve gone five or six days without showering and/or even longer without makeup, clean underwear, or even a bra. How’s that for transparency?
My entire life I have struggled with fatigue. When I was 16, I had mononucleosis. Mono turned into a very ugly case of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome coupled with depression and anxiety. Somehow, with all the research and reading that went into the next few years, I never once came across poor hygiene as a symptom of depression. I thought there was something inexplicably wrong with me. It felt like I was so utterly lazy that I was destined to be alone forever because I was such a slob that no one would ever want me. I thought I was weird.
Enter motherhood. When I heard all those new mothers talking about how they barely have time to shower every day I’d think to myself that I didn’t either, nor did I ever have the desire to do so. I understood the stereotype of the messy mom bun and leggings with stains all over her shirt, but for a different reason. I had always been this way.
It wasn’t until 15 years after I was diagnosed with depression that I stumbled upon several articles and books that explained in detail how just thinking about getting up and getting ready for the day can cause emotional stress. This can cause social withdrawal and anxiety and panic attacks – just thoughts of doing these things. Not even the act of doing them.
Insane, right? That’s what I thought I was until I found out that it’s an actual thing. I would lie in bed and go over the act of getting in the shower and then brushing my teeth and hair and then having to blow dry it and dry off and get dressed and do my makeup and blah, blah, blah, blah. I would be so exhausted that I’d need to sleep again – and I hadn’t even gotten out of bed yet. I’d cancel plans and rearrange schedules (remember this was before I had the excuse of having children) around my desire to shower or not.
Motherhood simply amplified this problem for me. It is a vicious cycle because, as we all know, the mess tends to get worse when you have children. There is less time to do things for ourselves. Your kids’ things take up space and are literally scattered across your home, and before you know it, your home becomes an abyss of crap. Your own needs take a backseat to your children’s needs. So, for me, things that have always taken a backseat, like hygiene, take an even further backseat.
Motherhood helped me to realize just how gross I felt and how much I hated feeling that way.
Please understand that I am not using this as an excuse not to shower and be lazy. It’s simply an explanation and a revelation for myself to come to that, while it is a little out of the ordinary, it’s OK to feel this way.
It’s important to not let it consume you. But if you do let it consume you, find help and support with those who have been there. I’ve found several sites including psychologytoday.com and themighty.com and books that have given me some tips to combat this stinky (no pun intended) situation.
Here are few things I’ve learned:
Try to have a plan
I always try to have a light plan in place. Nothing too overwhelming just in case I can’t get it done. If you can’t get it done, THAT IS OK. Anything you can cross off your list, no matter how small the task, deserves celebration.
Find something about grueling tasks that make them enjoyable
The other day when I was in the shower, I sat down because I just didn’t feel like standing up. I didn’t want to be doing what I was doing. I felt my time would be better spent taking a depression nap (yep, that’s a thing, too). Just before turning off the shower water, I started singing and dancing in the shower. By the time the shower was done, I found myself out of my funk. Even though I was extremely exhausted from dancing, I completed a task AND I didn’t smell anymore.
Find support from people who have been there and done that
This is crucial for me because I have found myself on more than one occasion trying to explain myself to people who just didn’t get it. Some of my friends and family members get it. Others just make me feel worse by making me feel dirty and lazy.
You are not dirty and lazy if you’re suffering from depression and lack normal hygiene. This happens, and understand that you are not alone.
Now that I know this is just one more thing you have to deal with when you have a mental illness, I know how to better cope, and I’m constantly looking for ways to better myself instead of choosing to fall victim. Things like this always help me to remember the phrase
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about …”