I Took a Shower Today and it Was Sort of a Big Deal

You’d think that feeling depressed would be an easy thing to identify, especially for someone who has been depressed in some form or another for almost her entire life. Pro tip: it’s not.

I can’t always recognize the feeling. So many of the things that make up my depression can be related to other things. Kind of like when you’re looking at a list of flu symptoms. You could have a fever, or nausea, or a sore throat, or any of that other shit for any other reason. It can be tough to figure out oh wait, yeah, this is the flu.

I could be tired because I work overnights. I could be bored because sometimes my life is boring. I could be disinterested in going to see my friends because most of them live far away and I just don’t feel like going on a weekend trip. I could be sad because something else is going on that sadness is a totally reasonable response to.

I can write off any of those feelings. But over time, it becomes harder to write off the physical ways in which my depression actually manifests, even if I don’t always notice them immediately. Case in point? When I woke up this morning, I was so excited that my bedhead combed down easily it took me a minute to realize that it was because I hadn’t been taking care of myself.

We talk a lot about self-care in our community. Actually, all of my communities. Sex-positive peeps, my psych buddies, medical coworkers… Self-care is a big deal. It’s one of those things that is just a given that you should do, but sometimes it can take a bit to figure out what counts as self-care and what doesn’t.

A lot of the advice that we see centers around doing things that will make you happy or give you time to reconnect with yourself and recenter. Treat yourself. Take a nap. Cook a nice meal. Read a book. Get one of those grown-up coloring books. Light some candles and masturbate like you love yourself. Indulge.

A great day of self-care for me looks a little bit like this: If I’m coming off a long stretch at work, I want a day to relax in my PJ’s and rekindle the long-standing romance I have with Netflix. I want to rest, to recuperate. I want to take a break from my phone and spend some quiet time alone. I want some kind of food-treat. I want to buy something that smells good or feels good.

It just so happens that most of the things I want when I’m craving self-care are things that my depression wants me to do, but to a massively unhelpful extreme.

I don’t always possess the self-awareness to recognize when what started out as some self-care couch time turns into my fourth day wearing the same sweatpants, or when trying to not spend so much time on my phone turns into not having spoken to some of my friends in months. It’s easy to ignore, or rationalize and justify away.

I have to ask myself some hard questions. Am I not cleaning today because I’m giving myself a break, or because I can’t bear the thought of doing something that requires me to be vertical? Am I buying this thing because it will benefit me in some way, or am I spending money I don’t really have because it makes me feel more in control of my life?

There’s only so much I can do about my depression, and I’ve done a lot of it already. I am at a place where, most of the time, I feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on it. Shit happens though, and (for me) keeping up with my depression is a lot like keeping up with any other kind of recovery. I’m not done. It takes maintenance. It takes knowing the signs, and trying not to ignore them. It means knowing how long to let myself sit in it before it’s time to get the fuck up while I still can.

So today, I took a shower. And I just wanted to tell someone.

5 thoughts on “I Took a Shower Today and it Was Sort of a Big Deal

  1. I’m going to leave this here and preface it with…I know that we don’t know each other and I would never presume to understand your unique condition. I do, however, find myself in a similar situation from time to time (and have since decided to seek chemical assistance for it) and when I hear someone else struggling I feel the need to share the little things I learned along the way that have helped me.

    As another recovering depressive I am always interested to read someone else’s interpretation on the condition and its symptoms, or lack there of. I have always viewed depression in the same way I view things like migraines (real, true, migraines) or even addictions. That meaning: it is impossible for people who haven’t experienced them to completely understand what they feel like or what it is like to struggle with them every day. Certainly, people can sympathize and offer help but no matter how much they may think they understand it is simply impossible. For this reason I have found myself opening up to friends and family (and the folks on the internet kind enough to listen) who struggle with the same issue. Having like minded people to talk to that can discuss things they have struggled with themselves is like having a safety chute you can pull when your primary fails…and those of us that have struggled know that no matter how well we repack our primary after its last failure, it will inevitably fail again sometime.

    Beyond communicating with other people I like to communicate with myself by keeping a journal. This journal isn’t one in the traditional sense where you record the normal day to day activities and feelings on subjects but instead one that contains only the best and happiest experiences. I have found that when I’m sinking deeper I can sometimes halt the process by reminding myself of how many awesome people there are in my life and how much I enjoy their company…sort of a “reason to be” type piece. It also helps serve as a sort of reinforcement to the good in your life as you write in it.

    Another thing that helped me dramatically was setting up a few long standing reoccurring events. This could be something as simple as a weekly board gaming session with a few friends or a Sunday trip to the movies. Anything that isn’t spaced too far out and that provides something constant to look forward to. I see myself slipping when I get bored and am unable to reliably find something constructive to keep my mind occupied and having 2-3 weekly events has certainly helped with that.

    Finally, a hobby. I play some relatively complex games which require vast amounts of planning and research. This hobby gives my mind something to actively default to when it has free time. I used to paint models and play CCG’s which both offered the same effect. I think this has been the number one thing in my life that has helped consistently keep my out of the darkness. Not every hobby is good for every person but finding something that you enjoy, can pick up and put down easily and can do with others locally will undoubtedly have a positive effect.

    That rambled on a great deal longer than I anticipated. I apologize if it comes off presumptuous…and I am glad that you took a shower toady.

    Best wishes,
    MasaharuPete

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  2. Hey Katie,

    You wrote a great post on your take of how depression affects you and also, your experiences with and strategies for coping with depression.

    Regularly scheduled hobbies each week or month, keeping a Journal, and vigilant alertness to your own behavioral-shifts during the day, week, or month, are all good coping suggestions.

    I’ve wrestled with depression for over 25 years now. I’ve come to learn that each individual’s experience with the illness is completely unique to their own situation; and, so it is often misleading for one to give another specific advice from their own experience with it.

    For me, many of the ADL’s that you described are characteristic of my condition at different times; & some of your divergent ADL’s may increase, or extend the effect of your depressive-episode, if not interrupted (by taking yourself out of the situation), & swapped for an entirely different venue. I see you’re insightful enough to have recognized this already.

    All-in-all, depression has become a part of who I am. Since, in my case, it can’t be overcome completely, I’ve come up with creative ways to get along with my uninvited guest. You may have also noticed that some of you’re most creative ideas may be borne while suffering, or your most vivid insights into work/life problems may be exposed, where the problem was looked at many, many times during healthy periods, & nothing ever having emerged before.

    Best of Luck, my creative friend, Katie.

    Lowell JB

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  3. wow powerfull and good description about sliding into depression. Just wanted to tell you that your podcast (carnalcopia) reached all the way out to Switzerland to me and it is giving me so many new ideas and thought about sex positivity. Its not a movement or community over here (quite conservative country we are) and it feels so good to know that there are similair thinking people out there! Maybe this reply is a reason to find motivation to do things and leave the house again, because what you do is fucking amazing!

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