Personal | Living with Mental Illness and Self-Care

Hand holding a Minnie Mouse Disney Mug

Recently the brilliant Megs, who writes over on Wonderful You, bravely shared the face of her depression; her face. Sleep-deprived, worn and makeup free, a striking comparison to the portraits she usually shares but equally as stunning. I found myself staring at her face on my screen and seeing my own looking back. It is a face I am all too familiar with and not one I have chosen to  share either online or in real life. 

There have been a lot of posts circulating around the internet recently on the topic of self-care, and while I wouldn't want to dictate to anyone what self-care should mean to them, for many of us it goes beyond a Lush bath and a face mask. 

For me, and probably many others suffering from mental illness, self-care is purely about looking after oneself and involves a lot of menial tasks that you would probably take for granted or give little thought to. Getting out of bed in the morning, brushing your teeth and hair, putting on fresh clothes, eating healthily or even eating at all, exercising, even socialising. Acts that I often struggle with everyday.

Part of my life is struggling with a lack of self worth that manifests in my ability to look after myself. Often I won't get dressed or brush my hair until almost 5 o' clock in the evening before my fiancé gets home. Left to my own devices I may not find the motivation to eat, dress, or barely move at all but having a partner means if I won't do these things for myself I will for him. For me, self-care means choosing to look after myself. To care for my body, inside and out, and also my mind. To get out of bed at a decent time, take a shower, prepare a healthy meal, perform a skincare regime, exercise, see a friend, leave the house.

Megs is right, mental illness does take a physical toil on your body and face, but too often we hide it from the world. Looking at me you wouldn't necessarily see it. The make up that covers the spots, the bags under my eyes. The tired, sore, dry, aching, uncared for skin and muscles. The smile that masks the day of self-loathing. You cannot possibly know what is going on in someone else's mind, their feelings, the motives behind their actions. It would be easy to assume I'm just lazy when I tell you that I didn't get out of bed until midday, and it would be difficult to argue against that. But laziness is a symptom and not a cause. 

Every day is a battle between feeling happy, sad, anxious, empty. Between wanting to open up about everything I'm struggling with and covering it up as much as possible. Between wanting the best for myself and not wanting to even get out of bed. It is so important to remember that the version you see of someone online isn't their whole story, and equally important to remember that mental illness isn't your whole story. There are highs and lows, good days and bad days and each has its own rules for self care. Sometimes the best thing I can do for me is, yes, treating myself to a lush bath and a face mask but looking after myself must always come first.

For some Non-Cutesy Self-Care Tips check out Becky's post on Milk Bubble Tea.



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