Depression likes to fuck with your head, tell you that you don’t deserve nice things. Also they become harder to come by.
When I was getting really ill, my sense of taste seemed to disappear. I bought my first jar of chilli powder and started adding it in everything, just to make the food taste like something. Other than cardboard, obviously.
Mind you, I’ve never been a fan of spicy food. Then I went up from madras to vindaloo practically overnight.
One of my mates noticed that she was getting unwell when she was unable to smell fresh laundry. Nobody tells you that this shit may happen. No GP sits you down and says ‘a fair warning, your senses might get fucked up.’ It’s just one of the many surprises depression throws at you.
Annoying? Oh yeah. Unfair? Definitely.
But the only way you can make it worse is to give yourself a hard time about it on top of all that, so tough tits.
I try to combat that by doing nice things to myself, especially as my sense of taste has returned. (It will return, I promise you!) I’m experimenting with tastes at the moment, as for around a year everything was cardboard.
At the moment I love a hot chocolate with whipped cream on top, the cold sweetness on top of foaming hot at the tip of my tongue. I hold onto the layer of tastes as long as I can: cream, hot chocolate, the chocolate sauce. Hot and cold, milky and rich.
In a small way it grounds me. I’m right here. I’m feeling this, the changing temperatures. I taste this, all of this. I’m alive.
Also as someone who struggles with self-harm, it’s not easy to be nice to your body. It’s hard to be gentle towards something you’ve hurt. You can’t help but flinch. One of the weirdest experiences while I was in hospital was to put bio-oil on my arm to prevent scarring. I looked at my arm as if I had just grown it. I did this.
I’m not saying it’s easy. When I didn’t have access to a knife at a ward, I would bang a rubber band against a same part of my arm hundreds and hundreds of times. Until it finally hurt enough. I’d usually stop counting after a thousand.
It’s not easy by any means to just switch off that and go for hot beverages, lavender balm or fuzzy pyjamas. But it’s worth a try.
I think the most important thing is moving at your own pace. Who says when you should be ready to move on?
At the moment I’m re-introducing myself to showering because I, like many other depressed people, once found it an unbearable task to have a shower. For months I’d wash my hair, face and armpits in a sink so that I’d look and smell acceptable to go to work.
I admit, I’m still not great at it. But now I’ve got pneumonia and that causes excessive sweating that is completely unrelated to room temperature. I’ve really had to kick myself up the (sweaty) arse about it. I’ve gone through two sets of nighties today and it’s a grey, windy day.
But finally even I got sweaty and uncomfortable enough just to go and take a damn shower. I have to be careful with water temperature because due to the allergic reaction that led to hospital trip #2 my skin reacts to heat like corrosive acid.
I was a real water baby as a kid. I loved taking baths and swimming. I was a clumsy, out-of-proportion girl with no grace whatsoever to her name so water offered me a momentary escape. Lightness, weightlessness, the closest thing I can imagine flying must feel like. You couldn’t get me out of our tub.
Finally I find a temperature that’s not too hot or too cold. I’m taking a shower sitting down because standing up in my current state of health is a bit of a tall order. There is also something quite primal about it, as if you’re somehow forced to become even more aware of every crease of your skin. When you stand, you can just close your eyes.
I think being extremely unwell forces you to go back to basics. When every single waking second is physical and mental misery, you approach every second in a different way. You move inwards, away from how you might have felt in that situation before you got ill.
One time I would’ve just had a shower, with no second thought about it. Now it’s different on a lot of levels.
It’s different because now you can feel.
I struggle with my self-image at the moment due to my weight gain but at that precise moment, I’m OK with how my body feels. It’s different, more full. At the same time I’m aware that doing yoga has changed how I look. I used to be thin, now I’m more toned.
We carry our choices on our bodies.
The shower gel smells nice, like berries. So does the shampoo. I’m really fussy about how things smell these days. If something smells too artificial, too overwhelming or just wrong, I will chuck it out without a second thought. At one point I wouldn’t have cared. It feels nice to get the excess oil out of your hair, hear the little squeaks as every possible strand gets blissfully clean.
I’ve been putting off cleaning the plughole, so a puddle of water starts forming around me. The soap makes a nice sploshing sound when I drop it. I do it again just for the hell of it. I think nice sounds are too few and far between in everyday existence. It’s like a little underwater bomb. Like all the toys I used to dunk underneath the surface, especially mugs. Splosh. Splosh.
Now I’m writing this post, in a clean pair of pyjamas because I finally managed to get myself to do some laundry.
I feel clean, soft and warm and I guess, at this very present moment in time,