Helping your Depression by taking care of yourself
If you are a woman who suffers from depression I guarantee that there are many days when you just don't care about your appearance. Depression can drain you of the energy to take care of yourself. I know because it has happened to me.
There was a period of time following the diagnosis of my youngest son with having autism, where I gradually sank into a deep pit of depression. I was so consumed with wanting to help my son that I totally neglected myself. How could I think of such frivolous things when I had to teach my son to talk, to connect, and to survive? I felt guilty for any time I spent doing things for myself. I feel this is a common problem for women in general who spend so much time in the care for others that they totally forget themselves in the process. This lack of self care can lead to feelings of low self worth and greater depression.
When I shopped for clothes it was for my children. Any extra money was spent on therapy for my son, toys, or learning supplies. I wore clothes I had saved from my maternity days. I had no jeans as everything I owned had an elastic waistband. I wore old sweatshirts and oversized t-shirts. I remember going to a tea they had for all the mothers at my eldest son's school. Each child drew a life sized portrait of their mom and cut it out to hang along the perimeter of the classroom. One of the games was for us moms to guess which portrait belonged to us. I kept getting mine wrong. My son had drawn me with a flowered dress on and had written a little essay to go with the portrait. He wrote that he liked it when I would wear my flowered dress. The only problem was, I didn't own a flowered dress. As a matter of fact, he had never seen me wear a dress in the seven years of his young life. I looked down at my dark drab clothes and suddenly wanted to become that mom in the flowered dress.
Along with my dreary attire, it was seldom that I wore any make up. I stopped getting my hair cut by professionals and began to cut it myself with sometimes disastrous results. I have more than several photos I wish to burn now of me with choppy crooked bangs. Then there was the time that I just kept cutting my bangs to correct my mistakes and was left with an awful fringe. I simply didn't care. And let's talk about weight gain with depression. I packed on forty extra pounds onto my small frame. When I looked in the mirror, which I seldom had any desire to do, I saw an androgynous "it". I simply didn't feel like a woman anymore. My self esteem was at a new low.
I can't say exactly when it happened that my transformation began but it seemed to have everything to do with the revelation that I would not be able to go on much longer without taking some time for myself. It also had to do with a video I saw of myself at that time. We were taping some of the therapy sessions with my son who has autism. We were doing a technique called "floortime" which is basically play therapy. But as the name states, you are on the floor. I happened to get a glimpse of my large rear end backing up as I was on the floor playing with my child. I gasped. I simply didn't recognize myself from the front or the back. "Who is that?" I wondered out loud. It was a wake up call to do something,
It took about a year for my great transformation. I had one of those old work out videos from the 80's. Nearly every single day I would sweat along with synchronized ladies wearing spandex and headbands. I was promised buns of steel and by golly I was going to get them! I can still hear the tape's exercise guru shouting, "You are going to look beautiful both coming and going!" His endless cheering made me feel that anything was possible. I took the time to eat more healthy foods and stopped the mindless eating of anything which resembled chocolate or bread. I stopped swiping French fries from my son's happy meals. Exercise gave me a routine which I began to look forward to doing. I gradually began to feel more purposeful and confident.
I soon joined a gym and got interested in other physical activities. I bought myself a bike and went on solo trips to visit friends in the neighborhood. I even bought myself a pair of roller skates. I was enjoying my life and having fun. And in taking time for myself I had more energy and stamina to be a better parent to my boys. I learned to smile again.
The effects of my diet and exercise took some months to show but when they did it was noticeable not just to me but to my friends and family. Before long it was time to buy new clothes. I remember the day I went to buy myself a dress. It was the first dress I had purchased in years. I had no idea what my size was. I finally found one that fit and stood before the mirror. I couldn't believe it was me standing there. I had chosen a blue dress with tiny flowers all over it. I had remembered my eldest son's wish to see me in a flowered dress and I couldn't wait to show him. When I got home I modeled it, swirling around like a ballroom dancer. My boys looked in wonder. I am not sure if they recognized me. When I was told, "You look pretty mommy," I beamed.
It hit me that my depression had robbed me of my ability to feel worthy of care. When I began to change my feelings about myself from the inside, it began to show on the outside. Depression is like a beast which quickly devours our self esteem and inner beauty. When you begin to take steps to take care of yourself you drive the beast away. I know it takes more than a flowered dress to beat depression. But for me it was a symbol of what was possible. In shedding the dark and heavy attire of depression, I was finally free to become...me.