I have a confession to make; once I didn’t shower or bathe for five years. Not once.
Now, this isn’t something I talk about often, I mean think about it who really wants to admit that they managed to go without showering for that long. Hell, I know people who won’t admit they went without showering for a day or two. It’s true though, in five years I didn’t get into the shower once. I washed. Flannels, baby wipes too, whatever I had. And I washed my hair at least once a week over the bath with the shower head. It’s how I managed to fool my ex who I was living with at the time. I was good at hiding it.
I was good at hiding everything.
There is a history of this behaviour in my life, but those childhood days of not showering, washing more than my face and definitely not doing my hair was more born out of neglect rather than the depression that the five-year stint was born of.
When I stayed with my dad over the holidays, I wouldn’t wash. Not out of some sense of teenage rebellion, this started younger than that and was exacerbated when my grandparents got rid of the bathtub in favour of a shower stall (they were too old to keep getting in and out of a tub). The shower was always filthy compared to the bath and I never wanted to get into it.
This was fine during half term. Easter and Christmas breaks were always pushing it a bit. The summer holidays were a nightmare. The only time we were clean in six weeks was when we went swimming or stayed at an aunt’s. No one at home never really told us to wash, or bathe or even brush our teeth. So we didn’t and then we’d go back home to our mums. Filthy, vitamin deficient and covered in eczema in my sister’s case.
When I lived in Leicester in the house with the bathroom by the kitchen and the old backdoor my depression had already settled deep into my soul. I was already struggling to maintain a decent level of hygiene. Not just myself but the house too. The house was easy to neglect, I was working – long hours and sleeping the rest. My ex worked nine to five but never seemed inclined to tidy up any more than I did.
It’s partly why we never had kids even though he wanted them badly – if we couldn’t look after ourselves and our house or how could we look after a kid?
There wasn’t one particular day when I stopped showering. It just started to get longer and longer between showers. And then five years had gone by.
I’m not sure when I started showering again. When I moved I think – out of my ex and into the house where I was a lodger for just over a year or so. It was cleaner, certainly, that helped. It made me feel cleaner and want to be cleaner in a way. Plus I was happier being out of a toxic relationship and I was in therapy. things were looking up and I was showering.
However, whenever the depression sets in, my personal hygiene is the first to go. I shower twice a week right now, Thursdays and Sundays – something made easier the shorter my hair is. And my hair is very short right now and I’m using some product in it too.
When I’m depressed though, I don’t look after myself. That manifests itself pretty quickly in terms of my personal hygiene. I don’t shower for the week, I don’t brush my teeth, I brush my hair and put it in a ponytail without washing it or bothering with it in any other way. Now, however, it passes more quickly than it ever did. these are short bouts of depression. A day or so, a week at most. And then I get back on track, back in the shower.
Depression And Personal Hygiene
It’s quite common during depression though so I know it’s not just me. There are a couple of things behind why personal hygiene is first to go. At least for me, there are.
One is the loss of interest in yourself will definitely include your personal hygiene and it’s the ‘easiest’ thing to let go of first. Friends tend to push a little harder than your shower will. They don’t give up on you when you give up on yourself, pushing to come over and spend time with you even as you start to drift away. Or start to smell. You need to eat but you don’t need to wash; not if you’re just spending your days in a state of darkness curled up in your bed. You need to pay your bills to keep the lights on and keep the roof over your head but you don’t need to use the water you’re paying for to wash, just to drink.
Those things will fall away too. I didn’t have any friends who were offline, I had an awful diet that was all frozen meals and junk food. I stopped leaving the house and didn’t go out for six months. In turn didn’t pay my gas bill. Guys came round with a battering ram to make sure they could install a pre-pay meter.
The second reason is that I don’t always feel like I deserve to be looked after. Even if I’m the one looking after myself. More so I think, but I find it hard to accept care from other people but I need it more from them because it’s easier to get them to help me than it is to convince myself I should be helped or cared for.
It’s a self-esteem thing, a long-standing issue probably stemming from my childhood and the depression I’ve been suffering from I’ve been since I was around sixteen.
And I have found that even though I can’t look after myself I still managed to look after my wife and son. I doubt the same could’ve been said ten years ago when my ex was pushing for kids, but I would never have done into this whole motherhood lark if I didn’t think I could do that.
How To Help
What helped me will not help everyone. I needed a lot of therapy and what helps now is a bit of prodding from my wife, less hair to wash and routine. We put the hot water on for definite twice a week so I can bathe my son. So while the water is on I have a shower too. It’s only been a couple of weeks but it seems to be a good routine for me. That’s always been something that’s helped me.
Don’t abandon your friends and family when they start to isolate themselves when they start to neglect themselves. Work with it, work around it, work with them. Push and pull back. Learn what helps them, what they need. My mum knew I wouldn’t react well to nagging so she just left shopping in my porch when she was passing and thought I needed some vitamins in my diet. My sister started cleaning my flat which meant I could spend time with my new niece too.
These are little things that can make a big difference.
Hopefully, eventually, they will find their way back again.