It’s been well over a decade since I’ve had a traditional office job. I’ve had work events and functions over the years that have required a bit of sparkle, but for the most part my work attire is sofa chic. I do always wear pants and I do always wear a bra, but other than that, my personal rules for attire are as casual as the slippers on my feet.
My reasoning for this lack of luster and attention to attire is based entirely on the simple fact: Nobody sees me. So who cares? Why does it matter? But sometimes my casual work day wear gets a little TOO casual.
Sometimes I just stop caring completely.
A few months ago I was rushing to get my son to school and as I looked down at my clothes, I had this fleeting thought, “Will my son’s teacher recognize this shirt from yesterday? Will she recognize it as the same shirt I have had on for several days?” I had this image of the teacher keeping a tally of what parents wear at drop-off and imagined that next to my name there was probably a notation of: “Possibly has multiple black V-neck T-shirts; more probable the mom does not.”
Beyond the repeat wearing of the same shirt and beyond the not really caring about it, there was something pretty significant happening. The not caring, the checking out. It was a symptom.
I’ve been battling depression for a large part of my life. I didn’t seek out help for it until I felt overwhelmed with it as a caregiver. There is actually a diagnosis called “caregiver’s depression.” I remember feeling so much guilt for feeling depressed, but thankfully I was able to recognize that I needed help. I was too terrified that I would break down into tears in front of my doctor so I wrote her a letter explaining what I was feeling. I began a treatment that included medication and when the fog lifted, my doctor gave me the go-ahead to wean off the meds.
A year after that the darkness of depression wafted into my life again. Not only was I still carrying around caregiver depression, but I was also really struggling emotionally while undergoing fertility treatments. It was during this time that I realized and accepted that while some people can have brief moments of treatment and bounce back, I needed a more long-term plan to manage my depression.
I know I will always live with depression. I know I will always need medication to help me survive. I also know that even with medication, I can still become depressed and I have to be proactive in climbing out.
Not caring about how I look is not an instant indicator that I am depressed. That can just as easily be a symptom of being stressed, over-worked, or having a romp of laziness. But then the downward slide happens. I stop washing my hair in the shower because what’s the point. I go to bed in the same T-shirt and pants I wore during the day. Then I continue wearing and sleeping in those same clothes for several days. Because what’s the point. With each act of non-action, I become more and more removed from the surface. The surface is where the vibrant life happens; where my son is dancing and waiting for me.
Talking about depression, especially when I am in the thick of it, is helpful. When I find out that my feelings of retreat happen to other people, it normalizes things and I feel like I can exhale and begin to climb out of the cave. I’m not alone with these feelings of internal chaos.
I recently read an empowering interview with Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz. While Wentz has always been open with his own battle with depression, this really hit home for me.
“It was the first time where I was like, ‘Well, no one’s really taking my picture. I’m just basically hanging out with my kid all day. Who cares?’ I think when you stop caring about your personal appearance, your personal hygiene, it makes you even more depressed, but it makes you do it more. It’s like a vicious cycle.”
Wentz is very passionate about erasing stigmas about mental health issues. When opening up about his battle with bipolar disorder on a Huffington Post video, he articulated, “Everybody figures themselves out in a different way. And I think there’s no shame in talking about that kind of stuff. It’s not something you should feel scared … talking about.”
Once I realized I was sliding into a loop of not caring, which so easily fades into depression, I reached out for help. At first it takes a lot of effort to push through. When you haven’t been taking care of yourself, it can feel oddly selfish to make yourself a priority again. But that’s what MUST happen, and that’s what I’m going to do.
As of 2010, the CDC reports that as many as 8% of Americans battle depression. If you feel like you are experiencing depression talk to your doctor.
• Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
• Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
• Feelings of guilt
• Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable
• Difficulty concentrating
• Insomnia, or excessive sleeping
• Overeating, or appetite loss
• Thoughts of suicide
• Aches or pains, headaches
You are NOT alone and you CAN get better. If you or someone you know needs immediate help, call 911 or go to the ER. The 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is: 1-800-273-TALKMore On