I don’t know about you, but self-care can be a problem when I’m hypomanic. I forget I have so much to do. It just does not enter my mind. I’m not a dirty person naturally, but when I go hypo, there is no single thought in my mind that says I need to brush my hair or have a bath.
It sounds gross, but it is true; some people get it with the depression side, others, no matter what, always manage to look after themselves, but this is very rare from my experience.
If you have seen my picture on the sidebar to the right, you may think I am highly manicured and possibly high maintenance, but that is just my professional image. In reality, the photo below is unedited apart from a bit of extra lighting of the image. This is what I look like daily, a hoody, jeans or leggings. Although I could have taken the photo of me in my leopard print dressing gown, I saved you from this.
Bath, Teeth & Hair
Looking after myself can be a nightmare when all I can think of is the plethora of ideas that stream into my mind. Unfortunately, most things take a back burner. I’m lucky my son is old enough at the age of eighteen to look after himself.
But, I remember when he was a kid, looking after him used every ounce of energy I had. When he went to school, I then was working, and I was shattered all the time. It is not unusual for a parent, but it can lead to problems when the parent suffers from mental health issues.
Ultimately it led to depression, a serious bout of it lasting well on for five years. I didn’t even know I was depressed; I thought I had some physical disease because I was in pain constantly. It turns out because I wasn’t listening to my mind, my body started creating somatic pain.
Gradually I gave up working for a big client, my self-care stopped, and I became a lump of flesh. By this time, my son was fifteen, and I was able to lift the mask I had used for the whole of his life. I had no choice; I was breaking.
I can remember looking in the mirror and not recognising the person staring back at me, the years had taken their toll, and I had in my mind little resemblance to the person I used to be.
I couldn’t remember the last time I had looked in the mirror, but my hair was matted, my teeth stained from nicotine and coffee, and I had wrinkles.
How on earth had I become the very symbol of bad mental health? It was because I had refused medication up until that point for several years. But I had to change my thought pattern.
It wasn’t a lightbulb moment, more of a glowing ember. I went to the doctors, I knew I needed help, and I was put on Prozac; I knew it would send me, hypo, my doctor did not read my notes, and I didn’t say. I needed something to lift me, and sure enough, a couple of weeks later, I was manic, thankfully not to the extent I needed hospitalisation.
I still looked a mess, but because my inhibitions were low, I had confidence and went to the dentist, the hairdressers, in fact, any place that would take me to have an overhaul—nothing cosmetic, just a tidy up.
I don’t recommend to anyone to use medication to create a manic phase, I was foolish, but it did work in lifting me from breaking point.
But then I had to go on mood stabilisers which didn’t agree with me physically but did mentally, and I managed to take care of myself.
How Do I Self-Care Now?
As I’m writing this article, I wonder if I am writing to you or a family member who might not understand why self-care might be an issue, but those with issues have to face it.
Trying to find the balance with bipolar is a constant battle for me, and I’m speaking with my psychiatrist every couple of months or so for medication adjustments. I know my self-care has its ups and downs because it doesn’t enter my mind.
So, I set timers to remind me of what I must do; I know I must brush my teeth at the very minimum. My hair can be a mess, but I have to have my teeth clean, as, for me, it shows to the world there is a semblance of normality within my life.
I even forked out for all singing and dancing toothbrush.
As for my hair, I’ve stopped dying it and will let it grow grey, less for me to think about. I write in my diary and on my calendar and set my phone with a schedule for a bath, moisturise etc.
I know I need more than one reminder per task, as it is all too easy to ignore it, but more difficult if it is going off every five minutes. I get annoyed at myself for outthinking my own mind, but it is necessary.
I make sure I keep lots of body wipes in stock, just in case I don’t listen to my alarms or schedules and delete them all. It happens occasionally.
I may get slated for a post like this and be called dirty, but that will be from ignorant folks who have little understanding of mental health issues. As I said, it’s not because I can’t be bothered; it just does not enter my mind. It doesn’t help that I have memory problems. It only adds to the mix.
But the good news is I have learned since that fateful viewing in the mirror; I cannot say I will never become like that again but what I do know is I am more aware of the nature of my illness than I ever have been.
Peace & Blessings x