I have really been struggling lately. Every moment of every day has felt like a battle for the past two weeks. My depression has come back in full force, no longer a silent undertone here and there, but an overwhelming presence.
My days are now filled with the crushing weight of numbness and suicidal thoughts while the impending doom of finals week continues to make things worse. The differences in where I was with my mental health and where I am now are most predominate in my morning routine.
Here are some of the ways my morning routine has been impacted by my mental illness.
1. Same amount of time for less.
I used to really enjoy my morning routine. I used to think of it as my “me time,” first thing in the morning before my boyfriend wakes up and before the responsibilities of the day meet me on the other side of our apartment door.
I would wake up three hours before I needed to leave the house for class, allowing time for exercise (usually yoga), a shower, time to get my thick hair in order, put on my face, eat breakfast, get dressed and pack my bag for the day. Those three hours gave me time to do so much and now it takes that same amount to do far less.
Now, it takes me three hours to do the bare minimum for me to get ready for the day. It takes three hours for me to get out of bed, sometimes shower, throw a hat on, cover up my dark circles, eat something and head off to school.
My morning routine now must account for the time in-between tasks when I am frozen and putting off the day because of the sheer amount of effort that goes into doing everything.
When I am depressed, even the smallest of things turn into enormous amounts of effort. Effort that I just can’t make my body put forth. Because of this, I’ve had to adapt my morning routine so I can save what little effort I do have for bigger things throughout the day.
2. Waterproof makeup.
If I do decide to put makeup on, it’s usually a bit different on my depression heavy days. My goal isn’t making the makeup look pretty, but instead being the most practical in the likely case of tears.
I replace my usual mascara for waterproof. I skip my favorite eyeliner, knowing it will end up smeared down to my cheeks by the end of the day. Contouring is also skipped and extra bursts of fixing mist is added in hopes it will hold what little of makeup I do have on in case of a flood.
Ever since I was little, I have really enjoyed wearing jewelry and layering many pieces together. I guess it’s a part of playing dress up that never left me. I wear less of it when I am depressed, but put more thought into picking it out for the day.
I choose symbols of strength such as my Leo Zodiac necklace and Wonder Woman ring. I also strap on my Fitbit with its guided breathing feature as it is often helpful in times of distress. These little reminders I wear are sometimes the only things that make me feel prepared to handle the day.
I have always been the perpetual “early bird,” usually showing up or being ready at least 15 minutes earlier than I need to be. However, when my depression starts to have a greater presence in my life, I have started leaving the house later and later.
I find myself choosing not to do some of the morning chores, making them my boyfriend’s responsibility in the process. For example, I have lately been completely unable to walk our dog in the morning. I just can’t do it. Leaving these things that I potentially could do up to my partner at the last minute often make us race against the clock right before we leave.
Through therapy, I have learned the concept of emotional avoidance. My depression will convince me to avoid thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and other experiences, even though doing so creates a deeper depression in the long run.
Even though I have become familiar with this concept, it still takes a lot of work to practice. My intention for the coming week is to do the opposite of what my depression suggests in an effort to get back to my usual routine and break this spiraling cycle.
My first step is unrolling that yoga mat Monday morning when my alarm goes off instead of hitting snooze. Wish me luck!