Depression has a lot of invisible to the outside world side-effects that I imagine people often feel ashamed about, and therefore walk around with it alone. I know I felt ashamed. I want to talk about bad habits that if not caused by, at the very least became stuck in my system as a result of depression. I think some of mine are universal, while others might be slightly more personal. I hope that sharing this might if you are affected by this too, remove some of the shame that can be attached to it.
My first bad habit was my inability to keep a clean room and living space. If I was feeling depressed or was having a bad day or a bad experience during the day, I’d come home and everything I had with me (coat, bags, clothes as changing into pyjamas) would end up on a random place on my floor. If I was already at home, anything I’d use would also end up on the floor afterwards. If I was eating a lot of chocolate, wrappers wouldn’t go in the bin, they’d end up on my floor. In conclusion, if I wasn’t doing good my room would be an absolute mess.
Every two weeks or so, I’d feel too frustrated with the mess that I’d clean it all up, but my clean room often only lasted for a day. Once or twice, I even felt so bad and/or empty that I was incredibly frustrated with my room and what made it mine. I’m talking about having certain posters up, books on shelves, small statue things, postcards sent by friends hanging on my walls. It felt like all of this represented happy things and I didn’t feel that way. I felt like my room was sketching an unrealistic image of how I was doing and so I spend the entire night cleaning it all up until my walls and the shelves were empty.
I have to point out that I am, in fact, a neat person. I cannot stand a mess, but my depression was so overwhelming that it wasn’t in my control. My mood would dictate what my room looked like and I’d been wanting to change this for years. I wanted to have and keep a clean room desperately. I kept on trying by cleaning it, but as I mentioned, it would often only last a day. But since early spring, I started managing to control it better. I’m not sure what brought along the change exactly. Slowly but surely I managed to keep my room clean for longer periods at a time and in the current moment, my room is clean 90% of the time. Miss Lois did implement a rule that I had to keep my room clean, that every time I used anything, it would have to return to its proper place afterwards. But by the time she implemented this rule, I already had it under control and so she never had to punish me.
I don’t get particularly many spots on my face since I passed my teenage years. Every now and then, usually just before my period is set to start (it doesn’t because I take the pill, bless) a few spots pop up here and there. Sometimes they hurt but even if they didn’t my first inclination was to pop them. If they then wouldn’t go away (they don’t tend to for me, then) I could touch them again and push out some more blood (sorry, too much detail? lol.) As a result, the spots would become ugly, swollen, red spots. While the initial spots might have been mostly invisible to the outside world, they were now very much in-your-face kind of visible.
I know that I did this because I was feeling bad. My ex-girlfriend and Miss Lois both, obviously on different timelines, wanted me to stop doing it. When I was with my ex, I never ended up listening to her but when I was in the dynamic with Miss Lois, I took it a little more seriously. However, the problem was that I couldn’t stop myself. I told her the problem was that I did it because of my mood and my mood was, at the very least, one of continuously trying to survive. Somehow, popping these spots gave me a momentary moment of immersive distraction. But then I’d feel ashamed after, not just because Miss Lois wanted me to stop. I felt ashamed because I’d now have to walk around with this massive red thing for probably at least a week and I’d feel worried because what if this would turn into a scar?
Beyond these people wanting me to stop, I’d been wanting to stop doing it for years. In fact, near the start of Miss Lois and my dynamic, I suggested I should get punished if I did it. I managed to stop doing it sometime near the first few months of this year. I found enough determination, likely due to my intense desire to become ‘better’ for Miss Lois, to stop popping them. It wasn’t a change that happened overnight. At first, I managed a few days and then on a really bad day, I’d returned to my habit and pop the spot. But slowly, I started being able to control it and nowadays, my face is mostly clean and I don’t even have to use face cleaner or something. The only thing I use is a blemish stick. Again, by the time Miss Lois finally wanted to start implementing this rule, I’d already had it under control.
I have lived off sugar for most of my life. I was born 10 weeks too early and as a result, my stomach rejected a lot of food when I was younger. Mum would give us brown bread for breakfast, attempting to instil healthy habits from the start, but I would automatically spit/throw it back up. I would feel/taste the grains and I couldn’t keep it in. Eventually, I started skipping breakfast and simply snuck down early to raid the kitchen cabinet of chocolate cookies. I needed food in the morning and this worked…
Growing up, sugary foods could be found everywhere in the outside world; in advertisements, school canteens, supermarkets. I started to realise that if I felt unhappy or sad, eating chocolate or crisps would make me feel better. Because my sad feeling was so overwhelming I didn’t think about how this might be bad for me. All I knew was that I wanted to feel better.
When I moved away to university, my parents, obviously, disappeared out of the picture. While at home, I felt a little embarrassment or shame if I ate too many bad things, I had no such troubles at university. And even more so, everyone ate cookies, chocolate, crips etc. all the time to provide comfort when, say, an essay had to be written. Eating sugary foods wasn’t a taboo, it was incredibly normal.
At the same time, my depression was as bad as ever. Additionally, due to university accommodation and constant parties in my block, I became incredibly sleep-deprived and felt even worse as a result. I lived off comfort food, finding solace in it and it changed from a bad habit into an addiction. Consuming all this sugar made me feel bad about myself. Eating in the moment felt good while I felt guilty afterwards. It also had the side-effect that I was constipated most of the time, which contributed to feeling worse overall. (I do think I am way more sensitive compared to other people. None of my uni friends had this problem of literally always being constipated as a result of eating so much sugar. My stomach still struggles with some foods as well and I suspect it’s because of my early birth.)
Far before university though, food had already become a need rather than just a want. I couldn’t control myself. I didn’t feel like I had the power, sugar had. Naturally, I wanted to stop but I think everyone can agree that this is incredibly hard and most people seem unable to do so. Even if we follow diets, the effects often don’t last. That’s because the problem isn’t the eating, it’s the mood and or other underlying problems that cause the bad habit.
Like with the negative habit’s above, I told Miss Lois that perhaps she should put me on a diet. At the same time, more so than with the other’s my addiction almost felt necessary. If I became suicidal, wasn’t it better to eat a lot of bad stuff, rather than to cut myself or worse? I was worried though and had been since far before I met Miss Lois, about how I slowly gained weight. While it wasn’t visible to other people, I could feel my body change. I felt the tummy that slowly grew, but mostly I was scared because this wasn’t in my control.
I didn’t manage to turn this addiction around on my own. Eventually, Miss Lois did tell me to stop eating chocolate and such and I was super, super worried about this, thinking I’d never be able to manage and worrying about what I would do when the depression hit me. The way I managed to do it was by finding a replacement for chocolate (bland cream crackers, which by the way I’m quite weird, I love the flavour of just plain cream crackers, raspberries and carrots with humous) and allowed myself to eat as many of them as I wanted as long as I wouldn’t touch any other sugary food.
The first few weeks were terrible. It was incredibly difficult to hold on, but the fact that Miss Lois had ordered me to helped a lot. It was also the right call to allow myself to eat the substitute food for as much as I wanted to. It helped me survive the first few weeks and afterwards, the sugar had been removed from my system which meant the craving had also been removed. As a result, my intake of replacement foods decreased.
My stomach felt less bloated, my constipation lessened and I started losing some weight. My body was feeling a lot better and this became an extra motivational factor to keep it up. When I slipped up, I wouldn’t blame and hate myself afterwards. I simply returned to my healthier ways the next day, and once, Miss Lois punished me for eating an entire chocolate bar as, I guess, another point of motivation, lol.
I do have to add that I only drink water (or tea) and have been since I was about 13, simply because I prefer it. I also play football (training 3 times a week plus a match), tennis and rugby 7s once the football season ends. I am very active and my metabolism is very high. I was already quite healthy I guess, apart from my sugar addiction, which overall made it easier to accomplish what I have now accomplished. I no longer feel like sugar controls my life and wow does it feel good!
Pulling out leg and pubic hair
This is a habit I picked up about eight or nine months ago, although I used to do it when I was 17/18 years old too. I don’t keep my legs clean of hair by shaving, I use tweezers and it’s the same for my upper vaginal hair. I can’t really explain why, but it’s very calming for me to do so. It obviously takes ages to remove all the hair when I’m depressed I want to pass time as time is going so slowly. Doing this keeps me occupied and the added pain at the start was kind of welcomed.
Because I’m doing this, my legs and vagina constantly look irritated and has red spots all over it. I think it’s especially bad on my legs, but it’s not visible on pictures. I have been wanting to stop this because it looks so bad, but I can’t. I don’t dare and shave it because if all my hair is gone, what do I do when I feel bad and need this to distract myself and calm me down. I pluck hairs nearly every day and it’s not always because I feel utterly bad, but it also helps me escape from the memories of my dreams and nightmares that I have every night.
I hope that I’ll be stable enough one day to beat this habit or addiction even. I feel like my sleep would have to change for that though, and that’s a whole other story for another time.
I very briefly want to mention that as a result of my depression, I will sometimes struggle to brush my teeth in the morning or evening. I want to mention this because if anyone else struggles with this as a result of depression, I want you to know that you’re not alone and you shouldn’t be ashamed of it, although I too, still feel ashamed because of it.
If I feel utterly shitty at the end of the day, I do not have the strength to brush my teeth. Similarly, if I feel utterly shit in the morning, I do not have the strength to brush my teeth. I try to solve this by brushing them during the day sometimes, but it continues to be a struggle I haven’t been able to solve yet.
Overall, I feel like I am slowly reclaiming my agency that depression has stolen from me. While I haven’t beaten depression, I am getting rid of its negative influences one by one. More than living in a clean space, having a clean face or feeling healthier as a result of eating less sugar, I feel in some sort of control again and I can say fuck you depression, you can’t negatively influence my life as much anymore. It’s time for you to get your claws out of my face.