My home state of California is suffering a serious and ongoing drought, and I want everyone to know that those who suffer from depression are doing their part to conserve precious water.
Some of our contributions are obvious…not doing dishes too often, not drinking as much water as people who exercise; this kind of thing.
But consider: a conventional shower head uses 5-7 gallons a minute. A deeply depressed person might forgo showers for days or weeks, conserving hundreds of gallons. Similarly, denying ourselves the comfort of a bath saves 28-50 gallons each time.
Washing a load of laundry takes 18 to 55 gallons of water, so wearing our less-than-fresh clothes again and again is a big help. Keep them in a handy pile for quick access.
It takes water to wash a face and brush a set of teeth–and is it really necessary, when there’s such a shortage? Get depressed enough and you won’t think so.
Maybe this shocks you a bit. It might; it’s one of those aspects of depression that aren’t talked about too much. Not everyone who’s depressed lives this way, or perhaps they’ve been there only for short and specific periods. Depression is a term that describes a continuum of symptoms. In addition, some of us have more anchors to normality than others.
An anchor to normality is something that applies pressure to us to function in the outside world. The pressure might not be sufficient, if we’re sick enough–but it’s there, and it might get us into clean clothes and out of the house when we’d otherwise stay in. Isolation is both a symptom of and a contributor to depression, and its effects can be vicious among the elderly, disabled or anyone who faces no strong pressure to go out.
Anchors or not, I believe I’m not alone in having an odd relationship with personal hygiene. I live in a culture that sees a daily shower/bath as the normal thing. Never mind that many places in the world don’t have this luxury, or don’t see it as necessary every day–this is the culture I was brought up in, so I feel alien when I’m not conforming even if nobody ever notices.
Let’s just say I’ve conserved a LOT of resources over the years.
One time that I was hospitalized, I went in on a Monday morning. My husband took our daughter to school before we went, and while he was doing that I followed the plan we’d made and took a shower. It had been at least a week, and I went through the tasks slowly and methodically. Calmed by the knowledge that we were going to get help, I dug deeply into my dresser and found fresh clothing. It was late summer, and the clean socks I pulled on were the first I had worn in a while. The other clothing felt curiously soft against my skin. Tennis shoes, over the socks, gave me a strange cushion-like feeling when I walked.
As I write this, I am thinking about why I, or we, go through struggles about these particular kinds of self-care. Is it for the same reasons we struggle to do anything else? Is it simply the same impulse-destroyer that steers us past our medications or pleasurable hobbies? Is it the physical effort involved for an aching body? Or is it more psychologically complicated than this?
Did you cleanse and care for your body today? Are you aware of what a loving thing you did for yourself, even if it just felt like a step in your daily routine? Do you know how amazing it is that you’re capable of a daily routine involving more than absolute necessities?
I do. I hope you do it again, and again, at whatever frequency feels healthful for you. Set a timer if you want to be conscious of water use, but if you’ve got what it takes to get in there, do it!
There are better ways to fight the drought.