Dear Annie: Letting hygiene go when anxious
Dear Annie: I’ve been suffering from various symptoms of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder since I was about 11 years old. In addition to all of this, when I was 17, my “boyfriend” forcibly had sex with me at a house party. I was not ready, and he forced himself on me. I was raped. I went to counseling very briefly.
When I get really anxious or depressed, my body freezes up, and I feel physically incapable of moving. As you might expect, during these times, my personal hygiene suffers.
When I can’t find the energy to get out of bed, I unintentionally skip brushing my teeth, taking a shower, washing my hair. I know that’s gross. I know it needs to change. I don’t romanticize my mental illness. And the symptoms are compounded by work exhaustion.
I get home in the evenings tired and often stressed, and sometimes I just stay in bed from then until I fall asleep. What should I do? I don’t want to be gross. I want mind to win over matter. — Unhealthy and Unhygienic
Dear Unhealthy and Unhygienic: Living with depression and anxiety can be unbearable. Your health, both mental and physical, is at stake, and you need to consult a professional. Fortunately, with the help of a professional, anxiety and depression are treatable.
You mentioned that your body freezes up. Though most people think a response to trauma is fight or flight, a third and very common response to trauma is freezing. Dr. Peter Levine wrote an amazing book about this, called “Waking the Tiger,” in which he addresses this very type of response to trauma. Your body gets stuck during the traumatic event, even after it is over.
Taking care of your body physically is No. 1, but that is difficult when you are feeling depressed. The good news is that you are aware of this. Your desire to get better means that you are more than halfway on the road to recovery. You sound like a very brave and strong woman, and with counseling, you will find this cloud lifting.
Dear Annie: Your answer to “Sizzled in Sioux Falls” was good but missing one thing: She should see a doctor and get a thorough checkup. There could be a whole host of medical reasons she’s running out of energy doing normal stuff. — Aloha
Dear Annie: I liked your response to “Sizzled in Sioux Falls,” but I felt it was missing something. A proper diet is supposed to yield sustainable energy throughout the day. When sufficient energy is lacking to make it happily through the day, a careful examination of diet and potential food sensitivities should be undertaken. The most typical food suspects are alcohol, gluten, dairy, sugar and excessive caffeine. Many Americans eat a diet rich in grain carbs and low in fresh vegetables. The gut and the mind are intricately connected. — Been There
Dear Aloha and Been There: You are both correct that diet or an underlying medical issue could be at play here. Thank you for your insightful letters.
“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.