As much as depression is stigmatised, it also can often be romanticised. But in a post to her Facebook page, Katelyn Marie Todd gets to the heart of what going through depression can really be like.
Todd wrote that in the midst of a major depressive spell, she began brushing her hair for the first time in nearly a month. Alongside a photo of herself brushing her hair, she opened up about the messier side of living with a mental illness, the parts that we don't often discuss nearly as much as we talk about breaking down the stigma against mental health.
"I brushed my hair today," she wrote. "For the first time in 4 weeks. It was matted and twisted together. It snapped and tore with every stroke. I cried while I washed and conditioned it, because I forgot how it felt to run my fingers through it."
"I brushed my teeth, too, for the first time in a week," she wrote. "My gums bled. My water ran red. I cried over that, as well. When I got out of the shower, I couldn't stop sniffing my hair and arms. I've avoided hugging people for a while, because I never smell good. I always smell like I've been on bedrest for a week. I have no clean clothes, because I'm too tired and sad to wash them."
It's a raw, honest image — one that Todd is sharing in hopes that people understand that depression isn't what it looks like in movies or TV shows. It can be ugly, and it can be painful and difficult to look at.
"Depression isn't beautiful, she wrote. "Depression is bad hygiene, dirty dishes, and a sore body from sleeping too much. Depression is having 3 friends that are only still around because they have the patience and love of a saint. Depression is crying until there's no more tears, just dry heaving and sobbing until you're gasping for your next breath. Depression is staring at the ceiling until your eyes burn because you forget to blink. Depression is making your family cry because they think you don't love them anymore when you're distant and distracted. Depression is somatic as well as emotional, an emptiness you can physically feel."
Her post has clearly resonated with many of us — at the time of writing, it has over 190,000 shares, and over 126,000 reactions on Facebook.
While we've certainly made progress in discussing mental illness more openly, it's still difficult for us to grapple with the parts of mental illness that are messy or that aren't easy to look at. Anyone who has suffered from a mental illness surely knows that they aren't as dream-like and romantic as a Lana Del Rey music video might have you believe. Last year, John Green shut down the glamorisation of mental illness, writing that "romanticising mental illness is as dangerous and destructive just as stigmatising it is."
Todd concluded by calling on those of us close to people with mental illnesses to go easy on our loved ones.
"Please be easy on your friends and family that have trouble getting up the energy to clean, hang out, or take care of themselves," Todd wrote. "And please, please take them seriously if they talk to you about it. We're trying. I swear we're trying."