Anne Kennedy, whose blog you should already be following, wrote glancingly about some new self help book about washing your face, and I've continued to think about her words in the weeks since she posted this. I don't wash my face every day and it started me wondering about why "self care" is so difficult for people with depression.
Then I was reminded of one of my favorite passages from Kathleen Norris' The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and "Women's Work:"
Our culture's ideal self, especially the accomplished, professional self, rises above necessity, the humble, everyday, ordinary tasks that are best left to unskilled labor. The comfortable lies we tell ourselves regarding these "little things"--that they don't matter, and that daily personal and household chores are of no significance to us spiritually--are exposed as falsehoods when we consider that reluctance to care for the body is one of the first symptoms of extreme melancholia. Shampooing the hair, washing the body, brushing the teeth, drinking enough water, taking a daily vitamin, going for a walk, as simple as they seem, are acts of self-respect. They enhance one's ability to take pleasure in oneself and in the world. At its Greek rook the word acedia means "lack of care," and indifference to one's welfare can escalate to overt acts of self-destruction and even suicide. Care is not passive--the word derives from an Indo-European word meaning "to cry out," as in a lament. Care asserts that as difficult and painful as life can be, it is worth something to be in the present, alive, doing one's daily bit. It addresses and acts on the daily needs that acedia would have us suppress and deny. Caring is one response to the grief of the human condition. (pg. 40-1)
(P.S. She also reflects upon acedia at more length in her book Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life.)
One of my biggest struggles, living with chronic Epstein Barr, is finding the energy for self-care. Showers take a huge amount of energy and have to be planned almost days in advance. And I have to be very careful about the temperature of the water in my shower; if it's too hot, it will take more than an hour for my body to cool off again and I'll feel exhausted afterwards. Winter actually makes showering easier instead of harder because it's already cold outside and my body has that external help.
Then there are the days when acedia has me in its grip and I just don't care. I go to bed thinking, Yet another day I should have showered. This is why I attend a weekly Bible study at my church. I need reasons to get dressed and presentable at least one weekday morning. Well, I first started going when Alex was a toddler because they had free childcare, but that was 14 years ago. Now I go for me.
So, today I managed a shower, clean clothes, a quick trip to the grocery store, and several more calls to the pharmacy to find out why they haven't filled Miranda's anti-anxiety prescription yet. Apparently, the insurance company is sitting on it because it's expensive. And they're gone for the day. I left a voicemail.
It's like the company is schizophrenic: Miranda needs her meds to be in liquid form now because pills make her vomit and THIS IS BIG DEAL and takes weeks for approval. But Alex's testosterone shots? No big deal. Here you go. Isn't this a controlled substance? And you're just handing it to me for ten bucks? My insurance company shouldn't be my biggest cause of stress. Oh, wait, it's America in 2019. And I'm ranting. Time to stop.
Please, subscribe to Anne's blog and read Kathleen Norris as soon as possible. If I like you, I might loan you my copy.