I did absolutely nothing last summer, 2019. It was not only necessary but time for some much needed mental rest. 2018 was hard, to say the least. I was exhausted. From work, not dealing with past traumas and constantly fighting off suppressed grief, there was so much internally that needed to be dealt with. My father passed away in 2013, and for the life of me, I couldn’t remember ever fully grieving his death. I felt at peace about it, but at times, I wasn’t so sure if it was peace or avoidance. Add on to that the fact I had personal relationships that desperately needed healing, while others needed to come to a close that I was too hesitant to end.
Overall, I was a wreck. And my therapist knew it.
By May 2019, I knew it was time for a break. Time to breathe and recalibrate. I’ll never forget texting one of my best friends and telling her about my experience of having my “final” breakdown in December 2018. Her response: it sounds like you’re having a breakthrough.
She was right.
This wasn’t a regular moment of sadness or just feeling like I was stuck in a rut. To be honest, it felt like an emotional growth spurt forced upon me in order to heal and make some changes in my life. From February 2019 until December 2019, I focused heavily on healing. It was an ugly, uncomfortable experience that led to me now feeling like I have new energy flowing through me. But the experience to get here was needed and really, opened a new chapter of life for me. While I’m feeling alive and in tune with myself again, I know that this is only the beginning.
Throughout last year, I found myself sinking deeper and letting go of the things that helped me feel good about myself. It had to get worse before it got better, I suppose. Skipping the gym and canceling on friends topped the list, but the first thing to go was my personal beauty routine. I knew I wasn’t feeling at all like myself when I would avoid my skincare regimen, or say “whatever” to get primped for work. The feeling of just not caring about Melanie became overwhelming, as it does with many people who battle depression or are dealing with a mental health crisis.
Inactivity and sleeping a lot is a signal to myself that I’m feeling down or something is off. Let long periods of it ensue and I get worried. So when I began to feel my worst, my therapist was very adamant about asking if I was keeping up with my routine. At the time, I was working from home a lot, so camping out was easy to do. And no, I wasn’t keeping up with my routine.
Through our talks, I learned a great deal about why activity, routines and incorporating the simple things that make you feel here are important. Many people view beauty and makeup as vain and superficial. But what so many don’t know is that beauty and makeup can be a great part of one’s self-care, and self-care can be a part of helping people through mental health issues and depression. The act of pampering yourself can be therapeutic.
While it took me the rest of the year to really begin to feel better, I noticed around fall that the very first thing I isolated once I began to experience depression, was slowly helping me through it: my beauty routine. I took baby steps, of course. Starting with just doing my skincare routine or adding a little brow pencil to wake my face up. It felt odd at first, but no matter how small the steps felt, I remained as committed as I could (because you will have days that just suck).
A big part of my new energy comes from learning so much from therapist Shani Graves, who took some time out of her busy Brooklyn life to add a bit of insight into routines and how they affect many dealing with depression.
How do you feel the art of routine therapeutically helps many like myself through their depression or out of a rut?
Routine is a key component when learning how to manage any mental health concern, whether that is feeling stuck, depressed, anxious, etc. It gives a person something to focus on, be present and create movement. Routine also gives a feeling of control. Control is something we all crave. When we feel as if we lack control, we can develop internal chaos, with our thoughts and emotions (which internally can cause depression, feelings of being stuck and anxiety).
I started small with just doing my eyebrows and skincare to feel active again. I asked about routine, but how does movement and activity help through a depression?
Movement definitely helps with decreasing depression. Being active (whether big or small) helps with building endorphins and in the words of Legally Blonde,” endorphins make you happy!”(in a sense). Some of the symptoms of depression are loss of interest, inactivity, and isolation. To combat these symptoms, we will need to slowly begin doing the opposite.
I started very slow. Why is it so important to take extremely small steps when rebuilding yourself and healing?
You want to create a routine or movement that you can stick to. This means building and taking things slow to find what will actually work consistently over time.
Depression can come in cycles and waves. When you take time to develop a routine, it becomes easier to spot when a period of depression may be returning. You may notice that you stopped doing your eyebrows, or stopped listening to music on your walk home.
My beauty routine really helped me with checkpoints as to how much better I was feeling. The better I felt, the more I would add to my self-care. Do you think this is an aspect of beauty that people overlook? Or does this experience feel more individualistic?
When we are not feeling good internally, it can be difficult to feel good outwardly. And some times feeling good outwardly can spill over internally. How a person expresses this is based on what is important to them.
If you or anyone you know may be in need of help or suffering through a depression, please utilize these services. For Black women seeking therapy, check out the Therapy for Black Girls site for more information and support.