Mental Illness and Why I Neglect Myself

*trigger warning: self harm (just not as you know it).

It’s Mental Health Awareness week this week and I’ve known for a while that I wanted to speak about an aspect of my struggles with mental health with the hope that it may reach some of you that are having the same struggles. One thing I’ve learned since having this blog is that no matter what I think I’m dealing with alone, someone else is dealing with the same thing.

My mental illness manifests itself in many ways. Mostly it looks like it does on TV. Sitting in silence. Not getting out of bed. Sadness. Crying. Followed by a bout of hyperactivity. Other times it takes the form of a type of self-harm that I’m sure you’ve not heard of before, unless you experience it yourself.

This type of self-harm is complete self-neglect.

It’s a hard thing to admit. That your mental health leaves you in such a state that looking after your physical health just doesn’t figure in your daily life. That your body is your mind’s wasteland.

What does this form of self harm look like? It looks like me. Bitten nails. Dry skin. Mascara stains from not properly cleansing. Other than that it’s pretty hard to spot. Unlike other forms of self harm, where scars are often visible or at least covered by clothes, this form is less recognisable.

I neglect myself in different ways. In the depths of a depressive mood, I may not shower for a day or two. Gross, right? But it’s what my brain tells me I am. Gross. In a depressive mood I will bite my nails until they are raw. If you spot polish on them, it’s a sign I’m doing alright. When I’m feeling low, I will fill my body with the most disgusting foods. Two dinners? Not a problem. I know when it’s really bad. It’s really bad when I can’t stop picking at and itching my skin. When I let my eyebrows grow out to hideous proportions. It’s really bad when I don’t mind leaving the house with greasy, scraped back hair and clothes that hang from my body to cover anything. To drown me.

Other ways that I neglect myself may not be physical. I will not pay bills and ignore the calls until the stress of the monkey on my back forces my head to hide under a pillow. I will frivolously wank away money until I’m living on Supernoodles and my chest tightens harder each time I open my banking app. I will quit jobs. I will quit relationships. I will do anything to make myself feel terrible. It’s self harm, but maybe not as you know it.

For most people, basic self care such as answering the phone, organising your day, putting on perfume or drinking the right amount of water is natural. To *not* do these things is unfathomable. For those with mental illness, when your brain is continuously unfathomable, even the most basic aspects are an effort, a thought, a chore and sometimes an insurmountable undertaking.

This isn’t new for me. I have been battling with this for as long as I can remember. In fact, a life without self-neglect is not a life I recognise. Yes I have strong periods. They can last days, weeks or months. During these periods, you’ll see me with clean hair every day. I’ll wear outfits I’ve felt confident in putting together. My nails will be painted and there’ll be money in my bank. I’ll spring out of bed, ready for the day. My bedroom will be tidy and I’ll be ploughing through my to-do list like there’s no tomorrow. But with these highs, comes those lows.

Why am I writing about this? And why now? Growing up, I had this picture in my head that by the time I was 30, all of this would’ve gone away. I didn’t understand mental illness. I blamed it on the situations at the time. But by 30, I’d be a grown woman and I would’ve grown out of this. Except I haven’t. Because you don’t grow out of mental illness.

Now I’m 30, I’m finally looking at the rest of my life. And this time not through the eyes of a teenager. As some of you regular readers know, this year has been a year of self discovery for me. I love myself more than I ever have. And with that self love, there finally comes a desire to stop the self-neglect.

I’m taking practical steps every day to take care of myself. Whether that’s to light a candle before bed. Or use an expensive face mask. Or even just to brush my hair. One act a day of self love is the least I can do to make up for the years of acts of self hate.

I can’t promise that from this day forward I won’t display some of the behaviours I’ve listed above. I can’t even promise that I’m not doing some of them right now. But what I can promise myself is that I understand it’s the time to do something about it.

We are all put on this planet to be happy, to be loving and kind creatures and if we can’t do that for ourselves, we’re not going to be able to do that for others. Each time we wake up we get a choice – to change or to stay the same.

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. My choice is to change what I’ve done before in the hope that I’ll convince my mental illness to stop using me as it’s barren and neglected wasteland.

Photography: My lovely Kaye

26 Comments

  1. May 8, 2017 / 7:36 pm

    Can 110% relate to this post! Mental health comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and no one person will experience it the same as another. You just have to get through the shit times and make the most of the productive days! X

  2. May 8, 2017 / 7:45 pm

    Love this post Vix! It can be so hard to not feel self – love at times. We are battle with our selves continuously but I’m glad your making changes for yourself.

  3. May 8, 2017 / 7:55 pm

    I opened this post expecting something I don’t relate to but want to learn about, but actually, I relate to this so much! Literally every single point is me. I’ve never thought of it as a major issue, just something I do, but it takes its toll. Recently I turned 30 too and realised that other people don’t live like that. They get on with things. They have routine. I have a kind of similar post ready for tomorrow about self care.
    I’m sorry you go through it too, but almost glad I’m not the only one xx

  4. May 8, 2017 / 7:56 pm

    Vix <3 This is one of the most well constructed, from-the-heart, brave, important things I have read for a long time. You are worth so much – so, so much – and so many people think the absolute world of you, but MH has no regard for things life that. You feel whatever you need to feel and never ever think those things aren't valid. So much love and respect for you and I just know this post is going to help so many people.

  5. May 8, 2017 / 7:57 pm

    Reading this post felt like reading something I’d written without knowing – all of it just feels SO familiar.

    One of the first things I noticed when looking back for signs that I was struggling with depression was that I wore make up even more infrequently, and it became easy to believe that my steady routine of using face and hand creams never existed! I find myself not ignoring bills, but things like popping out to the shop to get a carton of milk – which has transpired into other areas of my life. I find myself procrastinating with everything and am having to rewire my brain to just get little things, like making my bed, done and out of the way even if I naturally think to put it off until later.

    I love “Today is the first day of the rest of my life.” and will be taking it forward with me too. Thank you for this post, Vix x

  6. The Other Emma
    May 8, 2017 / 8:25 pm

    This is me. Know that you’re not alone and keep putting one foot in front of the other x

  7. Elizabeth
    May 8, 2017 / 8:30 pm

    Vix – this completely resonates with me. I am able to work and intermittently socialise – but then I crash for entire weekends. I don’t shower – I hibernate. I block out the world and drift from one bout of restless sleep to another. As I have a young family the guilt is horrific. Any form of physical illness simply exacerbates this. But I’m gradually forcing myself out of this. Thank you for such an honest and inclusive post.

  8. May 8, 2017 / 8:37 pm

    Such a brave post to write. A lot of respect for you for being so honest, not just with the internet and all of us but with yourself. <3

  9. May 8, 2017 / 10:03 pm

    I loved this post Vix. You’ve got a way with words that makes everything you write feel relatable and touch each individual that reads it. These last few months have been tough, since ending a long term relationship back in November and a few flings that ended badly. I’m still trying to learn that as an individual not having that validation of a partner, I’m worthy of being loved/loving myself. Not quite there yet, but I’m trying to make a change. Small steps, but we’ll get there.

    Ellie x

  10. May 8, 2017 / 10:54 pm

    I loved your honestly and openess in this post. I can relate, I know in myself I’m not feeling 100%, I’ll spend all my money because “it’ll cheer me up”, I’ll slob about for days just building a mess around me, and that’s just how I deal with it, more so right now than any other time in my life. But I’ve always got the ‘people have it worse than you’ voice in my head, so I carry on as much as I can.
    I’ve loved watching you find yourself over the last few months & seeing your self confidence grow, even if it is just sharing a picture of yourself that you don’t hate, it’s lovely to see.
    Keep it up pretty lady
    Emily-May x

  11. May 8, 2017 / 10:58 pm

    Wow Vix you might as well be talking about me,everything you just said is me down to the putting off bills etc and I’m a mum of 3.Plus I’m 38 so nope it doesn’t go away and does control you I hate it. Great read as always hun and from one greasy haired none getting dressed to another…..Im here to chat anytime you need to hun always remember you have somebody xxx (hugs) Xxx

  12. Giz
    May 9, 2017 / 6:04 am

    Love you, Vix. I think you’re fab for sharing this so openly. You looked hawt yesterday so keep making that choice gyal x

  13. May 9, 2017 / 10:49 am

    Ah Vix, I just bloomin’ love your writing, you explain this difficult head space so well. It is true, the state of my mental health correlates so much with how I look after myself. I not only neglect myself, but I just lose grip on the basics, I get forgetful and it just sends everything round in a vicious cycle. Mental health like general health will always be something to look after, all the way through life. We can do it! Immy x

    http://www.immymay.com

  14. May 9, 2017 / 12:14 pm

    This is one of those posts that you open and assume your not going to be able to imagine how it must feel. But when i opened it i found so much more that i could relate to personally. Im so glad you had the courage and bravery to write this post so that other women can understand that what there going through isn’t an individual circumstance and that there are others out there who can understand. Your post made me realise that i need to discover a love for myself that i dont currently have. Thanks again for an inspiring post! x

    firstforeverything101.blogspot.co.uk

  15. Alice
    May 9, 2017 / 3:09 pm

    This is a fantastic and heartfelt post and so good highlighting the aspects and signs of mental health that often go unnoticed or are mistaken for laziness. Really hope you can fight your demons and show yourself the self love you deserve! Alice xxx

    http://www.woodenwindowsills.co.uk

  16. May 9, 2017 / 3:40 pm

    I’m always so excited to see that you’ve posted something, and I’m very inspired to write a blog post about this. When life kicks me in my stomach I eat shit I don’t even like, I’ll leave the house not smelling the greatest, I can’t even listen to music which is something I absolutely love, it’s almost as if I’m punishing myself! It’s good to know that I’m not alone. At 29 I’m more confident than ever, but feeling mentally unwell is a constant struggle.

    Don’t ever stop blogging!

    Namaste

  17. May 9, 2017 / 5:27 pm

    This is such an insightful post on the effects of mental health. Well done for being so candid xx

  18. May 10, 2017 / 12:29 pm

    A great post, thank you for sharing. I’m sending you positive thoughts and hugs.

  19. May 10, 2017 / 12:30 pm

    A great post, thank you for sharing your mental health story. I’m sending you positive thoughts and hugs.

  20. May 10, 2017 / 2:44 pm

    It would never occur to me call what you described self harm. I just considered life with mental illness. I suppose because I don’t consider any of those thing conscious acts. I don’t look after myself when my mental health is bad because I can’t. Self harm is an entirely different thing for me. I’m not saying you’re wrong. I know there is no right. I just find myself surprised with this way of looking at things & that surprises me. In any case, I hope you are managing to treat yourself right.xx

    http://www.somethinginthewayshemoves.me

  21. A different Mike
    May 10, 2017 / 3:23 pm

    You should pat yourself on the back for identifying and addressing these behaviors at 30. I’m 48 and working on these same issues. The exact behaviors may be different but the goal is the same. This is a very quiet, even sneaky form of self harm that no one else can see, and the effects may be even worse than those that hurt themselves in an outward way, because it is a constant chipping away at the self. A cut steps hurting and the skin heals, but this pain doesn’t end and no healing takes place.

    Good luck on your journey and thank you for sharing your story!

  22. May 12, 2017 / 6:37 am

    This is an amazing and honest post, Vix. Mental health is so complex and comes in so many different forms.

    Sending lots of love xxx

  23. May 13, 2017 / 2:10 pm

    I totally relate! I can tell when I’m going through a bad patch of mental health because I will eat rubbish from morning til night and do no exercise whatsoever.

  24. May 16, 2017 / 11:56 am

    I can 100% relate to this Vix, mainly because I share so many of those traits with you yet until I read this I would never have thought of them in this way – I have spent far too long mentally & (in some cases) physically abusing myself and it is time to start being a little kinder to mysef.

    Emma | HarmonyBlaze.co.uk

  25. May 27, 2017 / 12:16 am

    I’m glad you took the time to self-examine and think it as a positive way. There is definitely a lot of ways self-harm can happen, and I think this post also brings awareness to those who feel self-conscious, and give some hope!

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