Self-Care for When You’ve Hit Rock Bottom

There’s been a little bit of a lag in new posts going out lately and it’s not for lack of content.  I have content for days, weeks, months, even years.  It’s me.  Yes, I know, the overused ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ line, but it’s true.  I’ve been struggling with my relationship with myself.  Admittedly, I have depression, anxiety, and PTSD and have been struggling with the three since I moved from Chicago back to Maryland.  I’ve been in and out of therapy and I’m finally back into therapy and on a dose of medication that seems to be working.

There was a post going around on Facebook of a screenshot of a Tumblr post called: Self-Care for When You’ve Hit Rock Bottom.  This image hit hard for me because I have been there and clicking through the comments, I learned that I’m not the only one.  It makes me feel like less of a failure knowing that there are others going through exactly what I’m going through.

By no means am I a doctor, and I can’t validate the original author’s credentials.  None of the suggestions in this post should replace professional help.  Seek professional help if you need it.  But when you can’t, and things get tough, I want to share with you some of what I do to help rebuild the relationship I have with myself once I’ve hit rock bottom.  You can’t have a relationship with another person if you can’t have a relationship with yourself.

Can’t Get Out of Bed

“Wiggle your big toe.”  For those who have seen Kill Bill, you’ll understand the reference.  For those who haven’t, The Bride attempts to move after being in a coma for four years.  She teaches herself to walk again, but her initial goal is to just wiggle her big toe.  The intent is to start small.

So, start small, wiggle your big toe, or a finger.  Move one part of your body, then another, then another, until you’ve reached the edge of the bed.  If sitting up makes you nauseated, start by sitting up for a short amount of time.  Once you’re able to comfortably sit up, stand up.  Then walk across the room.  When you’re comfortable walking across the room, walk around the house.

In the instance that even wiggling a body part is too much, it may be better to force yourself to not go back to bed when you have to pee.  Once you’re up, stay up.  Go straight from the toilet to the shower, go from the shower to another task that needs to be done.  Keep yourself going.

Can’t Shower or Take a Bath

It takes so much effort to cleanse ourselves to even just bearable living.  In the event that cleaning yourself, showering, bathing, etc. is just too much to handle there are small conveniences that can be kept close by to help.

No-Rinse Body Bath works wonderfully.  It was made for those who are allergic to water or are physically unable to bathe themselves.  Alcohol gel is also good to help make you feel a little more human when you’re not feeling well enough to feel human.

Baby Wipes or Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes are perfect for removing that layer of oil or grime off your skin when you just can’t seem to get enough energy to get into the shower.  There’s also Cleansing Cloths for vaginal areas to ensure that the pH balance isn’t thrown off.

Even though you’re rotting emotionally, there are things to help you from rotting externally.  Gum, mouth wash, and mints are great when you don’t have the energy to brush your teeth.  Disposable Mini Toothbrushes are perfect when you have some of the energy, but not enough.

Can’t Wash Your Hair

When you’re hair is getting oily and washing it is too much work, Dry Shampoo or Baby Powder can be used to absorb the oils and make your hair look less greasy.  I’ve recently learned the power of dry shampoo and it works wonders.  Medline has also created a Rinse-Free Shampoo Cap with Conditioner for when dry shampoo just doesn’t cut it anymore.

If even dry shampoo or baby powder is too much, throw on a beanie.  They’re comfortable, look cool, plus you can tuck all of your hair away and ignore it.  When grease isn’t the problem, but your hair is nappy and you can’t seem to get the strength to brush it, tie it up in a cute scrunchie and pin it back with some bobby pins.

Can’t Wash Your Sheets or Make Your Bed

Mental Illness can be a bitch and there are days where you suffer so hard you cannot leave your bed long enough to wash your sheets, let alone make your bed.  In this case, take 30 seconds to shake the crumbs off your bed.  It’ll make things slightly more comfortable.  Better yet, put a flat sheet or fresh clean towels over your sheets and lay on these so you have a layer that easy to remove when you get into a low.

In the instance that you’ve hit your slump before putting the top layer on your sheets and you’re already in dirty sheet territory, rubbing alcohol and vodka cut with water makes a great deodorizer.  Add a few drops of essential to spruce up the scent.  Try lavender.  It’s known for its calming effect and ability to help relieve anxiety, decrease stress, improve mood, and promote relaxation.

Can’t Change Out of Your Dirty Pajamas

Changing out of your clothes can exert energy you don’t have.  In this case, use the rubbing alcohol and vodka cut with water with a few drops of lavender to spruce up your clothes.  Run a lint roller over your pajamas to remove any crumbs or other debris.  Keep an extra t-shirt or set of pajama nearby that are easy to change into.  Better yet, if you’re comfortable with it, go naked.  There will be no dirty clothes to wash and if you’re laying in bed there’s no-fault.

Can’t Get Out of the House to Buy Groceries

Being around people can be anxiety-inducing, and when you aren’t in a great mindset, it can be nearly impossible to convince yourself to go to the store.  Fortunately, stores like Walmart and Kroger have options where you can order groceries and drive-up to the store for pick-up.  Leaving the house can also seem daunting when you’re in a low.  Amazon Prime Pantry has flat rate shipping boxes to ship groceries and other necessities to your home.  Walmart also has free two-day shipping when your order reaches a specific amount.

Can’t Make Anything to Eat

You have to eat.  If you can’t make anything to eat, there are options.  Ordering food is always an option.  I’ve done this myself.  Chinese food is the best for this.  There always seems to be leftover.  In the instance you have phone anxiety, use GrubHub, EatStreet, or DoorDash.  You can also see if a friend will order and/or deliver your food for you.  Ask for plastic silverware and plates to avoid having to do dishes later.

If you can’t afford to order out or have a specific meal plan to follow that doesn’t support order out, there are many things you can keep on hand to ensure you’re getting your nutrients:

  • Peanut butter on a spoon
  • Bananas
  • String cheese
  • Crackers and cheese
  • Individually packaged protein shakes, Boost, or Ensure
  • Tomato juice
  • Cereal
  • Fruits and veggies

When you have the energy, prepare for lows by prepping and freezing meals that are easy to heat in the microwave such as soups.

Can’t Respond to Messages or Reach Out for Help

Even if it may seem like it, your friends and family care for you.  If at this very moment you can’t reach out, set a timer to remind you to respond to messages once you’ve given yourself some time to recoup.  Important Messages such as responses to employers or teachers can be created and modified from fill-in-the-blank format rough drafts on Google.  Set up a code for you and your close friends, maybe just a specific emoji to represent that you’re in a low.  Have a phone tree set up where you contact one person who then reaches out to others who need to know what’s going on.  I can’t vouge for iPhones, but Samsungs have the ability to send auto-messages.  When you’re able, create a message for your friends and family that can be auto-sent when you reach a low point.

Can’t Get to Sleep

If your anxiety has you unable to sleep, try ASMR videos.  Bob Ross videos on YouTube are popular.  I personally enjoy cooking videos or art videos with the volume turned down.  I keep a fan on for white noise and I’m usually able to fall asleep soon after.  Use music if videos aren’t your thing.  MyNoise has multiple white noise generators that are free to use.  You can also set up a playlist on your favorite media player of songs that are soothing to you.

Can’t Get Out of the House or Into School or Work

Even if you can’t get out of the house, try opening the blinds or curtains.  Exposing yourself to the outside world can boost your mood, but also help keep your circadian clock set correctly.  Wikipedia describes a circadian rhythm as “a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours.”

If you’re within reaching distance of a phone or computer and can’t get up to open the blinds (or don’t have blinds to open), try playing Animal Crossing or Sims.  It may be a simulation, but can still make you feel like you went for a walk yourself.

Make sure your support system knows where you are, what’s going on, and if they need to intercede.  Let your work know you’re taking sicks days.  Give it two days to heal and have your work emailed to you so you know what you missed.  FMLA is also great for those companies that offer it.

Living with a mental or physical illness that causes you to lose yourself and be unable to do the daily self-care acts can be difficult.  It’s a winding path where you feel bad, so you don’t do anything, then you feel bad for not doing anything.  A neverending cycle.  But know that there was once a time where you’ve pulled yourself out of this black hole and you can do it again.

If you need help determining what self-care options are best for how you’re feeling, try this Interactive Self-Care Guide.


Photo by Volkan Olmez on Unsplash

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