Dear Annie: I’ve been suffering from various symptoms of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder since I was about 11 years old. In addition to all of this, when I was 17, my “boyfriend” forcibly had sex with me at a house party. I was not ready, and he forced himself on me. I was raped. I went to counseling very briefly.
When I get really anxious or depressed, my body freezes up, and I feel physically incapable of moving. As you might expect, during these times, my personal hygiene suffers.
When I can’t find the energy to get out of bed, I unintentionally skip brushing my teeth, taking a shower, washing my hair. I know that’s gross. I know it needs to change. I don’t romanticize my mental illness. And the symptoms are compounded by work exhaustion.
I get home in the evenings tired and often stressed, and sometimes I just stay in bed from then until I fall asleep. What should I do? I don’t want to be gross. I want mind to win over matter. – Unhealthy and Unhygienic
Dear Unhealthy and Unhygienic: Living with depression and anxiety can be unbearable. Your health, both mental and physical, is at stake, and you need to consult a professional. Fortunately, with the help of a professional, anxiety and depression are treatable.
You mentioned that your body freezes up. Though most people think a response to trauma is fight or flight, a third and very common response to trauma is freezing. Dr. Peter Levine wrote an amazing book about this, called “Waking the Tiger,” in which he addresses this very type of response to trauma. Your body gets stuck during the traumatic event, even after it is over.
Taking care of your body physically is No. 1, but that is difficult when you are feeling depressed. The good news is that you are aware of this. Your desire to get better means that you are more than halfway on the road to recovery. You sound like a very brave and strong woman, and with counseling, you will find this cloud lifting.
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