Why A Dentist Telling Me My Teeth Look Great Is So Important To Me As A Mentally Ill Person

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As many people with mental illness will understand; personal hygiene can be a touchy subject. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it is a taboo subject for many. The reason for this is quite clear. Personal hygiene is considered to be something that people just do regularly. We primp and preen ourselves to maintain an outward appearance of having our shit together. We like to smell good, we like to look good and we want our appearance to be appreciated by others. (Please don’t kid yourself by thinking you aren’t affected by the opinions of others. Of course, at times of peak confidence we may not care, but if we aren’t feeling cute or handsome, it tends to make us self-conscious).

For those of us that are mentally unwell personal hygiene is sometimes difficult to maintain. To a neurotypical person, this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense; after all having a bath or a shower, washing our hair or painting our nails is an activity that makes most of us feel good. The trouble is that when we are particularly low, our minds don’t get any enjoyment from anything at all, and unfortunately that includes personal hygiene.

As I said earlier on, cleanliness is almost a taboo subject. Because let’s face it, nobody wants to admit that they haven’t washed their hair in a week, or can’t remember the last time they brushed their teeth. I have mentioned in a previous post about how I treat hygiene and beauty regimens as acts of self-care. This fits quite well here. Anything that I do that makes me feel a little better, or gives me a break from misery is received as self-care. (I still hate the phrase but it is at least easy to understand, even if it is a cliche).

So, today I went for my check-up at the dentist. It is usually quite a difficult affair because I have in the past neglected my teeth while I have been particularly ill. Especially pre-diagnosis. But I have been trying my best to brush twice a day even when I am experiencing a low. It is hard to describe how difficult it is because to many, this is just something that comes as easily as auto-pilot. But imagine if you will trying to brush your teeth when during the short trip to the bathroom you are wading through knee-deep mud; only to find yourself in front of the sink too exhausted from the mud to raise the toothbrush to your lips. It is a shit analogy but as I said, it is incredibly hard to explain. Add to that feelings of shame and embarrassment because you haven’t done it, plus the ensuing thoughts that you are not good enough and nobody likes being with you anyway so why bother keeping up with your hygiene routines; and so on and on in a seemingly endless cycle of the same events. Does that seem like a lot to think in so short a space of time?. Yes is the answer to that, but is it true? Also yes.

I know for me personally, the main problem I experience with my BPD is the speed of my thoughts. They are sometimes so rapid that I can’t hold a single thought in my head long enough for them to make any sense. Imagine sitting in a room with lots of people and trying to follow the conversations of all of these individuals. It is exhausting and you never remember anything for long. When these thoughts are whirling around in the maelstrom that is my brain, the last thing on my mind is whether my teeth are brushed properly.

I think that the time to acknowledge that this happens to many of us is now. There is nothing shameful about being mentally unwell and we are very slowly beginning to realise that as a society, albeit very slowly. But if we accept that as a fact then we need to also accept the ugly truths that we try to keep hidden. If you already do share this information with people then all kudos to you! It is hard work! I have spoken about it here as candidly as I feel I can, but I won’t lie to you dear readers and say that I am completely open with everyone in my social circle, because I’m not. But I will try harder, that is my promise to you all.

Anyway, bye for now.

Love to you all

Steph

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