Cheetos, Mold, & Mania: Neglecting Self-Care When Illness Takes Over


+ TRIGGER/CONTENT WARNING + This article contains mentions of eating disorders, self-neglect, neglect of hygiene, neglect of surroundings, severe depression, severe anxiety, menstruation, mania, nail and skin picking/biting, addiction, bugs, urine, feces, and blood. If any of these topics are triggering to you, please skip this article. If you're looking for something else to read, check out my previous post right HERE. Thank you! 

One thing before we get into it - Despite my loud-mouthed writing style, this is not a shock piece. If you clicked on this article with the intention of gasping at the following contributors, I encourage you to revisit this later with an open heart and mind. I put this article together for two reasons. I want those who thrive with mental, chronic, and invisible illness to see how common their behaviors genuinely are. My hope is that they can decrease their shame around them, feel less alone, and ask for help without being afraid of judgment. Equally as important, I compiled this list so that people who do not live with illness can not only see the prevalence of these circumstances, but understand they are not always indicative of someone who is crazy, dangerous, creepy, or inherently neglectful. Most are regular humans so smashed by their illness, doing laundry feels like cleaning the White House with a fucking Q-tip. Read on to see how the lives of everyday people can be interrupted when illness takes control. No pity needed; just a knowing that should someone reach out to you for help, they can do so safely and free of shame.

"Once I didn't shower or brush my teeth for three months. That was a bad time. When I'm manic I will rock back and forth in one spot for literal hours because I have so much energy but nothing to do with it." -Anonymous

"I go days without brushing my hair. During a really bad time at uni, I put it in a bun and only took the bun out to re-tie it. It got to the point where I undid the hair tie, and my hair still stayed up on top of my head without me touching it." -Jess

"[I've been] too depressed to change my period-stained underwear for days at a time." -Dani

"Letting my nails get gross and long, eating food in bed/bedroom, the classic not showering for ages. I used to not wash my hands in school because the building was always freezing and I couldn't physically stand being wet at all (there were never paper towels). Forgetting food that I packed in bags and hoodies." -Anonymous

"Mold is a far-too-regular thing for me, and I hate it. Dishes always pile up in my room and mold grows waay (sic) too often because I don’t have the energy to carry them. Or [if] I spill something like coffee and I neglect it too long, the spill will start to mold." -Anonymous

"I pick my nose as a nervous habit, especially when running late driving!" -Aaron

"I have to keep my hair above shoulder length because my bouts of depression are so frequent. If I have it long, I end up having to cut out rats from not washing or brushing it. I have at least one cavity in every tooth because I can't seem to brush my teeth regularly. Also, I've had gnat problems that turn into maggot problems from being too depressed to clean." -Anonymous

"Getting NOTHING done all day even when you desperately want to." -Natalie

"I let my grass grow so tall once someone mowed it for me. I get so depressed I never clean the cat box until it's all a giant clumped mess. I just eventually replace the whole thing."  -Anonymous

"Didn’t change my sheets for four months." -Anonymous

"In middle school, I would shower once a week or every other week and never brush my hair to where I had to get almost all of it cut off. On my period during a down period, I don’t wear pads & have specific underwear that I let get stained. That or I don’t change my pad all day, so I never use tampons." -Anonymous

"[I] neglect basic hygiene and also exist on gas station Cheetos and chips for food. I basically feel unable to cook and prepare food for myself. But I think my biggest thing is my compulsive addiction to my cell phone -it's disgusting how much I'm on this thing." -Vicky

"There's so much trash in my room I can't see the floor. And I sleep on about a quarter of my bed because most of it has old clothes at whatnot on it." -Anonymous

"I bite my skin/nails and am a vet tech. When I go to give injections or draw blood, and someone is nearby, I always get, 'oh my god, what happened to your fingers?'" -Anonymous

"[I] used dirty clothes for months because I had no motivation to do laundry although I know I needed to. [I] left (sic) my light tan floorboards turn to a dark brown because I couldn't push myself to get up and mop -let alone sweep. [I] had mildew growing on my shower curtains because I had no care for the state of my house because I couldn't even care for myself. [I] let my dogs use the restroom in the basement because I couldn't push myself to take them outside because I was such a mess from my spurts of depression. I didn't want to be seen by the outside world, then left the basement a mess of dog urine and feces." -Anonymous

"I have high anxiety and basically bite all my nails and skin until I'm bleeding and they are sore. I'm a CNA, so co-workers find it gross, but I can't help it. I'm also a binge eater and have eaten until I made myself sick multiple times. I cry hysterically when I eat like that and then won't eat a meal for days." -Kelsie

Can we get a round of applause for all these rad people who contributed to this article? Leave some appreciation for them in the comments! If you have your own story to tell, feel free to drop it in the comments as well. The more we talk, the better chance we have of canceling this bullshit stigma. xo!