Teen’s Facebook Post Sheds Light On Other Side Of Depression, Goes Viral

By Victoria Kim 05/12/17

The teen tackles depression's impact on personal hygiene, friendships and physical health in her candid post. 

Katelyn Marie Todd
Katelyn Marie Todd Photo via Facebook

When it comes to talking about depression, personal hygiene doesn’t often come up. But it’s a very real side effect of living with depression (though of course it does not mean every single person affected has poor hygiene).

“Depression isn’t beautiful. Depression is bad hygiene, dirty dishes, and a sore body from sleeping too much,” wrote 17-year-old Katelyn Marie Todd in a May 7th Facebook post. She had posted a photo of herself freshly showered and brushing her hair—it was her first time doing so in four weeks. “It was matted and twisted together. It snapped and tore with every stroke. I cried while I washed and conditioned it, because I forgot how it felt to run my fingers through it.”

Her post has been shared more than 281,000 times as of Friday morning, garnering more than 21,000 comments—many of them supportive.

“Depression is having three friends that are only still around because they have the patience and love of a saint,” Katelyn continued. “Depression is crying until there’s no more tears, just dry heaving and sobbing until you’re gasping for your next breath.”

She ended her post with a plea for compassion. “Please be easy on your friends and family that have trouble getting up the energy to clean, hang out, or take care of themselves. And please, please take them seriously if they talk to you about it.”

Neglecting one’s personal hygiene is a common symptom of depression, as explained by Kylie Coulter, an online therapist, writing for Psych Central. Individuals who become overwhelmed by the daily routine of showering, teeth brushing, or hair combing can be classified as “low-mid functioning,” she explained. Struggling with these small tasks suggests that the depression is becoming more serious and may need medical attention. Other symptoms include loss of appetite and oversleeping.

A personal essay on The Mighty offers an intimate perspective on this particular issue. “Living with mental illness is a challenge at the best of times, so let’s add personal hygiene into the equation,” writes Shonah Wootton. “When this black fog is pushing you further down into your bed, you may start to think, what does it matter if I don’t get dressed? Why do I need to get dressed if I want to kill myself?”

Katelyn posted again on May 10th. Apparently some people responding to her post were not convinced that she looked like someone going through depression. “Maybe I don’t, but that’s the kicker isn’t it?” she responded. “Mental illness isn’t always externally visible. It doesn’t put a sign on your forehead. Even in a depressive episode, I smile at every stranger I pass.” 

The teen spoke with the parenting publication Scary Mommy after her post went viral, addressing the fact that it’s easy for people who have no idea what it’s like to live with debilitating depression to misunderstand her condition. “It is not laziness. It is not a crutch,” she said. “Instead of telling someone that other people have it worse, or to just change how they’re living, offer to listen to how they feel.”

She also addressed the fact that depression is not black and white, but involves many different shades that affect everybody differently. “Depression is a constant underlying sadness for me… Sometimes it is overwhelming and debilitating, but I do feel happiness, sometimes genuine and deep happiness. The emptiness is just always there, underneath whatever other emotion I’m feeling at the moment.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr