Somehow, and maybe even she can’t understand how, Katelyn Marie Todd reached out from the dark, painful space of her depression this week and shined a light.
Katelyn, who is 17, found the courage to reveal what so many people living with depression cannot.
She told the world that she’s in pain.
“Depression isn’t beautiful,” she wrote in an emotional Facebook post on Sunday that has been shared around 277,000 times.
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More than 200,000 people have responded; 20,000 have left comments.
Katelyn posted a photo of herself dragging a brush through her hair and that’s where she started her story.
“I brushed my hair today. For the first time in 4 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,” she wrote.
She hadn’t brushed her teeth in a week. Her gums bled when she did. She cried when she saw the bloody water in the sink when she rinsed. She shared that, too.
She took a shower. Finally. “I’ve avoided hugging people for a while, because I never smell good,” she revealed.
“Depression is bad hygiene, dirty dishes, and a sore body from sleeping too much.”
Katelyn told the Today show she has struggled with major depressive disorder over the past seven years.
“I had thousands of comments saying my post helped them in some way and it feels really amazing,” she told Today. “The most important thing that I got from the whole experience was the idea that I was not alone.”
She certainly is not. Major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
In 2015, 16.1 million adults in the United States - about 6.7 percent of the country’s adult population - had at least one major depressive episode lasting two weeks or longer.
Their lives changed because of it, battered by symptoms that include problems with sleeping, eating, self-image, energy and concentration.
And personal hygiene? Sometimes, as with Katelyn, it’s just too much to deal with. A sudden change in personal hygiene can give clue that a loved one is suffering.
Katelyn was happy that she was finally able to brush her hair again.
“Even the more ‘basic’ activities can feel like a major chore,” psychologist Paul Coleman tells Self magazine. “It is not uncommon in severe depression to stop or reduce self-care.”
Katelyn asked people to be understanding.
“Please be easy on your friends and family that have trouble getting up the energy to clean, hang out, or take care of themselves,” she wrote.
“And please, please take them seriously if they talk to you about it. We’re trying. I swear we’re trying.”
Yet some people couldn’t believe she is depressed because she doesn’t “look” depressed. That thinking bothered her so much she wrote a follow-up post on Wednesday.
“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. I am social, I love people, I love to be in big groups,” she wrote.
“Depression doesn’t always mean antisocial behaviours and it most certainly does not mean never smiling.”