Teen’s viral Facebook post could be useful to therapists

By Janine Weisman
July 1st, 2017

“I brushed my hair today” begins a Facebook post that appears at first glance to be the sharing of ordinary and otherwise unremarkable information.

Except that the young author reveals it’s the first time in four weeks she attended to her own personal care and hygiene. The author is Katelyn Marie Lesho and her May 9 post about her struggle with depression has done something rather unordinary.

Lesho’s 275-word post had generated nearly 300,000 shares, 233,000 like, love and sad emojis and 22,000 comments a month after she wrote it.

The Georgia teenager described her hair as “matted and twisted together” and continued:

“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. I brushed my teeth, too, for the first time in a week. My gums bled. My water ran red. I cried over that, as well. When I got out of the shower, I couldn’t stop sniffing my hair and arms. I’ve avoided hugging people for a while, because I never smell good. I always smell like I’ve been on bedrest for a week. I have no clean clothes, because I’m too tired and sad to wash them.”

Then Lesho goes on:

“Depression isn’t beautiful. Depression is bad hygiene, dirty dishes, and a sore body from sleeping too much. Depression is having three friends that are only still around because they have the patience and love of a saint. Depression is crying until there’s no more tears, just dry heaving and sobbing until you’re gasping for your next breath. Depression is staring at the ceiling until your eyes burn because you forget to blink. Depression is making your family cry because they think you don’t love them anymore when you’re distant and distracted. Depression is somatic as well as emotional, an emptiness you can physically feel.

“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. We’re trying. I swear we’re trying. See? I brushed my hair today.”

Nadja Reilly, Ph.D., associate director of the Freedman Center for Child and Family at Development at William James College in Newton, Mass., said she wasn’t surprised to learn Lesho’s Facebook post struck a chord with so many.

“Something as simple as brushing your hair, I think most people’s reaction would be, ‘C’mon, it’s pretty easy, just get up and brush your hair or just get up and brush your teeth,’” said Reilly, who focuses on depression and suicide prevention in her work with adolescents and teens.

“And I think the fact that she brought to light how very difficult even very simple things like that can be probably really resonated with those who are struggling at that level but have felt so misunderstood. Unless you’re going through that, you think how hard is it to just brush your teeth?”

Reilly said she was impressed with the raw and genuine honesty of Lesho’s post. She also called it an opportunity for therapists to begin conversations with young people in treatment. At the time Reilly was interviewed, she had not yet had the opportunity to introduce what Lesho wrote to a client but said she would consider it.

“I think it would be terrific,” Reilly said.

“I think a lot of our kids really struggle with putting into words what their body’s feeling and their emotions when they go through depression. So, we can use this as a starting point and say this is one way that she communicated what was going on for her. What do you think might work for you?”

Megan Ranney M.D., MPH, FACEP, director of Emergency Digital Health Innovation Program at Brown University in Providence, R.I., called the Facebook post a behavioral activation tool that shows how someone living with depression re-engaged with life.

An emergency room physician at Rhode Island and Hasbro Children’s Hospital who conducts research in mental health, Ranney said the post bucks the dominant narrative of social media as a negative influence that increases cyberbullying and suicidality and triggers bad feelings.

“My hunch as to why this has seen such popularity would be because it is different from the normal story,” Ranney said. “It’s an example of using social media for good, which is increasingly shown to be true.”

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