What’s in the Wash: Chronic Illness and Showering

23 May

So I’m on this grand cross-country adventure with my dog. It’s something people dream about. It’s something I had dreamed about, and I actually get to do. If I complain about any bit of it, I’m a jerk.

Yesterday, I was complaining. I was depressed. I was just so weary. That’s kind of a thing for me, because I’m diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. I’ve been out there “pretending to be a normal,” as I say, and it caught up big time.

Depression, for me, isn’t necessarily being sad. It’s very physical for me. My body is depressed in a way that I just can’t feel joy in my mind. That’s the best way I can explain it, and I understand that even with the best explanation, some people won’t be able to believe me or to understand. There remain those who don’t believe what they can’t see or never experienced themselves. That’s invisible illness.

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One of the things I did for myself last night in the thick of this darkness was take a shower. I was camping and frolicking in the desert the day before and I totally needed it. Afterwards, I felt better, being clean. Not that I felt “refreshed.”

“Take a shower. You’ll feel better.” is something people say all the time. Even before my diagnoses and onset of my fibromyalgia, taking a shower was never “refreshing” to me in the way people say it is. People shower to wake up, to energize. Showers wear me the heck out! They make me so tired and dizzy. The only way they make me feel better is I come out clean, and that’s nice.

It’s the classic scenario of people thinking what feels better for *them* is going to feel better for me. Or the classic scenario of some responding to me sharing my hard times with a one-sentence “solution.” Please don’t give me a sentence and walk away. Just listen to me, because I just need to tell someone that this is really tough right now.

If you’re like me, and showering is an exhausting chore, here are some tips that have helped me deal with the task:

  • Find your best time of day when it doesn’t kick your butt as much. I do better at night. Even if that means prioritizing comfort above good hair days at work.
  • Set out your clothes and anything you’ll need to get dried and dressed before you jump in. It’s nice to have everything ready for when you get out. I get overwhelmed by decisions when I don’t feel well, and deciding on an outfit before I’m soggy and dizzy works way better for me.
  • Give yourself the rest time you need after. Don’t leave it down to the last minute before you have to leave the house. If you have to lie down for a few minutes after a shower or bath, give yourself that time.
  • Add a beverage! So a shower isn’t all “work,” bring in a nice cup of coffee to sip. Or a cold drink is super nice in a hot shower — a refreshing contrast to the heat.

You’ve probably got some workarounds yourself. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. We Splatties are creative folk, and we come up with all sorts of unique ways to get by with our conditions.

Just please don’t neglect yourself. It’s not just for others’ nostrils that we scrub our life-pods on a regular basis. It is one way we can keep ourselves feeling OK. We need to feel good about being around ourselves … and not have to resort to scissors to manage the knots in our hair.

Love yourself! *I* love you!

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