Why Don’t We Want to Shower When We're Sick?
I know this seems like an odd question, but I was considering it this morning (in my shower). It is a common problem for people with a mental illness. I have a tendency to avoid showering (really) and I know of others with a mental illness have gone weeks without showering.
So, if all we’re talking about is standing in some warm water, why don’t we want to shower?
I think there is a tetrad of reasons, experienced according to mood: fatigue, crazy, self-hatred and pain.
Too Tired to Shower
If you’ve been seriously ill, mentally or physically, you know energy is in short supply. Sometimes it takes the effort of a thousand men just to open your eyes and get out of bed in the morning. Every muscle flex, joint bend, or even a thought is overwhelmingly exhausting.
And if you only have enough energy to accomplish two small goals that day, you might pick eating and paying the power bill. Both of these things are more important than showering. (And of course, you might not be lucky enough to have even that much energy.)
Too Crazy to Shower
Then there’s the other end of the spectrum. Hypomania (mania) is the fastest time on planet earth. Nothing holds my attention long enough to do it and I’m vastly annoyed at how slowly everything moves. I end up finding myself watching TV while doing yoga and writing the first scene of a book in my head. And then I look at the clock. Five minutes have gone by, but in my brain they’ve felt like 60.
And due to my extreme inattention and annoyance at single-threaded slowness, a shower sounds like the most boring thing in the world. Ever. It wouldn’t even occur to me to bother with one.
Too Hateful to Shower
Those first two I think are obvious, but I think this one is more subconscious and insidious. I sometimes find I don’t want to shower because I hate my body -- my existence) and therefore don’t want to be naked - rather a requirement for taking a shower. It’s not a conscious lack of self-care, or purposeful denial of pleasure, or low self-esteem, or any other therapy-esque interpretation you’re likely to find. It’s just that me, my body, feels really grimy and I don’t want any further proof of its existence. I want to pretend it’s not there. It hurts less to pretend it, myself, doesn’t exist. (I suspect this is an aspect of dissociation. I'm a dissociator from way back.)
But Showers Feel Good
Ah, spoken like a normal person. No, they really don’t. I mean, sometimes they do, sure. Warm water, citrus bodywash, what’s not to like?
When I’m in pain I want to put up additional barriers between me and the world. Some subconscious part of me is thinking extra clothes and blankets over my head will save me from my brain. Being naked removes barriers. And I can’t have that.
And I’m not exactly sure how to explain it other than to say the water is painful. It feels like an attack. It feels like I’m in so much pain already that a breeze grazing my skin makes me want to cry.
And I’m really, really trying hard not to think about that pain. That’s the stuff of death. So the last thing I need is to have shards of water splitting through my skin. I don’t want to shower; I’m in enough pain already.
Tracy, N. (2011, March 7). Why Don’t We Want to Shower When We're Sick?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, October 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2011/03/why-dont-we-want-to-shower-when-were-sick
Author: Natasha Tracy
Good luck all!
I've been on antidepressants for many years and I don't FEEL depressed but I'm isolating -- I avoid leaving the house because interaction with other people is a chore. For the past several years I shower and brush my teeth only when absolutely necessary to avoid embarrassment.
UGH –– I'm just so tired of being so tired!
(And don't dare say I wouldn't understand - 13 years of drugs and Electroshock says "Oh, yes I do")
Before bipolar disorder came in and wrecked my life, I was OCD about looking my very best everyday. I would spend from about 1- 1 1/2hrs daily on my routine. EVERYDAY without fail. I'd get up way early to ensure that it was done before I would go to work, or anywhere else, or nowhere. I'd heard the phrase somewhere in my life and it stuck, "You only have one time to make good first impression". It was my mantra. I did not want to be caught "not ready" for that opportunity.
Then my major breakdown happened. I started not reaching goals at work which in turn, caused me to get laid off after 12 years of perfect performance. After that I became increasingly anxious and irritable. Diagnosis? Severe manic episode due to bipolar disorder. That was my first trip to the hospital.
Since then (this was over 5 years ago), I just don't care. For a lot of the reasons you have all described: I pulled away from absolutely everyone I know or they turned their backs on me, I felt hopeless and severely depressed, I felt unclean (because of past trauma) and EVERY SINGLE LITTLE THING exhausted me. And when I do shower, I usually don't wash my hair because that is just too much and I just wear the same icky hat everyday. And like some of you said too, I have absolutely no place to go so why bother?
My husband HATES this. For a long time, he refused to even try to understand. It was just laziness. I just wanted to scream, "If this were the case, then why do I feel so guilty for NOT doing it"? I would sit there all damned day on my couch and try to psych myself up to do it. And I'd feel worse and worse about myself as the day went on, and then still not do it. That's REALLY hard to explain to someone who has no information about mental illness at all. So he would resent me so much that I could physically FEEL his barbs. He has gotten better, but it's still a battle. Whether I'm depressed or manic or both. I'm a rapid cycler and am not fully stable so I feel out of control and/or deathly depressed.
Anyway, I seriously rambled. Sorry about that. But yes, I can totally relate with everyone here.
Even then, I still may not take one because it's too late or too time consuming.
Sending light and love to anyone reading this..
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) it's Mental Health Week (May 4 - 10). I discovered this from a link from in a newsletter at work. So I decided to check out the CMHA website. I discovered they have an 8 week program called "Living Life To The Full". It's quite reasonably priced, works out to about $25 per session. Some of the modules in particular caught my attention because they so aptly describe how I feel, such as "I Can't Be Bothered Doing", "I'm Not Good Enough", etc
Then our local news showcased a segment on Andrea Paquette who also has bipolar disorder. She recently won a Courage To Come Back award from Coast Mental Health.
And for a brief moment I have a tiny glimmer hope...
I cannot be in between. I am either a neat freak or dirty depending on my state, but perhaps your girlfriend finds it too exhausting to be the neat freak and just stays in the 'dirty' frame of mind?
It's not that hard, people. Depending on your motivation needs, pop a Xanax or an Adderrall, turn the dial, lather up, and watch as the world suddenly seems to be a happier place.
There would be be less pollution if y'all bathed more, too, because 75% of the people driving their cars would ride the bus if y'all didn't make it so stank!
My face washed every other day, same with my private parts. I worry that I stink
I'm mortified that my husband has to ask me when I showed last. I ask. Do I smell?
No he says. Then I say tell me if I ever stink and I will suffer through a shower.
My arms ache to lift them up to wash my hair. I end up crying in pain just to take a
Shower. Why in the heck would I take a shower more than a few times a month
Scary isn't it? The only times I will take a shower is if I have to go somewhere
But even then I will cancel my dr appointment just becUse I can't shower
and all that it requires in this world
Candy says I'd like to know completely
what others so discretely talk about.
Candy says I hate the quiet places
that cause the smallest taste of what will be
Candy says I hate the big decisions
that cause endless revisions in my mind
I'm gonna watch the blue birds fly over my shoulder
I'm gonna watch them pass me by
Maybe when I'm older
What do you think I'd see
If I could walk away from me"
"Candy says - The Velvet Underground
-Bipolar II and former anorexic
When I'm in a depressive phase, the thought of showering is so distasteful that I have gone a week or two without one. My body becomes dirty and more than a little smelly. I try to combat that with sponge baths. My face comes first. Then I care for the more personal parts of my body. Afterward, I apply a strong deodorant, spritz myself with a favored fragrance and attempt to find clean underwear. (Having clean clothes is a bonus!) Thankfully, I've discovered a decent dry shampoo.
Sounds like a lot of work, no? To me it is better than removing all my clothes and exposing my hideously naked and vulnerable body to the frigid air. It's better than going through the hair washes, the conditioning, the styling etc., and then standing sopping wet and freezing to death on my cruddy bathroom floor. The long length mirror screams at me and reinforces my BDD.
Yes, a fresh shower can ultimately make you feel better. It's the choice that makes sense. No excuse! I've got loads of towels and a blue terry bathrobe.
If I'm going to church that day, I'll reason with myself and drag myself into the shower. If not, I'll skip another day. As long as I don't repel others or make them gag, the world needs to accept me as I am! (BPII depression, BDD, OCD, borderline PD)
But on a good day, I can become indestructible!!!
I had Major Back Surgery a year ago. I have Fibromyalgia, Arthrtis, in other words Chronic Pain. If I lay in bed I have racing thoughts about what I want to get done. I feel guilty and beat myself up self-loathing comes to mind. I am Mentally and Physically exhausted. I am under Psych care take my meds which make me fat, and have annoying side effects, always wanting to give me a pill for the other pill I'm taking.I feel like I'm drowning and space is closing in on me, and someone wants me to get in a tiny shower and just get it done. Easier said than done. I am so glad I found this place. Thanks Natasha and all who find this place.
When manic it's such a BIG deal!takes like
Yes I experience almost feelings like shards of glass fr the water.
Plus,depressed I'm just too tired to even go to the bathroom let alone....
Takes all your energy,doesn't seem important.
Plus hate my body now after the gain from the meds...
Ironically,I loathe showers only take them in hospital.
Baths I just love...soak for ages lots of herbal bubbles...but depressed don't bathe,but the OCD makes me not wait too long ...besides it helps my pain & meds for it work faster.
I believe hot baths help prolong relaxation particularly herbal,my fave is chamomile.
Very lovely/ gentle on skin....it's a coping mechanism for me...
I almost always achieve some relaxation from a bath.
Right now feel sleepy,recently emerged from the tub.
I don't push it when depressed.
I know I will come around in few days,usually.......as I always feel better so continuously
tell myself that.
Bfoofoo.... reading your post is just what I've seen and heard from my wife too. The frustrating thing is that as informed loved ones, we want to help, and we recognize there are a variety of reactions out there, and its an informational "mine field" when as a spouse or family member we try to get professional guidance to help our loved one.