Tag Archives: showers

Spoons and Showers

This is one of the most popular posts on my other blog, bipolarme.blog. I thought I’d share it with you today to see what you all think.

It is fairly widely known that people with bipolar disorder and/or depression (like me) have trouble taking a daily shower. It’s not that we don’t know what’s involved in taking a shower, or why it would be good for us to do so, it’s simply that showering uses up a tremendous number of spoons.

(Spoons are a measure of how much energy a person has each day. For the full explanation, go to https://butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/ for Christine Miserando’s post. It applies not just to mental disorders, but any kind of chronic illness.)

Here’s what showering looks like according to Andrew Solomon, author of the now-classic The Noonday Demon:

I ran through the individual steps in my mind: You sit up, turn and put your feet on the floor, stand, walk to the bathroom, open the bathroom door, go to the edge of the tub…I divided it into fourteen steps as onerous as the Stations of the Cross.

I performed a similar exercise in one of my blog posts (Brain vs. Brain: http://wp.me/p4e9Hv-iF) and here’s my version:

First I have to find a clean towel and a bar of soap, get undressed without seeing myself in the mirror, fiddle with the water temperature, wash and shampoo, dry off, find clean underwear, and that’s not even thinking about drying my hair and figuring out what I can wear! Oh, my God, I’ve used up all my spoons just thinking about it! I should just eat Cocoa Puffs and go back to bed.

Now let me say, first of all, that I don’t really like showers. I grew up taking baths and have never enjoyed the sensation of water spraying in my face. But with my bad back and bad knee, getting up from sitting in a bathtub is nearly impossible these days. (Please don’t ask me why anyone would want to sit in dirty water. Everyone says that when I say I prefer baths. I have a nice long soak, steeping in the clean water like a big teabag, and only then wash up and get right out. Used to, I mean. But I digress.)

To most people, showering is a single act that requires the expenditure of a single spoon. Take a shower; that’s it. But for those of us with invisible illnesses, each separate step may require its own spoon. Take something as simple as finding a towel, for instance. Go to the linen closet, grab a towel and voilà! Only a fraction of a spoon, if that.

But surely you don’t think I have had the spoons to fold and put away my laundry. It is all there in a jumble on top of the dryer. (Who needs a wrinkle-free towel anyway?) I have to root around to find one, and maybe twice if a cat has thrown up on the first one I pick. (They love sitting on clean laundry.)

If I have to go to a business meeting I force myself to use some of those spoons showering and getting dressed and acting respectable. But I will pay for it later, collapsing after the meeting in need of a mega-nap.

Now here’s a little secret I’ll tell you. Most people believe you gain spoons by going out of the house – walking in the fresh air, meeting friends for lunch, shopping, going for a drive (does anyone do that anymore?). But the fact is that, according to Spoon Theory, you get a certain number of spoons every day when you wake up. You cannot gain, buy, beg, borrow, or steal any more, not even by breathing fresh air. You can only spend them.

Given the mathematics of spoons, I don’t spend a single one that I don’t absolutely have to. Not going out? No shower. Have to go out for a loaf of bread or a drive-through meal? Wash up in the sink. If I need a shower between outings, my husband reminds me and facilitates by, for example, rummaging on the dryer for a clean towel and clean clothes or a clean nightshirt.

I need those spoons for doing my work at home in my smelly pajamas more than I do for the ordeal of showering.

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Shower or Sink?

I understand that there’s lately been a furor on TikTok (I don’t tok and barely tweet). I guess “barely” is the operative word there, though. The burning (I hope not) question of the day – or week – is “Do you pee in the shower?”

My husband told me about this. (He doesn’t tok or tweet either, but heard about it from someone at work.)

“Well, do you?” I asked.

“If I need to, I just let it fly,” he replied. (I hope that doesn’t include while he’s driving the car or in church or many other circumstances I could name. But we were talking about the shower.)

I found that idea disturbing, if not exactly unhygienic, because after all, number one would just go down the drain. But he’s cleaning the shower from now on. (And I can only pray that he doesn’t do number two in the shower. But I digress.)

“I don’t think women can pee in the shower,” I said.

“Why not?”

“Because they don’t have the right equipment for it.” (Not that I’ve ever felt penis envy, except while camping, but this comes close.)

He stuck with, “Why not?”

“Because it would run down their legs.”

“And don’t you wash your legs?”

“Well, you wouldn’t want to pee in the tub if you were having a bath instead of a shower,” I retorted.

He allowed as how I was right on that one. Except neither of us takes baths anymore since we had walk-in showers installed.

We left it at that, mercifully. But I was reminded that someone once told me that the definition of a gentleman was someone who took the dishes out of the sink before he peed in it.

You might not think this dilemma comes up too often, except possibly when the kitchen and bedroom are both on the first floor and the bathroom is on the second. But I have heard (from a reliable source) that one man of her acquaintance used to relieve himself in the sink with some regularity. He was even proud to have saved the six steps from the sink to the bathroom. (I don’t know what he did with those extra steps, but presumably his FitBit does.)

I do miss the baths, though. I like to relax in a near-boiling hot tub of water and pretend I’m a big ol’ tea bag. I find it soothing. I am sure this love of baths is because as children, we only took baths, never showers. And my love of tea.

Then there’s the sink bath, which you should only take if you’re sure there’s not a sink-peeing man in the house. Say you’ve forgotten something at the store and don’t feel the occasion deserves a full shower. Use the quick-sink- rinse-smelly-bits-wash-upTM. Wash underarms, underlegs, underboobs, and face (though not in that order). A dab of deodorant, a swish of mouthwash, and you’re ready to go, at least if you’re not likely to engage in a big group hug, which, in my experience, seldom happens at Target.

But we started this discussion in the shower, and that’s where we’ll end it. Personally, I recommend the kind of shower with built-in seats and grab rails and even those inane little rubber ducky stickers. Even with slightly pebbled texture, those surfaces can be slippery. When you’re sitting in a bathtub, it’s nearly impossible to break any bones, but in a shower, it’s relatively a long way down. And I, for one, don’t care to have the rescue squad see me in my all-togethers.

Footnote: For no reason that I can determine, my post “What Is It with Showers Anyway” (https://bipolarme.blog/2017/03/05/what-is-it-with-showers-anyway/) has proved unexpectedly popular. Here’s an excerpt from it:

First I have to find a clean towel and a bar of soap, get undressed without seeing myself in the mirror, fiddle with the water temperature, wash and shampoo, dry off, find clean underwear, and that’s not even thinking about drying my hair and figuring out what I can wear! Oh, my God, I’ve used up all my spoons just thinking about it! I should just eat Cocoa Puffs and go back to bed.