Aka, “I’m experimenting with ways to make myself feel moderately human again.”
I feel rotten. I don’t feel attractive, and I definitely don’t feel sexy. Last night, I told that to my partner. He’s a good egg. He reassured me I’m still attractive, and had my hips been willing he would have definitely had sex with me. But, my brain isn’t quite buying it. My hair is unwashed. I’ve been wearing the same comfy joggers for days. I’m living off crisps, and anything non-perishable I can horde by my bedside, and I’m four layers deep into both dry hair shampoo, and deodorant. Sexy, right?
But, this is the reality of a symptom flare. Personal hygiene, food, and even existing become secondary to symptom management. For me, my flares usually center around pain in various parts of my body, sensitivities to light and smells, and exhaustion. This doesn’t make for a good cocktail of symptoms, nor does it make for a healthy self-image.
Speaking of, the media, and essentially everyone likes to forget that disabled people have sexual needs, desires and that we like to feel attractive in our own bodies. I’ve seen numerous portrayals of abled-bodied actors displaying chronic illness that really aren’t true to reality. And, whilst they ‘sex up’ an illness, they do it in such a way that when people are confronted with the harsh reality of that illness, the ‘non-Disney’ version, they stumble. Hell, sometimes even I forget I have sexual needs and desires. I know, my last post was all about writing erotica, and watching porn, but that only works for so long. And, it doesn’t feel as good when you’re seven days down the symptom flare rabbit hole.
I do try to stay accountable. I celebrate the little things – brushing my teeth, splashing micellar water on the face then getting it in my eyes, putting on clean underwear, but there’s accountability and then there are stupid expectations. Like showering, do you know much effort goes into showering? You have to get to the shower, climb in the tub for the shower, turn the shower on, figure out the temperature … then you’ve got the washing gymnastics to contest with.
All this means showering is usually out of the question, the same with preparing meals, and even major changes of clothing. But, how do I make myself feel attractive or even resemble a human being when I feel like a physical representation of Slimer from Ghostbusters?
1. Deodorant wipes.
I love these, and I don’t think I’ll ever get across to you all how much I love these. I’m four layers into deodorant right now because I’ve run out of them, but deodorant wipes have a tendency to make me feel fresher. I keep a pack by my bedside and run them around the necessary areas morning of the symptom flare.
2. Symptom Flare Underwear
I promise I’ve not just put this one down because it rhymes. I have specific underwear I leave for bad symptom days. Good old M&S two sizes up stretchy cotton pants, with a twist. They’ve covered in lace. Lace has a way of automatically making me feel more attractive, and as they’re stretchy cotton they don’t dig in, and they’re ‘breathable’.
3. Mints, Breath Fresheners, and Disposable Toothbrushes
Tooth brushing is a hard obstacle course most mornings. So, until I’m able to get to the bathroom I use mints to get rid of morning breath. I may not be necessarily ‘clean’, but I feel fresher. If I’m having a day where brushing my teeth is an absolute no go, I have disposable toothbrushes, bottled water, and sick bags that seal up. It’s not the best way, but decent dental hygiene is of utmost importance. Thankfully, days like that don’t happen often, but I prefer to be prepared for the worst.
Scarves, pins, hair bands (when I can tolerate them), and even changing up my specs make me feel fresher, and more like myself. Four days deep down the dry hair shampoo hole means my hair has a funny texture, and I look like a poodle. So, a loose ponytail or keeping it up in a hair clip helps tame the mane.
Oh, so cliché, but so true. Finding something that makes me smile. Cute animals or marginally funny* comedy skits on YouTube help to release the endorphins, the same way porn does. It also provides a decent distraction.
*Back pain and laughter do not mix, trust me on this one.
Combine all these together over the course of a day, and I feel kind of human again. But, flares really aren’t easy to deal with, and feeling attractive during a symptom flare is hard. Whilst the above is a list of five things I try to do, sometimes I can’t even do those. It’s all about balance and figuring out what works for you.