Bipolar exhaustion is a complex physical state to explain, and I’m not sure anyone can fully understand if they haven’t felt it. Sometimes during these states all I can do is stare at a wall and think of how I physically can’t move. My limbs feel like a 1,000 pounds each and maneuvering them is a skill I sometimes don’t possess.
Those around me laugh when I grunt and groan about how, “Showering is so much work!” But I’m not making a joke. I know it’s supposed to be, “so simple and quick,” but it’s not. Some days, it’s nearly impossible. Because let me tell you what a “simple and quick” shower consists of when I’m staring at the wall with those 1,000-pound limbs.
First, it requires sitting up — which is a lot of work in and of itself. Then I need to feel the weight of gravity hit me and fight how badly I want to lie back down. But if I want to take a shower, I have to stand up. Then I need to trudge to the bathroom.
After that, I need to sit down on the toilet to take a break from all of the work I’ve just done. Then I need to get undressed, which is a hefty task itself. Leggings seem impossible to get off during these times and the entire time I can only think of how I’m getting undressed only to put clothes on again after this incredibly exhausting task.
When I finally do get undressed, I need to turn on the water. I then need to let my hair out of its customary ponytail, take off my Apple Watch and grab the towels I’ll need. After that, I need to make sure the temperature of the water is OK — and usually it’s not, so I need to adjust it.
And that’s only the beginning.
Stepping into the shower is probably the second hardest task (the first was getting out of bed) because I know once I do, I know I’ll need to finish this whole ordeal — that step into the shower is filled with commitment.
Once I step in, I huddle just outside where the water can reach, hesitating because I know water will add weight to my body and it already feels so heavy. Especially when I soak my hair — it’s like another 1,000 pounds is added to the 4,000 pounds my limbs already feel. But eventually I muster up the willpower to follow through.
I slowly get my arms wet first, hating how the water feels on my body because it’s a reminder I’ll have to exhaust myself further by drying off after all of this work is done. But nevertheless, I persist. I wet my hair, then get shampoo, then rinse it again. I put in conditioner, then wash my body while it sets. I need to wet the loofah, then add soap, then scrub my body down — which is probably the only part of this whole process that actually does feel refreshing.
And then, after all of that, I need to rinse the soap off my body, followed by rinsing the conditioner out of my hair. Usually after all this I have a hair routine for my curly hair, but I skip the curl cream, gel and scrunching on these days because that’s just way too much work. Instead, I get out of the shower and focus on drying off.
I wrap the towel around me at first, just standing there, thinking of all the work that still needs to be done. I need to dry myself off, then walk into the bedroom, then get dressed — and unless you’ve put leggings onto a sticky body during this exhaustion, you won’t understand how hard that is.
And after that, I still need to use the little strength that’s still left to go back into the bathroom, put my hair into another customary ponytail and put my Apple Watch back on my wrist. Luckily, due to the whole curly hair thing, I don’t have to brush my hair — I can’t even fathom what a task that would be.
And finally, after that entire process, I can go back, lay on that same bed I came from and feel my 4,000-pound limbs and 1,000-pound hair sink into the mattress, the weight of gravity finally being somewhat lifted.
So, when I say, “Showering is so much work,” it’s not a joke for laughs or me being overdramatic. Showering is the most exhausting part of my day sometimes. And even if you might not understand why that is, I promise a lot of people with bipolar disorder do. Trust me on that.