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20 'Gross' Things You're Not the Only One Doing During a Flare-Up

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When you’re in the middle of flare, basic tasks like showering or keeping up with household chores can quickly go out the window. When surviving the barrage of pain, fatigue and other symptoms is your main priority, having freshly washed hair or sheets suddenly isn’t quite so important (or even possible).

There may be some things you do (or don’t do) during a flare that are helpful or necessary for your health, but not necessarily the most “socially acceptable.” Some people might consider going weeks without a shower or spending the day on the toilet to be “gross,” and perhaps you even feel a bit “gross” yourself some days. But hey, when your health is on the line, you do what you’ve gotta do – no judgment here.

To let you know that you’re not alone in whatever habits you may have during a flare, we asked our Mighty community to share the things they do that other people might consider “gross.” If any of the following ring true for you, know you’ve got an entire community who gets it and is here to support you. It doesn’t matter if your most recent shower was last night or last month: You are a warrior, and this flare-up has nothing on you.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

1. Not Showering

I can go days without showering because I just don’t have the energy. I absolutely hate not being able to shower, it grosses me out. But sometimes it’s just not going to happen and I’ve learned to live with that.” – Sarah P.

Go way, way too long without showering. It is so much more exhausting than it’s worth when I’m flaring. Dry shampoo and baby wipes keep me somewhat clean.” – Jolene D.

If you can relate, check out our list of 17 hygiene products to use on days when showering just isn’t an option.

2. Manually Evacuating Your Bowels

“One of my worst symptoms is that I get super constipated and impacted. The doctors have no idea why. So I have an emergency bag with rubber gloves and petroleum jelly in case I need to manually disimpact. It’s so embarrassing and painful. It’s absolutely the most disgusting of my symptoms.” – Sarah A.

Manually help my poop get out because nothing GI-related is working right and I need to have a bowel movement before my intestines start tearing!” – Eydís H.Á.

If you can relate, check out our list of 18 products that can make going to the bathroom less crappy.

3. Not Cleaning Your Home

“Go without vacuuming and cleaning and letting clutter and cat fur collect because I just have no energy or strength or flexibility to clean.” – Samantha A.

My house chores won’t get done: laundry piles up, dishes sit in the sink, garbage doesn’t get taken out, dust builds up because I can’t vacuum.” – Tiffany L.

In addition to not showering or changing clothes, the area around my bed (which is also my living room since I live in an efficiency apartment) becomes loaded with used tissues, food wrappers and trash. I also don’t really tend to my cat’s litter box for up to a week because I barely have the energy to grab a snack, use the bathroom before laying back down. Laundry doesn’t happen more than once a month and my garbage goes out once every week or two.” – Christine C.

If you can relate, check out our list of 26 “hacks” that can make cleaning easier.

4. Eating Super Salty Food

For postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) flare-ups, I’m told to eat more salt and drink more water. What I do for salt is eat an entire bag of potato chips while dipping them in ketchup. I grew up loving it as a snack (though in much smaller portions). Now it’s my go-to salt boost.” – Trisha P.

Drink pickle juice. I have a type of dysautonomia called POTS. My body doesn’t stay hydrated, or hold on to salt and electrolytes very well. Pickle juice has enough salt to take me out of the fainting spells the POTS causes.” – Brittney B.

“Salt intake is important and I have to stay hydrated with additional salt. Sometimes my body just dumps it and I get dizzy and weak. Usually I have things with me to eat or drink in case this happens while I’m out. Yesterday I didn’t so at the movie theater I had to eat a container of pickled jalapeños. There’s times where I’ve had to add salt to ice cream or foods/drinks someone without my illness wouldn’t dream of adding salt to.” – Angie P.N.

If you can relate, check out these 17 tips for staying hydrated, from people with dysautonomia.

5. Not Brushing Your Teeth

I get too tired to brush my teeth, or I forget. I love a clean mouth, but it just slips my mind or I run out of time. As a result I have terrible breath most of the time, which I hate.” – Natalie P.

If you can relate, check out our list of 17 hygiene products to use on days when showering or brushing your teeth just isn’t an option.

6. Taking Laxatives

One of the biggest side effects to pain meds is constipation. So once a week I take a laxative and bring a pillow with me.” – Candice R.

I have to take laxatives to go. It’s not exactly that I get constipated, it’s that my intestines won’t talk to each other and move, so I have to get laxatives that stimulate movement. I can eat the best diet, take [over-the-counter laxatives], etc… nothing happens except further illness… it doesn’t matter if your intestines won’t move.” – Jill W.

Coffee enemas. Sounds crazy, and definitely ‘gross,’ but seriously it’s a life-changer when feeling awful!” – Katye M.

If you can relate, check out our list of 18 products that can make going to the bathroom less crappy.

7. Peeling or Picking Your Skin

Self-cares are a biggie for me when ill. Just can’t do it. My husband will help me. But my personal hatred is my constant picking of scabs and looking like a nasty person. I don’t even know I’m doing it and I guess the pain of picking distracts from all the other pain but I can keep them going months and months. My face is the worst area as it really affects an already low self-esteem. And I can’t show my arms in summer either if I’ve made a mess of them, too. It really upsets me. It’s getting worse and I think now it’s more like self-harm.” – Melanie B.O.

I have to often peel scabbed-up skin off my lips. Idk how many times I’ve had to tell people that they aren’t chapped and no, Chapstick doesn’t work. You don’t put Chapstick on a cut, do you?” – Elizabeth A.

If you can relate, check out this list of five fidget toys for compulsive skin picking.

8. Using a Bucket for Bodily Waste

Keep a vomit bucket near my bed. Medication makes me queasy and I usually don’t have the time or energy to get to the bathroom in time. I also have plastic sheets on my bed because sometimes it comes out both ends.” – Aimee R.

“I carry a cup around for the unexpected gastro issues when my insides try to leap out. When I was still driving, I learned my lesson.” – Jennifer C.

When I have to throw up, I have to sit on the toilet and throw up in the tub or trashcan, as the violent reflex also makes me lose my bowels.” – Annette L.

I pee standing. Keep a container close to me or by my bed, pour into bucket. So I don’t have to walk that five feet or try sitting and standing again.” – Amanda J.

If you can relate, check out our list of 24 products to keep in your chronic illness “crisis kit.”

9. Re-Using Dishes Without Washing

“Just wipe crumbs off a plate that’s not too dirty from toast or something to have another meal on it before washing it to put more time between dish washing.” – Samantha A.

If you can relate, check out our list of 21 products that can make cooking easier if you have an illness or disability.

10. Lack of Bladder/Bowel Control

I cannot control my bladder. I get really frequent UTIs and kidney infections and when I get hit by one, I am unable to make it to the bathroom on time ever. I just have to stick a puppy pad under my sheets and sleep naked. Couple that with not being able to shower until I can stand again and sweating out the fever that tends to come with the infections, I can get really, really gross.” – Kylie T.

Using adult diapers because between severe incontinence and GI problems I can rarely make it to the bathroom in time during a flare-up. The house is a mess, I shower once a week, but this is the main thing that bothers me. I’m actually looking forward to the ostomy bag because at least it will be cleaner.” – Jackie S.

If you can relate, check out our list of 12 products people with incontinence swear by

11. Not Changing Your Clothes

“I keep the same pajamas on for multiple days because it’s just not priority. People could think that’s gross but it’s just reality.” – Cassidy S.

Spend days wearing the same clothes, they could be PJs or T-shirt and jogger bums, whatever I’m wearing. My husband has to help me get dressed sometimes but there are days when I don’t even have the energy to be helped.” – Ellen H.F.

If you can relate, check out this list of comfy clothing brands you won’t mind going out in.

12. Not Washing Your Feet

My feet are gross. They need to be exfoliated and scrubbed but bending down makes me dizzy and nauseated. And I certainly can’t do it in the shower, it’s taxing enough washing my hair!” – Chauntayna M.

If you can relate, check out our list of 17 hygiene products to use on days when showering just isn’t an option.

13. Constipation/Diarrhea

Constipation to diarrhea without warning and back again. I don’t have normal bowel movements unless it is in the middle of the switch. I feel like my life is being lived from the seat of my toilet. I am in pain either way. I can’t take [medication] for diarrhea because I would not be able to use the toilet for a week… and the thought of that is too painful. On constipation day, I sit screaming in pain, not being able to go. On diarrhea days, I sit screaming in pain because my bum is blistered from the stomach acid and bile which is exiting too fast. Nothing seems to help.” – Gwendolyn B.W.

“I lose control of my bowel and have had a few accidents. The pain meds lead to constipation and then chronic diarrhea. It’s a vicious circle.” – Natasha M.

If you can relate, check out our list of 18 products that can make going to the bathroom less crappy.

14. Holding Food in Your Mouth

When I’m in a flare, I can’t eat solids. I miss food so much sometimes I chew up solid food and spit it out rather than swallowing. I miss eating so much during a flare.” – Lillian R.

For my trigeminal neuralgia flares, I sometimes use squished up white bread and stuff it up between my teeth and cheeks, letting it soak and break down. It’s weird and gross but it helps with the pain.” – Stella C. 

I chew certain foods so I can get a taste of the flavor, then spit the ‘remains’ out. Corn, especially.” – Nancy B.

If you can relate, check out the ways our community gets enough nutrition if eating during a flare is difficult.

15. Self-Defecating

Self-defecate because I just can’t get there in time.” – Lisa D.

When I first got sick with Crohn’s, I messed my pants something like seven times in a year. Luckily, it hasn’t happened in a long time, but there have been some close ones.” – Jennie D.

If you can relate, check out our list of 18 products that can make going to the bathroom less crappy.

16. Sweating Excessively

Breathe heavy and sweat like a pig. Like people will ask if I’m OK. I think they think I’m about to have a heart attack.” – Ashley B.

Sweating uncontrollably and not bothering to change clothes because new ones would get just as sweaty.” – Sarah L.

I sit in my bed literally covered in sweat because I’m hot and cold at the same time and I can’t move because it’s way too painful.” – Laura W.

If you can relate, check out our list of 18 products that help people who sweat a lot.

17. Not Changing the Bedding

Like everyone else says, personal care goes to bare minimum but I’d also say changing my bedding can go out the window too because it takes so much energy.” – Natalie L.

I can go for weeks in not changing my sheets as there are so many days I wake up drenched in my own sweat. It is nasty to think about sleeping on the air dried sheets but man, the whole wash/dry thing is rough. Not to mention that making the bed and putting the duvet cover back on takes a lot of energy. Have you ever run out of tissues that you try to reuse anything near you? I have but thankfully I keep a bottle of [hand sanitizer] by my bed stand.” – Vinnie B.

If you can relate, check out our list of 15 “hacks” that can make changing the bedding less exhausting.

18. Going to the Bathroom in the Tub

When I was younger, and a couple of times in my adulthood, if I had a severe kidney/urinary tract infection I would sometimes have to sit in a warm bath to pee as it helped bring down the inflammation. Either that or a catheter… Also helps when passing stones.” – Tamika D.

Sometimes I have to crouch in the bathroom/tub and poop in there because it’s the only position I get some relief from the excruciating cramps I get with my IBS-D which is currently being re-evaluated to perhaps something more serious since my meds no longer fully work and my symptoms have gotten worse. It’s so disgusting and I shower right after if I can when I manage to get out of the fetal position once the pain subsides which sometimes goes on for an hour. I’m not proud of it, but you do what you have to do.” – Lisa G.

If you can relate, check out our list of 18 products that can make going to the bathroom less crappy.

19. Having Spoiled Food

Not being able to cook or reheat food during a month-long flare-up that my food in the fridge spoils.” – Kate G.

If you can relate, check out our list of 21 products that can make cooking easier if you have an illness or disability.

20. Not Washing Your Hair

Leave my hair in the same band for over a month until it’s a matted mess.” – Lotte P.Y.

“Dry shampoo for five days straight. For some reason washing my hair takes the most out of me of anything.” – Ashley D.

Not be able to wash my hair for days after it needed it. Dry shampoo is my savior. Hair washing is one of my struggles anyway so when I flare it goes to the bottom of my list. When I am flaring I’m not feeling up to going out, so it’s one of my guilty secrets. No one sees apart from my ever-loving hubby.” – Janey G.

If you can relate, check out our list of 17 hygiene products to use on days when showering just isn’t an option.

Originally published: March 16, 2018
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