It near never fails. I’m having a good pain/symptom day and am excited to get some things done. I hop in a shower and like clockwork, halfway through the symptoms start. By the time I finally manage to get dressed, I need to lie down. I’m dizzy, have vertigo, am light headed and nauseous, again. This isn’t a fluke, instead it’s more like one of the myriad of regular symptoms I live with, with Fibromyalgia. And once I’m down from one of these episodes, I’m down for hours.
I’m pretty accustomed, now, to living with a wide range of crazy, inexplicable and life limiting symptoms. Typically, we are never able to find a root cause, nor any successful treatment. Instead, we just add them to the list of limitations.
Enter my new Cardiologist. He has truly been a Godsend. After way too many Specialists, he was the one who finally diagnosed my Dysautonomia. So as we sat there, I decided to throw out the question: Why do I always nearly faint when I shower?
And, he had an answer!!! Oh my word!
So forgive the fact that I am neither a Clinician, nor as able to explain as eloquently as he, but here is what he told me:
One of the hallmarks of Fibromyalgia is the inability to regulate your body temperature. Dysautonomia is a dysfunction of the Autonomic Nervous System; which is also responsible for maintaining body temperature, but is also responsible for regulating breathing patterns, heart rate and keeping a steady blood pressure. (etc.)
Take two conditions that both make body temperature regulation a huge challenge and what do we do? We step into a hot, steamy, super humid shower.
The hot water hits and floods our body. So what does our body do? It pulls the blood from major organs and sends it to the skin, to try to regulate that change of temperature to the skin. With less blood flowing to the heart, lungs and brain, those feelings of faintness, nausea, dizziness and lightheadedness set in.
While he couldn’t necessarily explain the reasons why it takes me several hours to recover, my own theory is that it’s just another way that the Fibro affects us; either slowing down the recovery time or making the very incident more profound.
Either way, finally armed with an answer, here are some of the things I now do:
- Turn down the temperature of the water
- Shorten the shower
- Use a vent fan
- Leave the bathroom door open
- Leave the end of the shower curtain open
- Open a window
- Leave a shower for last, in case an episode does present
- Use a shower chair or install safety handles
- Shave outside the shower (Terri from Reclaiming Hope suggested a Flawless Legs shaver)
- Get to the floor if an episode hits
I can’t necessarily say that I’ve eliminated the “shower effect”, by doing these things, but I can say it no longer happens every single time I shower.
Much like everything else we do, it’s not a fix, it’s about trying to better manage the symptoms we live with, to make life better. And I have to say that not needing 4 hours to recover from every single shower is better.