The first time my boyfriend came to my flat, I had to ask him to help me in the bath. He’d not had so much as a risqué picture message from me before, but here I was stark naked, with him gently manhandling my wonky body into the foamy water. He sat politely out of sight while I washed. Asking a new partner to help with something so intimate was daunting for the few minutes I deliberated over it, but when he turned up at the last minute in a bid to turn my bad week around with a night of films and food, and I realised I hadn’t washed in 3 days, I didn’t have much choice. In retrospect I think he might have been more anxious than I was.

It’s a funny story to tell on the surface: date turns up, girl demands bath. It’s less funny when you dig a little deeper. Since a major worsening of symptoms in December, I can’t bathe without at least having someone in the flat listening carefully, as I’m liable to faint in the bath, and I need help getting in and out on my worse pain days.  As I’ve previously written about, I am still trying to access Personal Independence Payments so there is just no money spare to pay for home care. I’m in contact with social services, but I’m still waiting for another meeting with my occupational therapist who seems to be my contact for all things useful.

This leaves me to rely on friends for now and it doesn’t feel fair on either party. But really, what choice is there? The choice between the indignity of being naked in front of someone who’s probably just as embarrassed by the situation – and throw in some body confidence issues too for good measure – or the indignity of not washing for several days. It’s the latter I’ve been doing lately, knowing that the next time my boyfriend comes over will only be a few days away. Dry shampoo and sink washes. There is no right answer, though. I worry that one day my brain will notice that I smell bad, that I’m wearing pyjamas in the afternoon, I’m not even trying to tidy my hair, and it will deduce that I must be depressed and then act accordingly. I worry even more now I’m having psychiatric appointments again, that unwashed hair and overcompensating body spray will by noted down as clinically significant (after all, my facial piercings were once used as a diagnostic tool, however [in]accurate).

I need to swallow my anxiety on this, and jump in. I’ve done it before years ago, in hospital. Evading being watched while washing on close observation order by having a bath with half a bottle of Matey poured in to protect my modesty. Maybe bubble-bath is the way ahead.