When you run out of spoons

When you run out of spoons
Artist: Milk & Honey Luxuries https://www.etsy.com/shop/MilkandHoneyLuxuries

It’s easy to run out of spoons when you have both depression and  anxiety.

You start the day with the best of intentions (and a dash of denial) and the next thing you know you’re laying on the floor trying to quickly gather your energy to clean up after dinner because you ran out of spoons and were pretending you had more but your body and brain told you otherwise by throwing on the brakes.

What is the spoon theory? I first heard about it from Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy, but it has its origins from a blog ButYouDontLookSick.com by Christine Miserandino, a woman who has lupus. It brilliantly applies to any chronic illness, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

Christine said her friend, who has witnessed her suffer from lupus for years, still didn’t understand until she came up with the Spoon Theory. My husband still has a hard time understanding. He knows I struggle, but then he unhelpfully compares it to his own problems, “I get tired, too,” before admitting that he really doesn’t understand.

Every morning, I need to guess how many spoons I have that day, and what the spending rate is. When my medicine is properly adjusted and I feel like I have a good handle on things, things cost fewer spoons. When I am struggling, more things cost more spoons.

Let’s pretend it’s a good day.

I have more spoons to begin with, and work is probably going to be easy. I might spend a spoon unloading the dishwasher, and if I am really ambitious, spend a spoon loading it. A spoon for getting ready for the day, including making lunch and even putting on eyeliner. A spoon for getting the baby ready. Her peeing the pants doesn’t faze me, because I’m in a good place. A spoon for making the bus on time, daycare on time, and work on time.

An unexpected meeting with bad news takes a spoon. I spend a few more spoon at work, and come home. I still have enough spoons.

I take the dog for a walk–heck, a longer walk! Maybe to the dog park! A spoon for making a dinner. A spoon for bathing the baby and putting her to bed. A spoon for cleaning up something around the house. A cleaner house means I don’t need to spend spoons on coping with the mess.

I end the day with enough spoons, and reward myself with a little crocheting or crafting before bed, which regenerates spoons.

Now here’s what it’s like when I have a flareup of depression, anxiety, and/or PTSD.

I spent spoons overnight for each bad or anxious dream, so I wake up realizing I have fewer spoons. I check my schedule–work should be pretty tame today. If necessary, I can assign a student to do one of my public-facing shifts to give me more time to rest and regenerate spoons. Strategizing about my spoons cost a spoon. I get up and start getting ready. Spoon. Seeing messy kitchen and realizing you need to do dishes still because you didn’t have the energy to last night–another spoon. You trip over the piled up dirty clothes and realize you still haven’t had the energy to do that–another spoon. You make lunch–another spoon. Getting dressed takes another spoon because choosing clothes becomes a daunting decision. Getting the baby ready is another spoon. Wait–she pooped her paints. another spoon. Cleaning up carpet is another spoon. Getting out the door on time, another spoon. Walking to bus stop, another spoon. Walking to daycare, another spoon. Walking to work, another spoon. Realizing Ive’ve spent double or triple your usual spoons costs another spoon, because then I’m anxious that I might run out of spoons.

I get to work and rearrange the public-facing schedule so I don’t have to do as much of it. That’s a spoon, but it will hopefully save me many spoons. Otherwise helping troubleshoot problems with our customers are multiple spoons. Checking on things and making manager decisions costs spoons. I’m getting worn out, already, and think ahead to the evening. I’m supposed to go up north to see a friend for dinner. Usually my husband helps, so I count on him. That’s a spoon. Then I get called into a meeting with bad news. Spoon. I’m dipping into my reserves, and burst into tears even when it shouldn’t make me cry. I apologize and try to pretend I’m together and don’t have copious tears running down my face. I’m embarassed. That’s several spoons. I spend spoons trying to gather my emotional energy after the meeting, and pretending to be normal for your employees costs more spoons.

I’m exhausted when I pick up the baby (spoon) and hop on the bus back home (spoon). Normally her wiggling doesn’t bother me, but today that’s another spoon. A spoon for getting off the bus. A spoon for worrying about cars or buses running into us. A spoon for getting home and thinking about walking the dog, but deciding against it.

The kitchen is still messy at home. Spoon. I need to make dinner, but I’m low on spoons, so I put a pizza in the oven. That’s just one spoon, whereas if I do more dishes and healthier dinners, that’s a spoon for each dish. Spoon for bathing baby. Spoon for feeding animals. Spoon for worrying about laundry. Spoon for thinking about crying at work today. Spoon for worrying about depression and anxiety. Spoon for feeling inadequate. Spoons flying out with every anxious thought.

I’ve been out of spoons for a while, so I take it from the next day. Spoon to put baby to bed. I fall asleep in chair, and wake up hoursl ater to realize that we need to be in bed. That’s another spoon.

The next day, I’m even more tired and have had more strange dreams, so that’s several spoons. Gone before I even wake up.

That’s what it’s like for me right now. I need to conserve spoons until I get this shit under control again.

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