Ever heard of spoon theory? In a nutshell, imagine your energy is limited to the amount of spoons you have. Most people don’t feel like they need to count their spoons or keep track of them, but when you’re someone dealing with chronic illness, you must know how many spoons you have at all times to make sure you don’t run out.
One of my signature jokes is that “being me is a full time job.” Between dealing with medical appointments, prescriptions, keeping myself fed, sleeping enough, and moving my body so I have more energy (paradox), I often feel like my gas tank is empty. Lately I’ve been so gassed that I can barely even manage taking care of my cat (don’t worry, he’s fine). Having some semblance of a social life is possible when things are good and I don’t over commit myself. I had plans to go out tonight but laying in bed won. It’s frustrating.
I gloss over my chronic illness a lot and don’t really let on to how much work it is to manage. Part of it is the idea that by admitting or naming it “chronic illness” I’m buying into a story about myself that is a self-fulfilling prophecy. And that’s great and all…but all it does for me is make me push off getting the help I need. Boo.
As much as I declare my desire to disconnect from my story of getting sick in 2010 and how it rocked my life to the core (or who I was back then or the environment in which I grew up), I can’t. It’s like weaving a blanket and then cutting out a huge square in the middle. It shows up on my skin every time I look in the mirror. I’m reminded of it when I take medicine in the morning and at night. It shows up as a weird twinge when I flex my abs because of the scar tissue from my feeding tube scar. Meningitis is literally woven into my DNA. This is my story. I’m done trying out outrun it.
Tonight I’m tired and am shit out of spoons.
I feel like a failure.
I’ve been judging myself about this lately – feeling like I should be able to just meditate harder and transcend this. LOA my way outta this. Feeling like this is just astrological. Etc, etc, etc. I would never judge a friend for needing more help or doing the things they need to do to feel better, why am I judging myself?
Today I made the signature joke about being me is a full time job to my therapist and we talked about how much energy it really does take to have manage chronic illness while working full time and living by yourself. It’s a discussion we’ve been having for years, and she’s always so kind about it. We’ve been working the past few months on trying to decipher my mild “cycling” (manic vs. depressive) and if this is nature (a brain chemical thing) vs. nurture (having an incredibly neglectful childhood) with a side order of PTSD (yes, being me is super fun). What I can tell you is I remember “cycling” as early as my teens, so this isn’t new – what’s new is that I can identify it. For example, in July I had TONS of energy and would come home after work and destroy my to-do list and was crazy productive. This month I can barely get off the couch and keeping myself fed is a ton of work (I’m grateful for sourdough bread, packaged foods, and grocery pickup). So after talking with her about it for a few months, I’m being referred to a psychiatrist to discuss the possibility of having a mild mood disorder, because whatever comes from that may help with a few more spoons.
At this point, I’ll take a few more spoons.
If you need more spoons or need to preserve the ones you have, just know you aren’t alone and you need to do whatever you need to do to manage those spoons.