Not Enough Spoons

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2 years ago

Do you know what a “Spoonie” is? It got started by Christine Miserandino. Basically, the theory equates spoons to energy. People who are well have an unlimited number of spoons (energy) and can coast through their day without much thinking about anything. But people with chronic illness don’t have that luxury. They have a limited number of spoons (energy) and have to think through each and every task, from getting out of bed to getting dressed, to going somewhere. Each task costs one or more spoons.

A “Spoonie” is someone who has a limited amount of energy or well-being. 

Please read Christine’s “Spoon Theory” here.

Christine Miserandino’s Spoon Theory 

For over a year, I was a "Spoonie." I suppose I could still be considered a Spoonie since I still have diabetes and major depression. But both of those conditions are well managed through medication and therapy.

The following story is about a more immediate energy problem.

I wrote this story in the middle of what my family and I call “the mystery illness.” I was undergoing constant testing, being probed from my top end and my bottom end. You see, I couldn’t hold down any food. I dropped 25 pounds in a matter of weeks. And the doctors couldn’t tell me why.

Eventually, it was determined I have a fairly common but very uncomfortable condition called Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) which may have been partly to blame for my feeling so sick. But it wasn’t the only culprit. I continued to be unable to hold down food. This lasted for over a year until one of my doctors suggested a medication, Lisinopril, which had been prescribed to help protect my kidneys, might be to blame.

I stopped taking the pills and almost immediately felt better.

Because I wasn’t throwing up, I gained back my weight and most of my energy. But before that happened, I wrote this piece.

I’d like to share it with you now.

Not Enough Spoons

I’m smoking too many cigarettes. Trying to motivate myself to move. To do something. Anything.

My kitchen sink is overflowing with dirty dishes. My laundry hamper is overflowing with dirty laundry. My dryer is overflowing with wrinkled but clean clothes.

That’s something at least.

I don’t have a job. I have too little income. I want to write three or four essays daily. I want to find work-at-home gigs.

I’ve found a few side hustles but have failed to take the very last steps to begin working.

I want to go back to bed. I don’t even have the energy for that.

I am neglecting something else. I can’t remember what. My memory is shit today. I’m in the fog again.

My stomach is roiling. Maybe I’ll get more coffee. Maybe I’ll smoke another cigarette. I don’t care that it is 9 a.m. If I weren’t nauseous I would drink a beer.

I am nauseous, though. I wouldn’t have the energy to get up and get it, anyway. Did I just put out a cigarette? I can’t remember.

I slog myself through the hallway where the washer and dryer are to get outside to smoke another cigarette.

The full dryer confronts me. Shames me.

Before going outside I force myself to fold three towels and hang up 2 shirts. This completely wears me out. My arms are heavy.

Outside I smoke and check my emails. All the job postings and reminders to take the last steps. I panic. I ignore them. Guilt assails me like an old friend. A warm smothering blanket. And I am too heavy.

I want to want to do more. I can’t want to. I’m too tired. Too depressed. Too overwhelmed. Too sick.

Three back-to-back doctors appointments loom above me Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Monday and Tuesday are out-of-town appointments. 2 hour round trip drives. In traffic. In an unfamiliar city. Dread makes me even heavier.

My antinausea pill has finally begun to work but I don’t go in the kitchen to get something to eat. It’s too far. It’s too dirty. The kitchen sink leers at me with its piled-up dishes.

I should write. Or draw. Or paint. Or earn a few cents answering surveys. Something. Anything to be productive. To contribute.

I don’t do anything. I’m out of spoons physically and emotionally.

Spoons? What do spoons have to do with anything?

This is a concept created by people with chronic conditions (chronic pain, chronic fatigue, chronic anything that saps your energy) to describe the ability or inability to get through the day.

Let’s say a person is given a fixed number of spoons each day. Every action costs 1 or more spoons. Getting dressed can cost up to 3 spoons for me. I am winning if I get some pants on under my robe. Putting on socks will be another spoon.

Each activity, each thought process costs at least one spoon.

Some days I run out of spoons before I get started. I have more than one chronic condition.

I have diabetes. I have thyroid issues. I have a mystery illness that causes nausea and, for a while, vomiting every day. I have major depressive disorder and anxiety.

I have a teenage son who is also depressed, suicidal, and self-harming.

I have a husband who is diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

My son ran away recently.

Because he is 17 and we live in Texas, he is not considered a runaway. He is considered an adult. The cops gave him a choice to come home or not. He chose not. I’m so very worried.

My husband has been carrying us financially with his $9/hr part-time job.

And I feel so ashamed. So helpless. So useless.

I am dropping the ball, unable to carry the family the way my inner voice shrieks at me I should be.

How can I be productive? I understand intellectually that I ran out of spoons long ago. My guilt and my shame push me to produce more anyway. Push me to produce beyond the point of emotional and physical exhaustion. Push me to the point of mental exhaustion so extreme I can barely remember how to string three words together.

I am out of spoons. Not even shitty plastic half fork half spoons are in my arsenal. I’m not sure I can even find a chopstick at this point.

Maybe I’ll have more spoons in a few days, weeks, months, or years.

I want to want to be productive today. Everything inside of me is screaming to produce, to contribute, to earn money. But I can’t want to.

Maybe tomorrow.

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Lead Image by Image by Дарья Яковлева from Pixabay 

Image by Matej Madar from Pixabay 

This story first appeared in Invisible Illness on February 5 2020

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2 years ago

Comments

I learnt new things from this article. A“Spoonie” being someone with a limited amount of energy or well-being. I'm glad you are healing now ma'am. You will overcome.

$ 0.00
2 years ago

I felt kinda miserable reading the scene you shared. It is indeed living like a zombie of some sort. It us worse because it is not just "I wanna do it, but I can't." It is instead, "I want to WANT to do it, but I can't want to." How miserable. My heart goes out to people that experience this today. I hope you are very well, though, and your family , too.

$ 0.05
2 years ago

Good to know you are feeling and looking a lot better now, you gaining back your weight and your energy too :) And to that, I say cheers!

And thank you for sharing about the spoons :)

$ 0.05
2 years ago

I feel you with that more than one chronic condition.. However, I don't mind them at all. I wanna e productive so that in the future, I can rest and treat them well... So sad hearing your situation.. I hope you'll get better soon

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2 years ago

I also need more spoons sometimes as i lack of energy doing things that i need. You should get some rest and stop thinking about the things you need to do for while. I feel sorry for your son i hope hes safe. I will include you to my prayer, hope you will get better soon. Just trust Him from above surrender all your worry to Him.

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2 years ago

This is an what everyone feels at some point or the other but do fail to admit it. We all need more spoons we won't give up but fight on

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2 years ago

I pictured every scene you described. You delivered it well. I kinda hope there are power nuggets or one ups for 🥄🥄🥄. To get it filled up again.. to regain energy.

$ 0.05
2 years ago

Power nuggets!

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2 years ago

Yes there has to be .. hmm. But i guess the will to pick up the power nugget will also be close to depleted. At least you are being restored now ;)

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2 years ago

Those spoons...I need them also in my life. Glad you're gaining again. continue to take medications I'm sure you'll never be a spoonie after it.

God Bless!

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2 years ago

What I appreciate most about the things you write is the real-ness of whatever it is you are describing... whether it's joy or pain or confusion. And so we all felt your pain and struggle, but you're now healing so that's cause for gratitude and a mini celebration. I continue to pray for you, that all you're going through - physically, emotionally, mentally - will finally be just a memory.

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2 years ago

I'm feeling sad reading this. You've gone through a lot as well as your family. On the other hand I am happy that you are fighting. You're okay. Focus on your health. Thinking too much may also be a problem. And please do avoid your vices, I know it helps you but who knows when it will harm you. Health is more important. Fighting! 😊

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2 years ago

I am sorry for experiencing these things :(. I am speechless. I don't know what to say. Please know that I am praying for you and your family.

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2 years ago

I needed this reminder. When I think I'm tired now, I need to remember this time when I really had no energy.

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2 years ago

Very touching content, you will overcome and conquer...actually you do have spoons, with time God will heal you and your family.

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2 years ago

I hope you have more spoons now. So well written, I had heard about spoons before and use mine carefully.

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2 years ago

I feel every word. Could not decribe the black dog better. You are not alone!

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2 years ago

That black dog is a mother clucker!

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2 years ago

My son has since moved out. He's turned 18. He's doing well with a job and had gotten himself to a mental health clinic and is receiving medication.

My husband has been diagnosed with PTSD since he left the Army. He, too, is doing well these days.

My health is much improved. I was thinking how little energy I have but then remembered those days. Some of those days I could not get out of bed.

I'm so happy they are behind me, now.

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2 years ago

Am really moved to tears, reading all that your are going through. You don't need to be ashamed, because I know you are a strong woman who will have supported her husband with all if not for the situation of things. Try and work more on your recovery from depression. I believe things would be back to normal. My prayer is that God will heal you, your husband and son from depression and restore you,

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2 years ago