You’ve been there. You wake up in the morning and… just nah. Yesterday you had plans to be productive today: to finally catch up on the laundry, to load the dishwasher, to take a shower. These should seem like simple tasks, but not today. Today they are mountains. All you want to do is roll over and forget about the world. You’ll try again tomorrow.
Now this is where you’re expecting me to start telling you to push through. Pull up your bootstraps and get through this too, because you’ll never get anywhere if you just, don’t. This is also where you would be wrong. You see, I know that sometimes I can’t. Not that I don’t want to, not that it would be easier if I didn’t. Sometimes, I just can’t. I also know that the harder I push myself, the more I crumble. If I ever stand a chance of rebounding from whatever it is, (depression, anxiety, migraine, PCOS, endometriosis, social battery drain, other chronic illnesses …etc) I have to stop sometimes.
One of the most popular explanations for this is The Spoon Theory. This theory was originally published by Christine Miserandino in 2003. What it boils down to, if you haven’t heard about this wonderful metaphor, is that every day you have only so many spoons. Some days you have lots of spoons, some days you can count your spoons on one hand. And what makes this the best metaphor, is that EVERYTHING takes spoons. Don’t feel like, “well, it’s just ____,” because it’s not. Everything you do takes a little bit of the day’s energy you have. Even if it’s binge watching tv.
So you have the Spoon Theory as it applies to you, but don’t forget that family requires some of your spoons too: that could be fur-babies, real babies, significant others, siblings, elderly parents, you get the idea. Everything you do for them, whether they (or you) recognize it as such, uses YOUR SPOONS. That’s right, you are NOT superman, dang it. Just because it’s positive to help the ones around you, doesn’t mean you always can! The sooner you accept this, the better things will get. You need to ask for help sometimes. I’ve mentioned this before (if you haven’t read Hot Mess Mama, you’ve missed a look into the life of a chronic illness, brain dead mom), having the right people around you will significantly reduce the unending stress.
Having a mood disorder or other chronic illness (defined as a long-term health condition that may not have a cure, according to the medical encyclopedia) is no joke. You shouldn’t treat it as one, nor should you let those around you treat it as one. Having a support system in place is vital to your survival when you’re fighting every single day. It’s true, you will have good days when even you might forget that spoons are a thing, but you need people to call on when there is a massive spoon shortage!
“Support systems are there to remind you that you are so much more than your illness.”Mango Health – Lana Barhum
Let me give you a peak of what my typical “few spoon” days entail. Now, I’m not saying that my pick me up will match yours, or even kind of work for you, but I am saying that it works for me, and if you can take anything from it, please do! And when your done looking through my list of things that I do, leave me a comment and tell me what YOU do on your “few spoon” days to help you make it through.
“You’ve lived through tougher things than this. Don’t give up now!”― Rachel Hollis
Speak Up! When I wake up and I just know it is going to be a rough one, I communicate that immediately. My husband can’t do squat to help me if he doesn’t know, and since it’s happening inside of me, he won’t know if I don’t tell him. At least, he won’t know until it’s too late and we are both upset at each other and probably fighting. Communication is KEY with anything, but very much so with chronic illness. The upside is, it’s not a one way street. He tells me when he is having a rough time too. I share my spoons, he shares his. It’s how we keep the household running on limited spoons each day.
Take the damn meds! I know you don’t want to get out of bed. I know you don’t want to drag your feet across the chilled floor and into the kitchen or bathroom for a glass of water to down them with. I know this will use one of those precious spoons you are lacking so badly today. BUT DO IT. You are on these pills for a reason, a good reason. Using a set back as an excuse to not take them will only set you further back! So go. Go NOW. Take them.
Clean yourself! I have degrees of cleaning myself that I use based on the number of spoons I can spare, but I always do something to get clean because it helps so much. If it’s a bearable day, I will take a hot shower: the blistering ones you always see men making fun of women for taking. Hot water temporarily widens veins and helps increase circulation. Sometimes, that helps get me going or staves off the worst of the migraine. If it’s my mid section that is bothering me, I want to soak in a bath instead, just so I’m not on my feet, but I just can’t wrap my head around soaking in my own body crud (cheers to you if that isn’t a thing for you, we all have weird phobias). If I can’t manage a full on clean, even just washing my face helps drive just a little more life into me.
Eat something, anything! For reals, I don’t care if it’s one of those Little Debbie’s you’ve been hiding in the back of the pantry for months. Sure, would I like to see you eat something nutritious and packed with vitamins and flavors? You bet! But that’s not what today has in store for you. That’s ok, just eat something. When I have “few spoon” days, my husband (who is legally blind, by the way) takes his turn to “cook.” Again, he is blind, so when he “cooks” he calls for take-out or delivery. All I have to do is pull myself together enough to answer the door or pick it up, which takes far fewer spoons than actually fixing a meal up properly…far, far, fewer spoons.
“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
Take everything one step at time. I’ll say it again. You are NOT superman, and that’s ok. Quit trying to be. You are driving yourself even further into the pit. Take a step back for a little bit. Let your brain and body rest. Anyone who thinks you need to be at 100%, 100% of the time, is toxic. We all have bad days. For me, they could be physical, mental, or both, maybe it’s the same for you, maybe it’s not. But you are not immune to the feeling of overwhelm. No one is.
All of this comes with one other caveat. Don’t expect anything else from those around you. Just because you are having a good or “on” day, doesn’t mean everyone around you is. Try to be cognizant of that. Be the supporter when you can, but don’t be afraid to be supported either. We’re not social creatures because we can or want to do it alone. I won’t expect 100% from you all the time, you’re human. And you’re going to be okay.