Spoons

Feb. 20th, 2011 12:01 pm
metztlimoon: (Default)
[personal profile] metztlimoon
I've not been about much recently... life is going through one of those difficult patches at the moment, and lots of things look pretty bleak.

One of the things I have been doing of late is trying to explain to people why depression is such a bastard.  However, if you haven't been there it is very difficult to explain.  My job involves teaching and working with medical students, and to me its important they try and empathise as much as they can with people who are very different to them.

Some time ago, I was introduced to the 'spoon theory'.   You can read it in full here  http://butyoudontlooksick.com/navigation/BYDLS-TheSpoonTheory.pdf and it provides a wonderful metaphor for living with illness.  It was written by someone with a long standing physical condition, Lupus, but anyone who has struggled with mental illness of any form will recognise their own condition in there as well.

Let me briefly try and encapsulate what the Spoon theory is about - its about that for people living with any long standing illness, life is a constant process of decision making. Every action, small and large, uses up part of the physical energy and mental willpower you have for the day.  The spoons in the story represent that energy and willpower.  Each thing you do uses up one of those spoons and when you have a chronic illness... you have less spoons to play with. Once they are gone, they are gone. I urge you to read it, the full story works better than any summary I could give.



With depression, you have to use a spoon to be able to get up in the morning.  You need one to find something appropriate to wear and one to clean your teeth and have a wash.  You need one to make and eat breakfast.  You need one to take your medication.  You need one to actually make yourself leave the house. You need one to get onto the bus or train to face all those people, you need one to keep yourself from crying or wigging out on the crowded train. You need one to smile and say hello when you get to work, not to mention the ones you need to actually DO your work. You need one each time things go a bit wrong and you have to keep yourself together and remind yourself it isn't really a serious disaster, you need one each time you bite your tongue to avoid being snappy at someone who doesn't 'get it'.  You need one to get lunch, if you remembered to make it in the first place.  You need one if something good happens to try and make yourself remember it. You need one to run the gauntlet on the way home ... more if you have to stand on a crowded train or bus.  You need one to go to the shop to get food and another to cook... more if you are trying to eat more healthily because you cant just slam microwave dinners in the oven.  You need one to do the washing up, one to relax (yes, relaxing uses spoons), one for every bill you open and one to deal with it. You need one or two to cope with watching the news, one to visit a friend or talk online.  You need one to exercise, but if you're lucky, you'll get it back or maybe earn a spare one. You need one to get over each thought that you are useless and a failure (with depression, there are a LOT of those). You need one to get ready for bed, and convince yourself that there won't be bad dreams, and one for each dark thought that crosses your mind (usually about unpaid bills, or work or how you are a failure) when you are trying to go to sleep, because if you don't fight them, you won't sleep, and both tiredness and anxiety will deplete tomorrow's spoons.

Depression, like physical illness, limits the number of spoons you have in a day. When they are gone, you cannot function. Depression, although it often spares us the physical pain, makes the decision making process, the self controlling process, harder than it is for those without it.

Some days, good days, your number of spoons is huge, or one goes a bit further than usual.  Other days, bad days, you have hardly any, and it takes more energy to do one task.  Thing is, you don't know in advance most of the time...

You prioritise, because you have to (although prioritising uses up a spoon as well, most times.) You borrow from future spoons to cope with really critical things, but you know when it catches up to you you'll be lucky if you can get out of bed.  If you use your spoons to keep your job, you don't have them to relax, or energise yourself with those you care about.  Small wonder that sometimes you spend them on frivolities because you are so desperate to do something that isn't a constant battle.

I want you to do something now.  Go check your cutlery drawer.  How many spoons do you have ? (I don't imagine most people have more than 10-15) How far do you get through the list of spoon expenditure above before you have run out?  Apply it to your own day. How many things went a bit wrong (running late, missing pen, out of milk, someone being an idiot)? Each one uses a spoon. Think eating or bills are more important? That simple act of prioritising uses a spoon.

How did you do?

There are ways of getting more spoons.... the love and help of friends, taking joy (when you can although Depression is very good at hiding it) in a shaft of sunlight, nature, a burst of creativity, an amazing fact. I find chocolate quite effective, but it has its downsides.  You learn the worth of things and hopefully, along with that, a way of looking at what actually matters to you. These are things not everyone has a chance to learn.  You learn, I hope, that we all have our battles and struggles and they may not seem obvious, and you learn not to take anything for granted.

This isn't an appeal for pity. This isn't, oh woe is me.  This is an appeal for understanding.

Sam xxxx



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