If you have never heard of the Spoon Theory, a very brief explanation is the use of spoons to illustrate the amount of energy a person has on a given day. Each activity of the day takes away a spoon. So, in theory, the average person has 12 spoons for the day. When she gets ready for work, that costs a spoon. Work itself may be another 1 or 2 spoons. Tending to the kids, another spoon. Her spouse, another spoon. Cleaning up the house, a spoon. Spoons for meals. Spoons for chores. Spoons for the gym. Spoons for appointments. Etc. Each night when she goes to bed, her spoons are replenished and she begins her new day with 12 spoons ready to go.
Now imagine you have the same number of spoons, but you have an illness or a child who is ill? We all know that if mom is down with the flu, all her spoons are spent on being trying to get better. She may even crash in bed for a few days, take her medication, and do very little. It literally will take all of her spoons (energy) just to get through the basics of each day. We all know that once mom feels better, there is usually a few days of catch up that must happen. Mom may exhaust her spoons in this process, however, she will be able to rest up and her spoons will be replenished. Eventually, she is back on her cycle of 12 spoon days and an evening of sleep to replenish for the next day.
Now take this illustration a step further, and think about the mom who has or cares for someone with a chronic illness. For those of us who have a chronic illness or care for someone with a chronic illness, our life is all about borrowing spoons. To get more done today, I may need to borrow spoons from tomorrow. This means tomorrow, I won’t wake up with 12 spoons. Instead, I may have 10… or 5. And, because of my illness, I won’t always get a good night of sleep. Which means I don’t always replenish to a full 12 spoons for the next day. If I am having a good day, I can even get away with 1 spoon cost per activity. Some days, however, are not all that great. It may take more spoons to accomplish the same task because I’m so fatigued.
In other words, people who have a chronic illness never get to really have true 12 spoon days. We are always working in a deficit. Even if I get 12 spoons of energy today, I’m going to pay for it tomorrow. That is the reality. That is every day. That is the struggle of having a chronic illness or caring for someone who does. Caretakers are not only spending their spoons on their own daily needs/tasks, but also spending extra spoons taking care of someone else.
Do you know who else experiences this same spoon cost? Single parents. Because, there is no one there to lighten their load and divy up the chores. Mental illness costs spoons too, because it may take more mental effort to complete tasks that are easier for others. Not to mention that mental illness can also be a physical and emotional drain on the body.
Today, I’m definitely on a limited supply of spoons. It began with the fact that I was way behind in Spring Cleaning due to being sick earlier in the year. I was still trying to play catch up on my every day things, Spring Cleaning was not even on my horizon. Then once I did get into Spring Cleaning mode… that was pretty taxing. Add in the completion of one of our large garden projects, and my body is physical spent. My hands and joints hurt, my muscles hurt, I am physically exhausted and mentally spent. This is not normal “you did a lot pain” . I remember life when I wasn’t sick, what I could do and accomplish. It’s really quite frustrating to not be able to live like that anymore.
However, now, these physical pains from my hard labor are coupled with my every day pains and symptoms of my illness. So, it’s just worse. As simple as that. My very skin hurts to be touched. Imagine your worst sun burn ever, that pain is something I deal with fairly regularly. Whether I say it or not. If you wonder why I didn’t hug you today, it’s because it hurts today. Tomorrow, may not be bad. But today, it hurts.
There are days where I can barely get myself ready because my muscles hurt as if I’ve gone on some sort of gym challenge that has left my body feeling like “leg day”, “arm day”, and “trunk day” happened all at the same time. Yet, the day before I did nothing more than sweep the house and drive my kids around. Grocery day literally takes everything out of me. Sometimes I have to take a nap after taking a simple shower (Hashimotos people understand this completely).
Why do I write this today?
Because I don’t look sick. I don’t act sick. This is part of my every day. I don’t walk around with a sad look on my face, moaning and groaning over how hard each day is. I just push through the best I can, and some days will come along where I can’t push any further. So I must rest. I try my best to not let my illness get the best of me and affect my life more negatively than it does. Because of this, there are times where those around me forget that I’m sick. It isn’t their fault, it doesn’t upset me that it slips their mind. I just have to be willing to remind them every now and again.
You may say… “But Gena, you do all of these things…”. Let me just set that straight. I really do nothing in my own strength. What I accomplish in my family life and ministry work is 100% in the Lord’s strength. Just like Paul’s thorn, I’ve asked the Lord to take this from me. He hasn’t. I will say there are some things that are better than they once were, but He hasn’t completely healed me though. It’s not due to a lack of faith on my part, but rather because it keeps me humbled.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.