The Theory of Spoons

SPOONS

 

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. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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.

#Write31Days – Post 14 – The Daily Grind

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Ten years ago or more, I couldn’t understand “invisible illnesses”.  They were those things that I heard people complain about, but thought to myself: But they look totally fine.  Invisible illnesses are the ones that steal things from you, but the rest of the world can’t see.  And, there are a lot of them.

Most invisible illnesses are not even fully understood, we know very little about them.  They hide in plain site, and often go undiagnosed as we attribute our symptoms as aging.  Or, they are misdiagnosed by doctors … and in many cases they are just simply dismissed.   People with “invisible illnesses” are often considered hypochondriacs, making things up or making excuses for things they just don’t want to do.  Some are given psychiatric care and medications for anxiety and depression.

This lack of treatment or mistreatment leaves the person no better than they started, and sometimes worse because the medications add to the problem instead of solving it.  I didn’t understand invisible illness myself, and definitely could have been put into the camp of people who made cheeky comments about those who claimed to have one.

Then, I was diagnosed.

When you look at me, what you see is a person who looks totally normal.  I’m not a svelt super model, long since have been the days where I could shop in the juniors section.  What you don’t see is the war that goes on in my body every single day.

At first I dismissed my symptoms, thinking the toll of three children and getting older was to blame for how I felt.  I thought it would be as simple as changing my diet, hitting the gym, taking a multi-vitamin and I would start feeling better.  I just got worse.

My memory was shot.  I used to be the type of person who could exist without a calendar, recalling details with ease.  Now I was having to write down everything. As a trained actress, I learned to memorize & recall information quickly.  Now I live with a phone full of alarms  to even remember to do the things that are apart of my DAILY life.  If I don’t write it down, count on the fact I won’t remember it.

My brain is in a constant state of fog.  Some days it is as if someone just pulled the plug on my brain and all the information drained out.  I can be listening to a speaker or reading a book, and find it absolutely impossible to comprehend what they are saying.  This is why I am a fastidious note taker.  I need to be able to read through it later to comprehend it, when I am in a clearer state of mind.

My energy is a small percentage of what it once was, some days it is a battle to just exist.  I can see the things that need to get done, but I just can’t.  There are days where my skin literally hurts to be touched.  There are days where my body is swollen to the point it aches.  Add in night sweats, body tremors, fatigue and exhaustion and it doesn’t get much better.

For my particular disease there are over 300 possible symptoms.  I have a prescription medication that I will take for the rest of my life.  I have 14 supplements that I take due to deficiencies in my body.  I see several doctors to address the various ways my disease impacts my body.  I’m giving vials of blood every three months to see what is working, what isn’t, and what has changed.  Dosages increased.  Supplements added or removed.  Try this.  Try that.  Knowing that no matter what I will never get back to where I was, I will never be cured, or 100% better.  Instead I’m just trying to make the best of what I have been dealt.

Some days, it takes me really … really low.   But, then there will be spikes when I have energy, and my outlook on life is a lot more positive.  I try not to burden others with my illness, and I do believe in part it is because I know they simply will never totally get it.

It’s a daily battle.  It’s my daily grind.

Will today be a good day?  A bad day?  Will I give into those feelings and symptoms, or will I push through them?  Is today a day I just need to stop and relax?

I have prayed for answers, and for healing.  I believe with all sincerity in miraculous healing.  Yet, I have never been angry with God that I am still sick.  It doesn’t diminish my faith or increase my doubts about God.  In fact, it strengthens them.  My faith is stronger, because I am not relying on myself.

My Pastor’s wife once called me “high capacity”.  If you talk to others who know me, they will agree with that.  I am a person who gets things done, quickly, and efficiently.  I can multitask with the best of them.  As much as I am a creative person, I also have a gift for administration.  I’m usually the person you want on your team, I thrive on deadlines, and I always give my best.

If this is how they see me now, since being diagnosed, can you only imagine what I was like before I was sick?   It would make your head spin.

The difference between now, and then, is that today I do not work in my own strength.  Everything that I do… is in HIS strength.  He gives me the energy, drive, and motivation.  He gives me the physical strength and mental capacity.  When I look at what is accomplished I can ONLY give HIM the glory.  My flesh is weak, tired, and broken.  His power is perfected in my weakness.   My joy comes from the Lord.  My peace is from Christ.  My strength is from the Holy Spirit.

My thorn keeps me meek, humbles me… so that I do not exalt myself and what I am capable of.  Instead I keep my eyes on the Lord, where my strength comes from.  I know that He goes before me, and comes up behind.  I know that He shields me and protects me.  He will give me charge to battle, or call me to lie and rest.  He is the one who provides the words, lays out my path, and guides my journey.  I simply say:  Here I am Lord, use me.

2 Corinthians 12:7-9

7Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me– to keep me from exalting myself! 8Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.…

WHEN FACEBOOK WINS

I can’t even qualify today as “one of those days”.  It really stunk.  From the moment I woke up, it wasn’t going to be my best day ever.  Regardless of what type of mindset I was trying to get myself in.  And it grew more difficult as the day progressed.  In fact, I sit here at the end of my day with eyes red and sore from crying.  Not recent crying, but that all day long crying.

This isn’t a bout of depression, or the deliverance of some horrific news.  It’s a response due cumulative events, that overwhelmed my heart, mind and soul.

It felt like the only time I wasn’t crying this evening, was in that moment I fell asleep because crying had exhausted me.

Then, as I sat down to eat some marshmallows, with some sort of notion that would make me feel better, I decided to peruse Facebook.  And, Facebook … for all the complaints that can be said about it… today, it won.

Because, all things can be used for the glory of God.

It started when I saw this:

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And then this:

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And it just kept coming:

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no1

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The timing couldn’t have been more divinely appointed.  They were the reminders I needed, the things I needed to hear.

Reminding me:

  • I am not alone, in having bad days.  Someone wrote these, because they too had a bad day.
  • I am not alone, on my bad days.  Friends, family and GOD are always with me.  Just a phone call or a silent prayer away.
  • God’s promises are a part of my good days and bad days, I can rely on Him, He is my peace.
  • I may not be able to control things, but God can.  I just have to trust.
  • I may not understand the why, but I can understand the WHO that will help me through it.

God sees our tears.  He hears our cries.  His heart breaks, when our heart breaks.  He knows what is happening.  He will go before us, and follow behind.  For my God provides for the sparrows of the fields, and I am far more valuable than they.