The Days When My Spoons Are All Knives
If you’re not familiar with The Spoon Theory, take a moment to read it over. For those with chronic illnesses (and many of those without), it has become one of the best metaphors for what it is like to live knowing you only have so much energy to spend. It allows us a shortcut when expressing our current condition that both expresses the broad range of complications that come with a shortage and allows us to save the energy required to explain that shortage over and over. It will also make this whole mess of a blog post a lot easier to understand.
When you combine depression and chronic illness, suddenly all of those spoons start to seem like forks. Still a pretty useful utensil, but with sharper points, harder edges, and only somewhat useful when your whole day is one big soupy mess of self doubt and negativity. Frequently I’ll find myself with a larger than usual bundle of utensils, all of them completely useless for the important things. I may spend the day struggling to put aside my creative urge in favor of work productivity, only to get home and find that not only has all of my productive energy drained away, but all of the creative energy as well.
I’m learning to recognize the fork days, though. Not just recognize them, but ask for help with them. And being okay with the asking. Right now one of the major things I’m working through is the idea that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Admitting that I can’t do something because I can’t figure out how to do it is hard enough. Admitting that I can’t do something because my brain refuses to be sane about it? That’s harder. Especially when it’s something I very much want to do, or something I have promised someone I can do. Even a small project can turn into a pile of little projects, each slippery and difficult to round up, like peas on a plate. I can take a stab at some of them, but others keep rolling away and hiding under everything else, refusing to be gathered up.
And then, there are the knife days.
On the days when all my spoons seem like knives, everything has the potential to be a sharp edge. They’re sneaky days, too. I can’t always tell I’m having a knife day until I grab onto something that suddenly cuts me. Even the smallest of obstacles becomes something to handle gingerly or risk doing more damage and anything bigger stirs an angry, frustrated violence that hates having to deal with it at all. Knife days can be particularly hard to cope with. I’m short tempered, easily annoyed, and generally have a low tolerance for everything. Everything that comes out of my mouth seems particularly horrible and it takes extra effort not to view everything negatively. On days like this, I run out of energy faster and every task seems like a huge, insurmountable undertaking. These days used to be easier to deal with when Moose was away. I could hide out, spend time with friends, or do something mindless for as long as I liked without worrying about neglecting him. With Acorn to care for, that sort of thing isn’t an option any more.
I’ve been having a lot of knife days lately. Maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s the time of year, maybe I’m just not getting out in the sunshine enough. Or maybe the medication simply can’t keep up with the part of my brain that is broken. Regardless, the inside of my head has been a rough place to be.
The Bloggess likes to remind her readers that Depression Lies. These past few days, Depression has told me that I am a horrible wife, a horrible mother, and a terrible friend. It tells me that there is too much shit to do around the house, and it’s all just going to get dirty again so I shouldn’t even bother. It tells me that I am going to fuck up my child for not playing with her enough, or playing with her wrong, or not doing all of the Right And Proper Things For Emotional And Mental Development. It tells me that I am stupid and selfish for being sad that friends might be moving away and that they probably don’t actually like me anyways which is why they never seem to want to hang out anymore. But the worst one is when it tells me that I’m sad and want cry. But it won’t tell me why.
A reason can be analyzed, picked apart, and unraveled as a lie. It can be held up to the light and declared false by the part of the brain that still has some logical control. Sure, it might not actually do any good for the part of the brain that is busily drowning itself in toxic chemicals, but it’s something to keep me afloat. Nothing so fancy as a liferaft, mind you. Just a jumble of debris I’ve managed to cobble together to keep me from drowning completely.
However, knowing that it’s a lie doesn’t always help. In the perverse quagmire of my fucked up mental state, the knowledge that my brain isn’t functioning properly is just one more reason to hate myself. I am a broken thing, not worthy of the effort it takes to repair me. All of these things are things I know to be lies. And it doesn’t matter. It still hurts.
There’s not really any cure for days like these. I eat chocolate because it makes me feel better, I force myself to spend a little time cleaning the house because it helps me feel accomplished, and I curl up with my husband and my child and try to pull their warmth and love into the cold sadness. Mostly I just need time. Time for the weather to change, time for the sun to come out again, time for the medication to adjust to whatever is going on inside my brain. Time for all of my spoons to stop being knives.