As I am writing this post, it is a Sunday evening, I’m laying down on the sofa in a onesie with a glass of wine. My boyfriend is going to cook dinner tonight because I simply don’t have enough spoons left for today (and I’m not talking about cutlery)…
Grief is debilitating.
On my worst days I describe myself as feeling like a dead weight. I’m simply not capable of getting out of bed, getting dressed and feeding myself. Life is too heavy for me to handle. I feel as though I am slowly sinking into thick black tar. My clothes feel like lead, pulling me under even more, weighing heavy against my lungs making it difficult to breathe. I don’t have the strength to put out my arm and reach for help. I feel completely overcome with grief for my mum. I feel debilitated.
I can’t always predict when these days will happen though and for the last 6 months, I have been so angry and feel that they are cropping up all the time. My mum was ill, not me, so why don’t I have any energy now? But what I am learning slowly is that there are ways to prepare for them, and even manage them when they do occur. One thing in particular that I would like to discuss is the Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino and how it is helping me deal with grief and communicating the way I feel on my worst days. I first read about the Spoon Theory here, if you’d like to read that post too!
According to the Spoon theory, the number of spoons an individual may have, corresponds to their energy level and what they feel capable of doing during that day. As your energy levels change from day to day, so does the number of spoons!
Sometimes, I wake up with a good amount of energy and on days like these I might consider myself to have 10 – 15 spoons. I am able to make breakfast, exercise, engage myself fully at work, make dinner or write a blog post, in the evening I feel accomplished and fulfilled.
On my lowest days I consider myself to have perhaps a total of 5 spoons. Both my mind and energy are consumed by the grief and longing for my mum. 5 spoons is equivalent to 5 energy points, and each task – however simple it may seem – requires a spoon as a sort of payment for the task. I get out of bed and get dressed – 4 spoons remain. I get breakfast and feed the cats, 3 spoons remain. I need to do the shopping, which means driving into town and spend an hour in the busy supermarket, I feel overwhelmed. This task has taken all of my remaining spoons and I am not able to do anything else for the rest of the day – 0 spoons remain.
Before I read about this theory, my boyfriend and I had planned a nice weekend away visiting both Bath and Bristol. The Saturday was spent in Bath and though a little tearful, I had the energy to take in and enjoy the beautiful architecture of the city. Due to my high level of emotion, I would say I woke up with about 8 spoons that day – pretty good. On Sunday morning however, I woke up with considerably less energy and feeling considerably more emotional than the day before. I felt pretty weak and incapable of packing my suitcase and going ahead with the day’s plans exploring Bristol. But I was unable to understand why I felt the way I did, and unable to communicate the reason behind my low mood and lacking energy. It was at this point that, had I known about this theory, I would have reflected on myself to see how I was feeling that morning and what I was realistically going to be capable of doing that day. But, not wanting to disappoint, I kept pushing myself. By the time we arrived at Clifton Bridge a couple of hours later, I was completely exhausted and couldn’t stop crying. A dead weight. Completely weighed down in that thick black tar – debilitated. I had completely run out of spoons.
Since I have read about this idea of the Spoons Theory, I have been a lot more mindful about the grief that I am feeling and what its physical and emotional effects have been on my body. As I wake up in the morning, I do a quick body scan to evaluate exactly how I feel. Do I have low energy? (5 spoons) medium energy (10 spoons) or am I feeling good about the day ahead and feeling capable with 15 – 20 spoons? After this quick evaluation, I am better able to plan my day ahead. If I only have 5 spoons that day, I change my plans, and leave the tidying up for tomorrow, or do an online shop rather than go to the supermarket so I have time to regain my energy.
This has also improved communication between my boyfriend and I. Before he would ask me “How are you feeling today?” and as irrational as it sounds, I found myself getting angry quite often because in my head i’d think “Can’t you see how upset I am!?”. The Spoon Theory opens a simple and effective dialogue to make sure we both understand why a trip to Bristol would may be far too demanding and that all I really need is to lay on the sofa and have a good cry!
We wrote a post called Saying Yes to Yourself by Saying No to others, which I think reinforces this idea of only doing what you’re a capable and comfortable with for that day. Be gentle with yourself.