Dawn. I haven’t seen it, my eyes are still closed in a futile last ditched attempt to cling to a sleep that threatens to slip from my grasp, but I can feel it. The sun’s warmth has found an arm and three stray toes that sought refuge from the confines of Egyptian cotton. It is already too hot. Grumble. I am awake. I don’t move a muscle but already everything aches. When I roll over, flinging sheets from humid skin, something new descends and I find I have a different, more dreadful blanket draped around me. Pain.
For those of us in the sisterhood of Endo, the pain is ever-present. It dulls, recedes like the tide, but like the tide, it comes again, breaking over the body’s shore and like the ocean itself, the pain is ever-present. We push through. Every day. Well most days. But not today. Today I am all out of spoons.
Anyone who knows me knows I love cereal. There is something magical about the textural contrast of coarse and crunchy with smooth and silky that plays in the mouth in way that makes my spirit sing. That said, no I did not suddenly digress to speak to you of cereal, the spoon I refer to is not a stylish kitchen utensil. It is not a physical thing. My spoon is part of a theory. (Not a theory involving football-loving politicians, police officers, aliens or other conspiracies though)…(shade cast).
Unless you are a spoonie, I may have just lost you with the reference to The Spoon Theory. Coined by Christine Miserandino, the spoon theory is perhaps the best explanation of living with any form of chronic illness, broken down in a way just about anyone can understand. On her website, butyoudontlooksick.com, Christine explains the concept came from trying to articulate to her best friend how it feels to have Lupus (as Christine does) but the explanation captures it so well, the theory and the associated term to be a ‘spoonie’ have become synonymous with Endometriosis suffers as well.
Christine explains the theory best and I encourage you to take a few minutes and read the Spoon Theory story in its entirety on her website. Since you are already here however (thanks for coming), using a combination of hers and my own words, I’m going to take a stab at it. (Yes, the irony of taking a stab at how to explain pain is intentional.)
Here, hold this
For the purpose of this illustration I need you to imagine I have given you a handful of spoons. Real spoons. Let’s say 20 of them. Sterling silver. From Tiffany’s. (We may as well have fun with it.) I have just handed you all your energy for the day, this is your energy supply for the next how many hours you are awake.
Each day you use up your spoon supply as you go about your business. Sometimes you can get through a day with spoons left over, other days you’ll need an energy boost or extra spoons, to make it through. Sleep will instantly recharge your spoon supply. The more uninterrupted, deep sleep you get, the more spoons you start with the next day.
When you are healthy you expect to have a never-ending supply of spoons. But when you have to now plan your day, you need to know exactly how many spoons you are starting with. It doesn’t guarantee that you might not lose some along the way, but at least it helps to know where you are starting.
“Most people start the day with unlimited amount of possibilities, and energy to do whatever they desire, especially young people. For the most part, they do not need to worry about the effects of their actions. So for my explanation, I used spoons to convey this point. I wanted something for (you)to actually hold, for me to then take away, since most people who get sick feel a “loss” of a life they once knew.”
So let’s see if you make it to dinner time with 20 those spoons of yours.
Now do this
Make a mental list of all the things you do in your average day, including the most simple tasks, such as ‘get out of bed’. Imagine that each task will cause you to sacrifice a spoon. When (you) jumped right into getting ready for work as (your) first task of the morning, I took away a spoon. No! You don’t just get up. You have to crack open your eyes, and then realize you are late. You didn’t sleep well the night before. You have to crawl out of bed, and then you have to make yourself something to eat before you can do anything else, because if you don’t, you can’t take your medicine, and if you don’t take your medicine you might as well give up all your spoons for today and tomorrow too.
So just to get out of bed you are down a spoon. Possibly two if your ‘cycle’ is on today. Brushing your teeth will cost a spoon. For the majority of us with Endo, constipation is a daily ordeal, this means taking a…having a…ah, (hmmm)… cleansing your bowels (wink) will also cost you a spoon. You get the idea. Take nothing for granted.
Getting dressed was worth another spoon. I broke down every task to show how every little detail needs to be thought about. You cannot simply just throw clothes on when you are sick. I explained that I have to see what clothes I can physically put on…the wretched curse of Endo Belly. If I have bruises that day, I need to wear long sleeves, and if I have a fever I need a sweater to stay warm and so on. If my hair is falling out I need to spend more time to look presentable, and then you need to factor in another 5 minutes for feeling badly that it took you 2 hours to do all this.
And consider that
We went through the rest of the day, skipping lunch would cost a spoon, as well as standing on (the bus), or even typing at (your) computer too long. (You are) forced to make choices and think about things differently. I didn’t want my friend to be upset, but at the same time I was happy to think finally maybe someone understood me a little bit. I explained that some days were worse than others; some days I have more spoons than most. But I can never make it go away and I can’t forget about it, I always have to think about it.
Maybe (you) finally understood. Maybe (you) realized that (you) never could truly and honestly understand. But at least now (you) might not complain so much when I can’t go out for dinner some nights, or when I never seem to make it to out and (you) always (have) to drive. I had the one spoon in my hand and I said “Don’t worry. I see this as a blessing. I have been forced to think about everything I do. Do you know how many spoons people waste everyday? I don’t have room for wasted time, or wasted “spoons” and I chose to spend this time with you.”
Grey italics indicate where I have used Christine’s words to ensure she is credited for her brilliant work. Follow the links to read more about The Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino.
While you head over to read that, I’m going right back to sleep. It hurts. I am tired. And I am all out of spoons. Hopefully there will be a truckload of spoons waiting for me when I wake. Or in the very least a gift box from Tiffany’s.