“You are not broken. You are breaking through.”
Anxiety is real.
But so are chipmunks.
That is literally what went through my head this morning when I sat outside on the rock near my home. I sat there on the rock, flipping through my phone, my mind going a mile a minute on all the things i needed to do today. I have this daily planner that I use on a daily basis; it helps me keep my rambling thoughts in order as I complete daily tasks and important projects such as blogging, for instance. Having a daily planner is a double edged sword for some with OCD and anxiety, but that’s another story for another day.
I had woken up later than usual this morning, probably because I knew I had a lot to do today. But I forced myself to get up because of the simple fact that I really, really needed to do my laundry, and there was no ifs, ands or buts about that. I really don’t think my neighbors would take kindly to the fact I would run around in the nude all day if I had no clothes to wear. In fact, I might feel guilty if they had a heart attack after seeing me.
Anyway, I had forced myself out of bed, my mind going over all the things i needed to do; on paper, it doesn’t look much, but in my head, it seemed like a whole lotta Do This, and Do Thats. After I had done a load of laundry, I decided to take a break and I planted my rear end on the rock outside to take a five. As I flipped through my phone looking for ideas or inspirations for my ongoing project, something moved out of the corner of my eyes, and I looked up. Staring directly straight at me was this beautiful chipmunk, all bright eyed and bushy tailed (small as it is), with two black stripes running down his back, and staring at me like I was some stranger from the planet Uranus. I’m sure the bright cyan shirt I was wearing didn’t help any. I could have probably blend into the scenery and make like a fern bush, if that was possible
While I sat there, enraptured by this gorgeous creature, he stood up on his hind legs and stared at me like I was yesterday’s dinner. I sat there, unmoved, and stared back at him, in awe of nature’s beauty. He calmly got down on all fours and proceeded to dig a small hole in a ground when he found what appeared to be an acorn covered with mud or dirt. As I watched him, he grabbed the acorn in his mouth and scampered off, leaving me alone once more in my thoughts.
I chuckled to myself, bemused at the fact that the chipmunk lived such a simple life. Wake up at the crack of dawn, holed up in a tree somewhere. Dig for acorns. Go find Dale. Play with Donald and the kids. Be chased by a fox. I could easily envision the chipmunk, standing on it’s haunches, chattering away angrily at me as he explains that life for a chipmunk is not a bed full of roses, thankyouverymuch! I tore my mind back to reality and looked at my phone once more before getting my lazy arse up off the rock.
“It’s time. Way past time. Get your laundry. Finish the blog. Go to mom’s.”, the clipped tones of the now familiar voice spoke to me from my right.
I looked to my right, and saw Anxiety sitting on the rock next to me. He too wore a cyan colored shirt, and he was fidgeting with the folds of his sleeve. The vague outlines of his body was made even more vague by the sunlight that streamed down, making him harder to see.
“Yes, I know. I was getting up. See? I’m getting up.”, I snapped back, obviously irritated at the interruption. I strode across the road, and the figure strode right by me, side by side.
“Don’t forget, you have to fold your clothes and put them away too.”, he remarked not so helpfully.
“No shit, Sherlock.”, I snapped back again.
“And finish your blog!”, he blithfully continued on.
“Uh huh.”, I replied shortly.
“Oh, and don’t forget, mom wants her prescription.”
I groaned and skidded to a stop. I pulled up my daily planner on my phone, mumbled something unintelligibly as I typed in ‘Mom. Pills.’, then resumed my walk towards the laundromat. Much to my chagrin, my companion kept up with me.
“And you need a haircut tomorrow. And you need a car wash. And you really should check your bank statement.”, he continued on. As if he’d ever stop.
I clenched my teeth, walked into the laundromat and quickly got my laundry before the time ran out. I exited out of the laundry room, and walked towards my abode, Anxiety in tow. My mind was going a mile a minute and so was his mouth.
“What’s for supper tonight?”, he started back up again, and a seemingly endless stream of questions started back up. I gritted my teeth and pressed on towards my humble abode, hoping against hope that I could slam the door in his face.
“Yanno, you really need spoons.”, he stated suddenly out of the blue. At that point I wasn’t sure if I had just now thought of that, or if he said it out loud.
“What?”, I stopped and looked at him, obviously confused.
“Spoons. You need spoons.”, he replied.
“For what?”, I looked at him, slack jawed.
“The spoon theory. You never heard of that?”, he answered back calmly.
“Uhh, yeah. I heard about it a few years back. Why?”
“You need to do that. Pace yourself. You start doing too much, then you don’t want to get out of bed. You start getting overwhelmed. You start feeling like you got too much to do, then nothing gets done. So take some spoons, do as many projects, tasks or chores that equals the number of spoons you are carrying, and stop. Take time out for yourself. Enjoy life. Watch netflix. Go for a walk. But moderate. Do what you can do, and leave the rest for later.”
I stared at him before I broke out into a fit of laughter. “This is you, helping me??”, I broke out into another fit of giggles and guffaws.
He huffed. “Have you forgotten already? I’m you. You are me. That little hamster running in a ball in your head, a hundred miles a minute, never stopping? That’s your anxiety revving up it’s motor. You know, I’m not always bad. I can be good too.”
I stopped laughing and looked at him in puzzlement. “Anxiety is good?”
“Sure.”, he shrugged. “It’s all in how you handle it. Bye now!”, and as quickly as he appeared, he vanished into thin air.
I shook my head and entered my apartment, alone once more. After folding my clothes up and putting them away, I returned to my chair at my computer desk and remarked to no one in particular.
“I need to look up this spoon theory.”
Written by Christine Miserandino back in 2010, the Spoon Theory is one of the most read, shared and loved stories to be found on the internet that deals with disability. Her website can be found at : https://butyoudontlooksick.com/ I heartily encourage anyone who reads this to go check that out. Due to space restrictions and a desire to share her story with the public, I will summarize how the spoon theory means and share the link to the full story which you can find here : https://butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/
The Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino
- A person has roughly the same amount of energy each day.
- Each unit of energy is represented by a spoon.
- Healthy people have more spoons (energy) than those with an illness that causes chronic fatigue.
- Some activities cost more spoons than others.
- A person with chronic fatigue needs to make decisions about which activities to spend their limited number of spoons (energy) on – the illness stops them from doing many things they want to do.
- The chronic illness means that if a person does too many things in the morning, they won’t have enough spoons for the afternoon or evening.
- The chronic illness may mean that a person can do something in the morning OR in the afternoon/evening, but NOT both. It may seem inconsistent because their energy levels and number of spoons may fluctuate from day to day.
- A healthy person does not need to plan how to spend their spoons because they do not have an illness that limits them.
A quick example would be like this.
12 Spoons per day
- Get up (1 spoon)
- Get dressed (1 spoon)
- Take medication (1 spoon)
- Drive to work (3 spoons)
- Work (4 spoons)
- That’s 10 spoons, which leaves them with 2 spoons. Those 2 spoons can be spent on anything from doing housework or going to the beach.
My take on this is that everyone is different. Only you know your own energy levels. Only you know how many spoons you need. I myself do not count getting up, getting dressed, taking my medication as a spoon; those are the things I can do and be fine with it. But I am not everyone. Some people have a harder time getting up, so therefore, getting up out of bed is worth a spoon for them.
I do not use spoons, not literally. There comes a point when I know when enough is enough, and I need to put aside a task and save it for another day. There also comes a point when I need to do nothing on a day and take the day off. Other people may quite literally need spoons, and that is okay too. What helps YOU get through your day is vitally important.
Whether it’s physical or mental, don’t let your illness control you. Control your illness. I work with mine by using a daily planner, and controlling what I can or cannot do in any given day. The nice part about it? The more I understood how much I could do every day, the more things I could do as I worked to understand and control my anxiety, OCD and depression. Five years ago, I could barely do 5 things without getting into a panic attack; today, I can do up to 10 if sometimes more and not have a panic attack.
It takes work. But it’s well worth it in the long run.