Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Monday, February 29, 2016

Running Out of Spoons

I have been trying to figure out lately why I am still so anxious about going to work. Right now, although I'm still a substitute, and I'm not even subbing as an actual teacher, I have a pretty good gig. I am working as a 1:1 assistant for a kindergarten boy with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. It is challenging, but it really allows me to use my mind, my creativity, and all my knowledge. It is a job where my personality (gentle, easy-going, patient) is actually an asset, unlike at some past jobs where I was considered to be "too sweet and kind."
AND I like the people I'm working with. I really do. The other assistants in the classroom are really great, they are laid back and have good senses of humor and they really love the children they work with. I have fun with them.
So why am I so anxious about going to work? Why do I still feel sick about it every night, especially on Sunday nights, when I think about work? I am happy to be there, most of the time. Yet, I never want to go there. WHY?
I finally realized that a lot of my anxiety is about being tired. I am so tired all the time. By the time I get home from work at the end of the day, I often have to take a nap! And when the weekend comes, I pretty much spend the majority of it sleeping, because I just feel so drained. I have very little energy left over to do anything extra, like work on this blog.
Part of it could be that "Tizzy" (the little kid I work with... not his real name, obviously, but sort of a play on Taz, who he reminds me of... both the cartoon character and the boy I used to work with whose name in this blog was Taz) has so much energy, and I spend a lot of my day either walking around the school (we track our steps on my Fitbit and almost always get at least 10,000) or restraining him to keep him from hurting himself or me. But I've done that sort of thing in many of my jobs and it is not usually so exhausting.
Part of it could be that, according to my Fitbit, I am a total insomniac. Sure, I sleep, but most of my sleep is fitful and "restless." If I spend nine hours thinking I am asleep, my Fitbit shows that I only spent two or three of those hours actually sleeping, and the rest of the time tossing and turning and waking halfway up.
But part of it could also be the Spoon Theory.
I heard about the Spoon Theory years ago, but I was reminded of it after I picked up Jenny Lawson's newest book Furiously Happy at the library. Reading about it now was such an odd coincidence, since it immediately seemed to explain what I've been going through.
The Spoon Theory was made up by a young woman who thought of it on the spur of the moment when asked to explain what it felt like to have lupus. (No, I don't have lupus, but the theory has since been applied to many other chronic illnesses and disabilities, including depression, anxiety, and autism.)
The theory goes like this. The spoons basically represent units of energy. Most healthy people wake up each day with an unlimited number of spoons. If they run out of spoons during the day, they can take a short rest, and their spoon supply is replenished. But for people dealing with chronic illnesses and disabilities, you wake up with just a handful of spoons. Some days you have more spoons than others.
You have to look at this limited number of spoons you have, and figure out how to use them. Each simple task you do takes at least one spoon. Take a shower in the morning? That is a spoon. Make your lunch to bring to work? That is a spoon. Drive to work? Spoon. Spend an hour trying to keep an anguished six-year-old from knocking over bookshelves and throwing chairs? That is, like, ten spoons at least!
Some days, by the end of the day you may have a spoon or two left over. You can decide how you want to use them. Make dinner for your family? Take your dog for a walk? Read a book? Get some work done for the next day? You don't have enough spoons to all of these things, so choose wisely.
Other days, you run completely out of spoons before your work day ends. You come home depleted, feeling hopeless.
When you wake up, you may find yourself with a fresh supply of spoons... but you never know how many you have. You may wake up with forty spoons. You may wake up with ten. Some days you wake up and you only have about three spoons... yet you still have to somehow manage to get through your day, even though you will soon be completely spoonless.
So that is that. I wish I had more spoons. My brain is usually going a million miles an hour (maybe that is using up spoons as well) and I have so many ideas and so many things I want to do. I am a person who loves life, and I long to try new things, meet new people, or at least stay up past eight o'clock at night and watch a movie. But I never have enough spoons.


  1. Yes, YES, YEEEESSS! THis SO speaks to me.
    Brilliant - thanks!

  2. I came up with my own spoon theory. It involves math.

  3. I looked at that piece, too, and it really resonated with me; for about a year and a half now, I've been dealing with the onset of a progressive autoimmune disease (which would be related to lupus), and some days I wake up feeling a little short on spoons. Most of the stuff going on with me has just been inconvenient thus far, but it can be a difficult ride.


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