All I want for Christmas is more spoons

Trying to maintain status quo is hard when your abilities are limited.

“What do you have to do today?” my therapist asked me after explaining how I overwhelmed myself to the point of completely shutting down. My instinct was to answer “everything” because that’s what needed to get done. The thing is, I used to be Super Woman. There was no spare minute of my day, no falling behind, no worrying about whether or not I was going to get something done. I just got it done. My future was clear, my to-do list full.

“Full” never meant I stopped adding more things to do. “Full” was a challenge to see how fast I could get work done, how well I could do it, how much I could actually get done in a day or week.

That was before.

This is now.

In my now, I like to blame my inability to take on ridiculous work loads on a traumatic brain injury. It’s an outside force, not actually me, holding me back. I ignore the fact that I burned myself out sprinting towards constantly changing finish lines. Instead, it’s all a too-slow recovery time, resentment at a broken part of me, and fear another fall will make things worse. But another fall is exactly what I need.

I’m a long-lister. As much as I love my Passion Planner, I can’t help but list out my monthly to-do list every week. Small, cramped handwriting pressures me into taking on more. An emptying list means I’m failing at bringing in more work, in planning more things, in figuring out what my next project will be. Over the last few months, I haven’t been using my planner. I haven’t even been able to look beyond what I know I need to get done for my day job.

My day job is what I reserve my spoons for.

If you’re unfamiliar with spoon theory, it was started by Christine Miserandino in her attempt to explain what it felt like to live with Lupis. Normally associated with individuals struggling with chronic pain, it helped explain the way I, and many other struggling with mental illness, feel. While yes, I do get migraines at the end of a work week (or when the weather changes, or when I fly, or, or, or…), it’s not just the migraines that have me wishing I had more spoons. It’s what leads to the overworked, stress-induced migraines that leaves me without energy or ambition.

The spiral that comes with not having enough energy to do everything leads to disappointment. Not just for myself, but for my family and friends when I can’t come through with attending events, helping out, or even just plain being social. I disappoint them and I don’t want to anymore. Disappoint them, myself, anyone else I’ve told I’d do something for only to realize that I can’t. Or can’t in a time frame that works best for them.

So how do I fix this?

I’ve started to teach myself to prioritize better. Instead of looking at a monthly, or yearly, list of projects I need to get done, I need to focus on the daily. Planning out which days I’m working and what I’m working on during those days. If I have a riding lesson, or something else I know will take a lot of energy out of me, I need to make sure I’m not scheduling big projects to handle the same day.

This is something I need to take one day at a time too. The root of my anxiety is worrying about the millions of possible futures that can happen depending on what choices I make. So, instead of worrying about how each road will split, I need to focus on the now. Today. What I can actually accomplish versus what I want to accomplish. And I need to remember that running out of spoons is normal for me, that it happens, and that I shouldn’t try and construct new spoons out of thin air. Otherwise, burnout is imminent. My utensil drawer will be empty.

I can’t afford for that to happen again.