Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Post Workplace Abuse: The Spoon Therory by Christine Miserandino

I became acquainted with the Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino quite by accident through a Facebook status by a very good friend and encourager whose life parallels mine in some ways.  She too has been affected by trauma, PTSD, chronic fatigue, etc.

Her status was simple.  It read something like "after a day like yesterday, I'm all out of spoons."

All out of spoons?  What did she mean by that?  Most of her friends took her post very literally.  As in literal spoons.  I fell among that category as well.

But why was she out of (literal) spoons?  It had snowed the day before.  Perhaps her young children had used her spoons to build snowmen or to play in the snow?

Among those of us who took the status literally was one friend who offered to bring her some spoons.

At that point, realizing that most, if not all, of us who read her status were way off base, she posted the URL for the spoon theory by Christian Miserandino who has the autoimmune disease Lupus.

I don't know much about Lupus.  I have learned through the years, though, that it not only makes the victim's life incredibly challenging, but that it is also a killer as it attacks various organs in the body.  It is one badass autoimmune - but then aren't they all?

I read it with interest.  I would challenge those who are reading this post to click onto the link, Spoon Theory, in the first sentence of this blog and read it for yourself.

In this post, she is asked by a close friend what it's like, really like, living with Lupus.  She found it hard to describe until she glanced around the restaurant where they were sitting and saw the spoons on the tables laid out for the next patrons.  She describes running around the restaurant grabbing up all the spoons she could find, eleven in all I think, and showing them to her friend describing them as the total amounts of energy she has for that day.  Once they're gone, they're gone.  She can borrow from the next day's spoons, i.e. energy, but that becomes a vicious circle.  Once used, spoons i.e. units of energy are not replaceable.  They're gone forever.

Holding up these spoons, this finite amount of energy available for that day, she describes the scenario of waking up in the morning and asks her friend to think of the immediate tasks before her.  The friends answers broadly, as most of us would, that she would have to get dressed, have breakfast, and go to work.

Ahhhhh.  We all think in terms like that, don't we.  The broad sweep of the brush across the painting.  But Christine had to slow her friend down to look at all the details, the minutiae, involved in just those three tasks.  Getting up and getting dressed is not as simple as it seems.  There are multiple steps involved in just getting that far.  Taking a shower involves multiple steps, multiple spoons, as does eating breakfast and just the act of opening the door and leaving the house to go to work.

As I read the Spoon Theory that day, I realized how much the effects of her autoimmune disease are like mine as I walk, stumble, and bumble through trauma and the aftereffects of workplace bullying.

I began to realize that I am a spoonie too.  Not in the same way that Christine is.  Not with the same cause.  But her theroy fits me as well.

Walking through the aftermath of workplace bullying has totally sapped my stores of energy leaving them seriously depleted.  I felt like I was running on fumes.  After three years, my storehouse of energy is still depleted.  Better, but still not completely there.

In 2012 when I was going through one of the hardest, most debilitating parts of my journey post workplace abuse, a close friend was diagnosed with cancer.  She was probably the one person who would have been likely to walk with me closely in my circumstances, but she couldn't.  She was going through treatment for cancer including chemo therapy and radiation.

My spoons at that point were basically nil, but I wanted to walk with my friend as much as I was able - which didn't seem to me as very much indeed.  However, I went back to what I had learned reading H. Norman Wright's book:  Helping the Hurting and how people have to look at what they can do to help others without burning out.

Without burning out.

I was already totally burnt out.  So what could I do to walk with my friend without causing further burn out?  Two things came to mind.  I could knit and crochet her chemo hats, and I could come over when and sit with her on those bad days when she needed someone.

She accepted both offers.  So, I became her every third Wednesday person (her chemo being on a three week cycle).  I would come over to her house for a few hours in the morning and just sit with her.  If she wanted to talk, we talked.  If she needed a rest, I had a book with me and I'd read while she rested.  If she wanted a cup of tea, I'd make it - which was hysterical as I wasn't able to do a lot for myself at that time, but I Was. Not. Going. To. Let. On. To. My. Friend. How. Debilitated. I. Was.  This was all about her.  It was not about me.

As I sat with her those mornings, she began to talk about how she felt not about the cancer so much, but the affects the treatments were having on her body.  Not being able to do much of anything.  Needing to sit most of the down, lie down, take naps.  As she opened up about her feelings, it was as though I was tailor made to walk with her down this path of what I call enforced being. A lot of the feelings, the changes to her energy status, were things I had already encountered in my walk through trauma.  I had passed from what I call "doing" to "being" the year before.  I had made my peace, as much as possible, with my altered energy and life circumstances.

Later, much later, when my was a year past the treatments and in a different place yet still a challenging place, she talked again about how hard it was for her to be careful and not overdo now that her energy was slowly returning.   She wanted to jump up and DO and be "supermom" once again.  She would do that ... and then she would hit the proverbial brick wall and be "spoonless".  By that time, I'd read the spoon theory, so I shared it with her which she took to like a duck to water.

This simple analogy enables people like me, like my friend, etc. to realistically look at our altered circumstances and find ways to live full lives even in the midst of challenging circumstances.

There are a lot of people out there in the real world who suffer from chronic diseases, trauma, cancer, etc. which cause spoon shortages, i.e. energy loss, in their lives.

We call ourselves "spoonies".


Thank you Christine Miserandio for not only creating this incredible, insightful theory but also sharing it with us.  Your theory is helping so many people as they journey through various debilitating autoimmune diseases as well as cancer, trauma, etc.

You are my hero!

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