March 14, 2018

A Guide to the Unseen Illnesses

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Have you ever heard the term, “Not my monkeys. Not my circus.”? Well, maybe this is my circus (a different kind of circus) — or at least a “carnival” of sorts… That’s what unseen illnesses are like. This is your guide…

Let me tell you about it.

A Guide to the Unseen Illnesses

I shared recently on Facebook that I relaunched my blog — this blog — & that I was trying to find my voice again & be more consistent with my writing. I desire to post at least weekly, but prefer to get going two or three times per week.

Anyway, a friend of mine commented that she, too, had a blog & that she hadn’t written in quite some time, but was looking forward to getting back to it soon. Naturally, I asked for her blog’s link — & I thoroughly enjoyed reading a bit there.

While perusing her site Spoon Serendipity, I came across a post where Sarah mentions the reason for the name of her blog, which goes back to The Spoon Theory. I had never heard of it before, but let me tell you! I had one of those “a ha!” moments! It is the perfect way to explain unseen illnesses — the ailments people cannot see: depression, fibromyalgia, anything autoimmune or mental health related, really.

Not My Monkeys. Not my circus.

In the story, the person who coined the phrase used spoons as a form of “currency.” She was sitting in a diner with a friend who had just genuinely asked her what it felt like to live with her unseen illness. Slightly taken aback, presumably since SO many people ACT sympathetic but don’t really KNOW what it is like (& visibly GLAZE OVER when you try to explain), she looked around. Spoons were what was around, so she scooped up a handful of them & handed them to her friend. For the purpose of my explanation, I am going to replace the spoons with tickets. But, the premise is still the same.

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So, maybe NOT a circus… But, perhaps a carnival of sorts?

So, imagine you’ve just been handed this stack of tickets. They are those perforated things you get when you go to a carnival or whatever. You look around & most other people have a wristband that lets them go & do whatever they want. They don’t have to worry about how many tickets they have; you do. So you count. Okay. A dozen tickets. Everyone gets unlimited tickets & you have a dozen? Bum rap. Totally unfair!

So you can wallow in your pity party about how unfair life is or you can ignore it & go about your day… Here’s the thing, though. No matter which you choose, you’re going to be giving up some tickets. Yep. These tickets aren’t for a carnival; they are for your normal daily activities.

Tickets equal energy.

Bear with me.

So, do you wallow for a bit in your pity party at the cost of one ticket, or do you give yourself a pep talk & go get in the shower at the cost of two tickets? Yes. Two tickets for the pep talk & the effort it takes to get into the shower.

Have you caught on now about the idea behind the tickets? It’s like energy spent, for the lack of a better way to put it.

How can you possibly ration only a dozen tickets for a WHOLE day?

So, for the sake of argument, let’s say you decide you want to try to be “normal” today — whatever THAT really means. So, you fork over those two tickets & find yourself, finally, in the shower. You spend another two tickets getting clean & getting dressed… Then maybe yet another putting on a touch of makeup & going the “extra mile” for your appearance.

Just like that, your 12 tickets have gone down to only 7 — & you still have the rest of your day to get through!

I know. I know.

Was it worth even getting dressed & “presentable” today?

I don’t know. You tell me.

So, now, you either have to go to your job & get through your day OR you are at home, caring for you, your children, your house. Whatever it is that is in your realm of responsibility.

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Let’s say you’re ME. I no longer work outside my home, but I have a toddler I care for daily, a house I am supposed to try to keep up with, online schoolwork to get through, two businesses to run, & this blog which I enjoy immensely, among other things.

How should I spend my remaining seven tickets?

Well, I am already dressed & presentable, so I am going to spend one ticket recording a video for my business or my team.

Six tickets left.

…& I am going to run a few errands. The bank & the grocery store. That is two tickets, easily… But if the toddler throws a fit in the store, it’s at least one more ticket to handle it with at least a little grace & get her home safely.

Only three tickets left.

Now what? My house is a mess, we need to eat dinner, the toddler needs a nap — but lunch first — & I don’t want to be a total bitch to the handsome husband when he gets home… So how should I spend my last three tickets?

Well, obviously, we all need to eat, so I am going to drive through somewhere on my way home from grocery shopping to pick up lunch. That is minimal effort, right? But, of course, I am going to beat up on myself a bit for spending unnecessary money driving through when I could have used some of those groceries to MAKE lunch… Never mind that the drive-thru costs me ONE ticket — even with the emotional drain of berating myself for the decision — & the homemade lunch would have easily cost two of my last three tickets.

Two tickets left.

We are home. It’s time to get the toddler in & let her finish eating lunch & put her down for a nap & get all of those groceries put away. Provided, that all goes smoothly, it will only cost me one ticket & I will have my last ticket to put towards making dinner tonight.

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But, what if it doesn’t go smoothly?

If the toddler fights naptime or I accidentally drop & break something as I am putting groceries away or the fridge needs to be cleaned out to make room for everything — or any other multitude of things that could happen to put a wrench in how I planned my day, then my last ticket will have to go towards that.

Then, dinner is no more. Dinner becomes a “leftover night” or a night when I say, “Fend for yourselves. There’s plenty of food in there & you aren’t helpless.”

So, yeah. That’s how it works.

If I skip the shower & getting dressed, I could have preserved a ticket — or two or three. (Just breaking inertia & committing to actually being productive is worth a ticket, after all.) Maybe instead of going out, I write this blog post or get a few loads of laundry done or pick up the toddler hurricane remnants all over our living room. Either way, it is a choice.

Some days, I get frustrated. Why can’t I do it all like so many other people can?

Where’s my wristband for lasting energy?

Maybe tomorrow, I will have a pajama day & binge watch TV most of the day so that I can have a few tickets left over to put towards the next day….

Or maybe tonight, I will sleep so horribly that, instead of waking up to a new 12 tickets, I only have 9 to work with…

It’s a CONSTANT juggle.

I know this is an odd way to describe it, but doesn’t it paint quite the picture? It did for me… & I am just beside myself to have another way to TRY to help others understand what it is like — & maybe help others like me better explain that they really aren’t lazy; they just don’t have as many “tickets” to use each day…

Does this help? Let me know in the comments, please! <3

Want to come hang out with me & other women seeking to build their confidence each day? You’re invited & oh-so welcome! We’d love to have you!Reta Jayne

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