Not Spoons, Not Forks, But Percentages

(7/23/17 — the irony of writing about mental illness is that sometimes you’re too mentally ill to write. And sometimes that means it takes you a solid three months to finish one post).

As I sit down to begin writing this (4/20/17), I’m resting on a solid 12%. A little over two hours ago, I woke up with 45% but in this time I’ve stopped by Starbucks for tea, walked across campus and back again, taken a Latin final, and rescheduled a meeting with my boss. For finals week, this is an average morning. But I do not have an average amount of energy for it, I have less.

When describing the effects of chronic illness to people who don’t experience them, the Spoons theory is the popular go-to. But that was created specifically to describe chronic physical illnesses and so I don’t feel comfortable using it to describe myself, as I’m someone with a relatively healthy body – brain, excluded.

So today, as I walked back from my final, struggling to put one foot in front of the other as my head grew heavier and heavier with the weight of my thoughts and internal exhaustion, I wondered if there was a metaphor just for me, (and people like me). This led me to the Forks Model, which is similar to the spoons theory, but tailored more toward mental illness. While it works and I see a lot of value in it, it still isn’t quite right to describe my experiences.

And then I realized that the way I’ve been thinking about them to myself for years works perfectly. And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, am I right?

(continued 7/23/17)

If I’m being entirely honest, (which I aim for – especially in my writing) I pretty much never planned to actually finish this. It was a good blog post idea, but then I got tired and when I get tired it’s easier for all the hopeless “you’ll never finish that” thoughts to get in the way. But a few days ago I had a series of conversations with my parents that reiterated why this is so important to talk about.

I have felt like I was drowning ever since I moved back home, got two (2) part time jobs (though I’ve scaled back to one since) and I couldn’t explain that. I just didn’t have the energy or the words. I didn’t know what to do, and I certainly didn’t know to pull myself out of it. But last weekend I got the opportunity to house-sit a few animals, (1 cat, 2 dogs, 10 chickens, and miscellaneous tropical fish). And that reminded me, more aggressively, of how I still want a comfort/therapy animal.

Specifically a cat.

I have always wanted a cat, (I love dogs and cats, yes it’s possible). But considering how anti-cat my family (and my dog) are, I didn’t see that happening. But after last weekend I realized how I was letting something defeat me without even trying to fight for it. So I tried to fight for it. And let me tell you, I spent a good two days crying and exhausted (there went my days off) just trying to get through to my mom and dad that this wasn’t just a whim or a want, this is a need to help improve and balance out my mental state. It’s not a cure-all, but it can definitely be an improvement.

And with that came explaining the percentage system, (very roughly and not in much depth). Even on the days where I start with 100% and don’t do much until I go to work, I can end up at -20% by the time I get home. As much as I love a job that keeps me busy and connects me with people, it is one of the most exhausting things for me to do on top of the already-exhausting job of keeping my mental state in check.

A therapy animal is like a portable charger. It doesn’t necessarily have the juice to get me back to 100%, but it can get me back up there so that I’m functioning and able to take care of not only myself but the animal as well as the people around me.

This post did not turn in to what I expected it to, but I hope that it was helpful regardless of that.

Best wishes, Julie


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