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When You Run Out of Spoons and Your Brain Goes Into 'Low Power Mode'

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As I’m writing this, it’s 3:30 p.m. and I’m beyond exhausted. A normal person would be excited to get off work soon and go home to do whatever they want. I’m curled up on my couch feeling like I can’t even move or keep my eyes open. How is laundry going to get done? The dishes? How can I take a shower? Or even just move myself to the bed, so I can rest! All of those tasks require energy I just don’t have within me. I don’t have the spoons!

I woke up today at 9:30 a.m. to my neighbor’s dog barking for over 30 minutes straight. I wanted to yell at the dog to be quiet, or yell at the neighbor for just letting it go on that long. But instead I just accepted that I needed to get up. So I started my day feeling like I hadn’t even slept, even though I went to bed around 11:00 p.m.


So now at 3:30 p.m., I can barely compose a sentence in person. I mix my words up. I just can’t seem to get the correct words out, or I physically can’t think to actually have the words come out of my mouth. I can’t focus or concentrate. My husband just called me on his way home from work, as he usually does. But I had to keep asking him “What!?” or “What’s going on? Are you coming home?” The poor guy just gave up and said, “OMG you are too tired! I can’t talk to you right now.” And he was right. I was trying so hard to listen and hear what my husband was saying, but I just couldn’t. No matter how hard I tried.

It’s as though my mind is literally shutting down or putting itself into “low power mode.”

notification on phone of low battery

My mother has called me before and had to hang up as well because I just couldn’t think! It’s sad that the people around me are realizing and just getting used to this happening with me. But that’s just how it is.

It is really frustrating because you know you have all these things that need to get done, but boy is it hard to get anything done when you can’t focus! My brain is basically saying, “Nope, not allowed. We don’t have enough power for that.” But it still needs to get done! Power or not! What am I supposed to do, brain?! The world does not stop moving for us simply because you don’t have enough power.

There is no good answer for the question “What am I supposed to do?” You essentially have to ask yourself, Do I want to push through this and pay for it later? Or do I want to rest up and feel a little more human tomorrow? Maybe then I can accomplish some things. Either way, there isn’t going to be a fix. It will happen again tomorrow, it’s just a matter of when.

woman wearing sunglasses

When I first talked about this brain shutdown on my blog, Jana Owlf Designs, I had readers mention to me that this happens to them as well. It was nice to hear I’m not the only one that goes through this. However, another thing my readers pointed out – brain shutdown can really make it hard to keep a job. And it is true! It is one of my concerns going forward and one of the reasons I am only looking for part-time work. It is a sad but very true reality for some of us. But what’s important is not letting it define us. It is just another one of those burdens we carry, but it is not who we are.

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Originally published: July 27, 2017
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