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The Dangers of Stealing Spoons From the Future to Get Through the Holidays

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This fall semester, I stole spoons from the future to exist in the present. We’ve all heard the saying “stealing from Peter to pay Paul,” right? For the sake of understanding, let’s combine that analogy with the spoon
metaphor for energy – you know, where those of us with chronic illnesses only have so many spoons, and for most of us those spoons do not even replenish fully for days or weeks. Well, as I was saying, I stole energy to work an overload, complete and pass my comprehensive exam for my doctoral studies, be a single mom of three and then plan and execute a travel study to Chicago with 23 students in early December. As I am writing this, you may think, wow, you must have survived. Well, not to be a Debbie Downer during the holidays, but I just came to the realization this week that one cannot steal spoons from the future. All you are doing is perpetually running out of spoons that never replenish.

I know this to be true, as I am staring down a week of brain scans, heart ultrasounds and an EEG. The future will come, and you will be all out of spoons. I started passing out for seemingly no reason in September of this year, now with a primary immunodeficiency and severe asthma and such, after initially freaking out from hitting my tile floor hard, I figured it was a quick lapse in oxygen and went on. I was too busy. This happened maybe twice the first month. Then through October and November, it went from every other week to weekly and I went to the emergency room. Two days of a heart monitor over Thanksgiving showed nothing and a follow-up was made with my doctor to wear a heart monitor for 30 days. Then the crazy busy week of the travel study to Chicago came, my first time organizing such an excursion, and I ignored it all to run around the city to create what I hoped was a life-changing adventure.

Luckily, it went off without a health incident for me and I returned. The first day I was back I passed out. Then again the day after that, during class the next day I had to sit and fight back the feeling to pass out in front of the students. I later passed out that afternoon and that night. I called the doctor and they had me come in right away. At this point I couldn’t drive myself, or walk across the room without passing out. When I say passing out, I mean fully hitting the ground hard before coming to.

Instead of admitting me to the hospital, at my request, my doctor put me on bed rest until these other tests could be performed. My fairly new boyfriend spent my bed rest weekend with me walking slowly with, or behind, me to make sure I did not fall and asking me to let him do things for me. Recently he has had to see me pass out mid-sentence in front of his kids, pass out from pain, be unable to eat most places and still get sick after eating what I thought I could manage, and more. And he is still game for this. Basically he is a keeper, ladies.

After being in my home and barely walking for the last five days, I ventured out today for the first time and walked with my incredibly supportive mother for a few minutes. That walk is now showing up in the deep pain in my legs from all of those falls, but it was progress nonetheless. A close friend stopped me a month or so ago and told me a story about when he overdid it during his PhD studies and ended up hospitalized in the middle of everything. He was showing he was worried about me. He was right to be worried. Even I was shocked that I was juggling all of those plates – it really was far too much.

However, I did not know how to lighten my load, so I just kept going, thinking it must be alright since I wasn’t in the hospital. Being admitted to the hospital is usually the only thing that stops me. Except I wasn’t alright, my body was stopping mid-action for months and it was not clicking with me that it was my body telling me to slow down. That something was wrong. Well, now I am forced to slow down to completely frozen and it is the week before Christmas, which will be spent in serious tests to determine what is exactly causing my body to “stop” and how to fix it.

The tests are important and I need to make sure of what is going on, but I think the lesson for all of us here is, we are not superhuman and should not steal spoons from the future. We are Mighty because of what we accomplish with the awareness of our illnesses. We are not Mighty because we need to accomplish more than any human without chronic illnesses could. Some days I prove my might by chaperoning students around Chicago, other days I prove it by walking around the block with a chaperone. I am ever so slowly putting spoons back in my energy pack to make it through the holidays, and I am fully aware that my abilities will be low, but I am so thankful to be taking care of things. Please have the happiest of holidays and a Mighty New Year.

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Photo via ZoneCreative on Getty Images

Originally published: December 21, 2017
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