Measured out in coffee spoons

I started having fatigue issues in my teens. The doctor told me it was psychosomatic in a way that implied he meant ‘fake and lazy’ and thus there was no help. Was it chronic fatigue? Or overload? Or an inadequate diet? Or depression? With hindsight it could have been any or all of these things, I have no idea, but I struggled through GCSE and A Level, with no sense of being supported or taken seriously. Those ‘imaginary’ problems of my teens haven’t ever gone away. My diet has improved, so it’s not that, now.

Not being taken seriously has left me feeling like I have to prove something. I have to work harder than everyone else so that if I have to say I’m too sore, too tired to do a thing, people won’t automatically ascribe it to laziness. This is how it goes in my head. Constantly having to prove that I’m working hard and trying my best does not lead to rest and time off. It may be that the reason I spend so much of my time exhausted, is that I am, in fact, exhausted (and still, the little voice in my head says I am lazy and making excuses).

When I’m not coping, the fun stuff goes first. I save my energy, my spoons, for the paying gigs, the domestic stuff and trying to stay fit enough not to further compromise my ability to do the work. Going out in the evening is usually the first thing off the list, and as I work from home, being exhausted often punches a hole in my scope for contact with other humans. Very little comes in, and my creativity and imagination shrivel, and this certainly leads to depression. Getting into a pattern where all I can do is work, and recover from work, isn’t good for the soul.

I don’t know, when I get up of a morning, how many spoons there are and how far they will get me. Some days I do really well, other days everything is like wading through treacle. Most of the work I do requires some degree of being clever and imaginative – this is true even in PR. Any kind of emotional set back can wipe me out at speed. There clearly is a psychological/emotional aspect to burning out, and that tends to leave me feeling that it’s my failure to control my inner world that is the problem. And because I’m making the problem, by not managing things better, I do not feel entitled to ask for help or support.

I don’t have an answer to this at time of writing, but exposing the mechanics has turned out to be useful for other people in the past, so here we are.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

10 responses to “Measured out in coffee spoons

  • Mary Walker

    Your observation that when you aren’t coping hit a chord. I have noticed that when everything is perking along smoothly I do my fun stuff and the creativity flows. I have new ideas, finish old projects and start new ones. But when my life goes off the rails I stop my needlework. I stop reading. Nothing is interesting and my mind feels fossilized in amber. Sometimes it simply takes time doing nothing and resting to revive. Sometimes going through the motions will shake things out. Robert Heinlein once wrote we should budget the luxuries first. He may have been right. Don’t ignore what has to be done but don’t focus on them to the point of forgetting the fun.

  • Sheila North

    Do the fun stuff. Do the creative stuff you want to/feel able to do. If you are still ironing, stop. I stopped ironing in 2004. I don’t miss it in the least.

    Consider as well the value in stopping looking for answers of the “why are things this way?” and “how / why did this start?”, & focus your time & attention instead on what works for you. Good luck & gods bless.

  • Ella Wherry

    I have some suggestions. First, if you have not been to a medical doctor, go get a checkup. Have him run your calcium and PTH to check for hyper-para-thyroidism, one of the most under-diagnosed things around. Second, the world ‘out there’ is a reflection of your shadow. Welcome to the Underworld. I really think that so many are experiencing exhaustion due to the revelations and realization that the world as we have been told, is not, that it is exactly the opposite. Everyone I speak with is in similar straights right now. The difference is that you are having your experience of it, and you cannot compare your experience in any of it to any one else’s. You see, as your own God-spark you are not meant to have the same operational, functional, belief or any other set of systems as others. We are each meant to have our own experiences, to feel and choose how we want to live our lives. Again, for those who are primarily Service to Others in their choices, it has been especially hard, and yes, exhausting. Additionally, being a woman, there is more to it. I would recommend reading Sharon Blackie’s “If Women Rose Rooted”. It is such a powerful, insightful sharing that I wish every woman could read it. You are the rock in the middle of a rushing stream; have been all your life. It is time to stop trying to swim against the current and Allow You to Be You. Blessings Dear One.

  • Genealogy Jen

    I can totally relate to this. My friend calls me 100% Jen . I put 100% of myself into what I do so I can only have 1 major project going on at a time. Sometimes that is even too much. I’ve been learning to be more kind to myself that I’m not able to do more ordinary things consistently like most people. I’m not most people, and I am so grateful for that. I also have to take the times when I have a lot of spoons and use them while I can… even if it’s 2 am. Otherwise, the backside of my door is unpainted 2 years later. My spoons don’t keep well, and are always in short supply.
    PS I read an article last week about Lyme disease being misdiagnosed and undiagnosed leading to chronic fatigue syndrome. Apparently there are many types and it imoacts auto immune systems. May be something else to explore physically.
    PPS Sending you good energy and strength. May you manifest 1 extra surprise spoon this week.

  • dapplegrey

    Timely for me as I’m in the middle of an unfinished post on how I never quite seem to get used to what it’s like to have ME/CFS even after having had it for 30 years. It’s as you say, the not having strength for the stuff that nourishes because reserves get used up for the everyday business of living that really hurts. Interesting to hear you say this and I had always assumed that like me you do in fact suffer from ME and have had it a long time. The worst years for me were before I was able to tell people this was my problem and before I accepted it myself. Since then at least I have a framework to plan things in (even though it’s a constantly moveable feast) and people are more able to understand me and work around and with my variable condition so it’s much, much less stressful. I do wish you well in all this. Everything you’ve written really strikes a chord.

  • AutumnWolfe

    I feel the same way. There are good times where mental and physical health are good and I’m all get up and go, go, go; but if something changes in that routine then it all falls apart. A wrench in my clock work. With my anemia that wrench could be anything from a rainy day that messes up the week or a schedule change at work that can set me back months in recovery. Keep fighting!

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