An Argument for Spoons

I’m partaking in this year’s Diabetes Blog Week. Each post this week will be based on a pre-determined prompt constructed by Karen over at Bittersweet Diabetes. You can participate by visiting her website.

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Throwback Thursday: What Brings Me Down – Thursday 5/18

Today let’s revisit a prompt from 2014 – May is Mental Health Month so now seems like a great time to explore the emotional side of living with, or caring for someone with, diabetes. What things can make dealing with diabetes an emotional issue for you and/or your loved one, and how do you cope? (Thanks again to Scott for this 2014 topic.)


I often refer to spoon theory when it comes to breaking down the mental side of living with a chronic condition. If you aren’t familiar with spoon theory, it’s basically how much energy I can devote on a daily basis to all aspects of survival. E.G. diabetes, working, parenting, etc.

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Most days, I fortunate to have enough spoons to complete my daily responsibilities. Some days, I’m pulling the energy from my ass and I barely make it through until my child’s bedtime. I won’t bother opening a bottle of wine on those nights because that would require me to 1) open a bottle and 2) calculate the effects of one 4 oz glass of wine on my current blood sugar with the amount of insulin I have on board. (See, not worth it.)

The most trying days are usually when I can’t seem to get my toddler and my blood sugars on coordinating breakdown schedules. Bean seems to know when mommy needs juice or a snack and it’s precisely when the whining starts. Usually, my husband is around to soothe the toddler while I retreat in my haze. But, since lows happen whenever they may, sometimes we are at the store, in the car, anywhere inconvenient.

The worst are the sustained lows that take forever to recover. I often feel like I can’t address my daughter’s concerns or problem, no matter how trivial, if I’m too busy pulling myself out of a low.

And I get it. Taking care of myself means I’m a better parent. No one wants a car crash. She’ll understand later. But there is something disheartening about listening to your child cry while waiting for those numbers to creep up. The screams are louder. The insatiable hunger is more intense. The urgency is greater but I’m at the will of my own body’s response. It’s unnerving.

I usually end those days with -3 spoons left at my disposal – usually sitting on the couch aimlessly flipping through social media or watching recorded television. And those spoons don’t come back. I can’t bank them and save them for a bad day. I start the next day with the same amount of spoons as the previous day. Rinse. Repeat.

Not all days are like this. Most days, my daughter is a gem and I have great support at home. Most days, my blood sugars behave. Most days, I have spoons to spare. The challenge is not focusing on the days I lose all of my spoons, but it’s hard to just not give a fork.

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Counting Spoons

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My aunt posted a link to this story on her Facebook Wall this last weekend. The Spoon Theory. Or – an analogy for explaining what it’s like to live with a chronic condition or disability. Per the reaction on my Wall after re-posting, it’s not a “new” theory. But it was new to me.

In the article, the writer describes her daily battle with Lupus – another auto-immune disease. She describes her day-to-day regiment using silverware, explaining that every day, she only has a certain amount of spoons to get her through her tasks. Each time she chooses a task, such as waking up in the morning, she loses a spoon. When all the spoons are gone, her day is essentially shot, so it’s best to chose wisely.

I choose spoons as well as a PWD. It’s a bit different dealing with a broken organ than say, a broken muscular system. I’m lucky that I don’t have major complications that would prevent me from getting out of bed in the morning. However, I do need to chose my spoons carefully, as I could pay for that choice tomorrow… or for three days straight… or for the rest of my life.

Let say I also started with twelve spoons, as mentioned in the story. Let’s see. Yesterday, I started my day off with a lovely 234 mg/dl for no reason. (Other than I had yanked out my sensor the night before because it was misbehaving.) Good bye spoon #1. Why? Those morning blood sugars usually set a trend for the rest of the day. If I start of normal, I’m in a good mood. If I start off high, I have to wait for my corrections to kick in before I can eat, which skews my morning routine. This can cause delays in meals, and more importantly, coffee consumption.

Speaking of coffee consumption, I’ve been extremely exhausted all week so I’ve been relying heavily on it’s power… and the odd things it can do to my blood sugars. #2 – gone.

Let’s talk wardrobe. I wear a pump 24/7 and usually have a CGM installed. Wearing skirts, dresses, and pants without pockets usually takes considerable thought and effort in the morning, which I don’t want to deal with. And if I wear my pump clipped to myself, I’m no longer “invincible.” Don’t even get me started on shoes. #3 – gone.

Breakfast time! I’m still fighting that 234, and the correction hasn’t really kicked in. I could have my usual 20 carb meal with predictable (usually) results or I could stick to something more protein heavy, but experience a slow upward trend up until lunch time. Skipping the meal all together isn’t an option. (Because in reality, I’m starving.) Over-correcting my dosage could lead to a crash later. Anything I do at this point won’t help my high blood sugar and will probably plague me for the rest of the day. #4…

Because of the high blood sugar, breakfast indecision and so forth, I am running late for work and have no time to reinstall my CGM from the previous night’s failure. Since the CGM requires it’s own special timing that would probably use up about 4 spoons in my day alone, I decide to fly blind for the day and rely on finger sticks. #5…

So – before I even walk out the door for work in the morning, I’ve lost 5 of my allotted spoons for the day. I’ve only been awake for 2.5 hours. Some days are not as dramatic and sometimes I can hold on to my spoons for longer to save for later. Other days – my spoons are gone in 6 hours and I might as well sit on the couch for the remainder of the day and say “fork this!” because nothing I do for the rest of my waking hours will make me feel better.