Spoon theory, fork theory, and now knife theory?
I’m all for metaphors and analogies, probably a little too much, so it makes complete sense to me that I am drawn to these. Explaining mental illness is a herculean task with very little payout; it is something so many of us experience, but we all feel it in different ways, and that creates a seemingly endless difficulty in fully understanding what someone is feeling.
I’m at a point where I don’t need someone to understand what I’m dealing with. I know how hard it is, and while being understood feels wonderful, I don’t require it in order to be comforted. The aspect of most importance in terms of being understood by those closest to me is simply that I’m struggling. These theories help with that.
If you’re unaware, spoon theory is the idea that we are each granted a certain number of spoons every day. These represent the energy we have to get through our waking hours. Sometimes we have just enough to get out of bed. Some days we might have enough to accomplish most of our to-do list. It’s a theory commonly used for those experiencing chronic illnesses, but it translates well to mental health.
Fork theory comes from the saying “stick a fork in me, and I’m done”, wherein we are stuck with forks both big and small throughout our day, and sometimes we get stuck with one more than we can handle. It can be something as small as coming home to find a dirty dish in the sink, or it can be something much larger and, to the outside world, more understandably upsetting. Regardless, we don’t usually know what our limit is, but when it is reached, we retreat and/or break down.
Knife theory is something I thought would be much more negative than it is in actuality, and I only discovered it today while looking up information about the previous two theories. It is the idea that knives are often used to spread nice things like jam, butter, Nutella, etc. It suggests that we are offered knives in the form of gestures, both big and small, done by people around us which make us feel even just a little bit better about life. Gestures can be as simple as someone letting you go first in a line or a friend sending a care package. They smooth over the marks left by the forks, as it were.
I prefer my metaphors to be a little less utensil based, but I’ll give these a pass considering the origin of the spoon theory and that it makes sense for the others to follow.
Today is a no spoons and all forks kind of day.
Most days have been lately, and I don’t know why.
I’ve started three pieces of writing which never got posted here, because the further I get into what I want to say, the more confused and overwhelmed I become; re: mental illness being hard to explain.
Have you had those moments while reading or watching something (especially something already familiar) where you hope that the character will realize something earlier this time? You know that it’s already written and isn’t going to change, but you can’t help hoping that something might turn out differently. I’m sure I’m not alone in experiencing this.
I often feel that way about myself and my life. I can appreciate on a logical level all of the things for which I should be grateful. I observe the gestures made by those who care for me. I see all of the reasons why I should be happy, contented, and fulfilled.
I wish I could reach through that metaphorical screen and shake myself and tell myself to look around, to recognize what I have, to appreciate it enough for it all to matter.
I get so frustrated with myself for forgetting the good feelings that came with a gift, a conversation, a hug, an attempt to reach out. I wish I could erase parts of myself as easily as I delete words on a page. I wish I could write my way out of the canyons into which I have dug myself.
I feel like an awful friend when a gesture is made, and it doesn’t make everything better. The happiness I feel when someone does try to help seldom lingers, and I am left feeling guilty and disappointed in myself for its fleetingness. I live in perpetual fear of letting people down, and to me, this feels like another example of me doing exactly that.
Were a friend to come to me and tell me this, I would offer endless reasons why so very little of it is true. I would tell them that people aren’t trying to “cure” them, and that brief moments of joy should be cherished for what they are rather than disregarded and covered over by shame because they didn’t last.
“What would you say to a friend in your position?” It is such a common question posed to those of us who are struggling, and I constantly remind myself of it, hoping that one day it will stick.
I am incessantly weighed down by exhaustion and despondency, made worse by shame and guilt stemming from a belief that I should not feel this way. It’s exhausting endlessly fighting a mind that wants you not to exist.
I try to think of at least five things for which I am grateful each day, because I know that it is all-too easy for me to allow myself to sink deeper into the abyss.
Today I am grateful for my family, my partner, my cats, a hot cup of tea, and a bit of sunshine that has finally broken through the clouds.
Each word I’ve written here had to be pulled out of me. I was determined to finish, upset with myself for not having done so with any of my earlier attempts. I know I am not the only one hurting. I know that many of you reading this are struggling. I want you to know that I see you. I’m here with you. I know it is hard, but I encourage you to find gratitude alongside me. It is not a cure, but depression is a vicious, hateful thing that will never stop lying to us and telling us we have and deserve nothing.
I wish you a day of many spoons, very few forks, and plenty of knives, but hopefully not literally. If that isn’t the case for you, as it is not for me, tomorrow is a new day. We can and will try again.
I will leave you with this, because cute cat stories are always nice:
I was sitting on my bedroom floor earlier, and I cannot express to you how impossible getting up felt. The weight of entirely too many emotions pressing down upon me was such that I began panicking at my inability to push it away. Just as I felt myself on the verge of breaking down, Ivy came speeding into my room and jumped onto my lap. Purring as always, she rubbed her face against mine and sat with me until I was able to take a few deep breaths. It feels bizarre thanking anyone for offering me knives (seriously, that just sounds weird), but I was certainly grateful for her in that moment.
`I wish you the best rest of your day that you can manage. We’re in this together. 💙