Christine Miserandino was in college when she came up with The Spoon Theory. She was at a diner talking with her best friend when her friend asked how it felt to have Lupus. As you will read in The Spoon Theory, Christine describes her inability to answer her friend’s question until she comes up with using spoons to explain the energy it takes for an ill person to complete even the simplest tasks like showering, eating, sleeping, and the like. This theory is brilliant! It has become popular with all chronically ill individuals as a way to explain how our energy gets zapped to our healthy counterparts. Christine did say that individuals who do not have a chronic illness have an unlimited amount of spoons. Although the theory, in and of itself, is excellent, those unlimited spoons are questionable. Even healthy individuals have taken issue with the unlimited amount of spoons in her theory. Those healthy individuals who care for loved ones with a chronic illness have been speaking out as of late. My hat is still off to Christine Miserandino, for coming up with The Spoon Theory. However, I do agree, no one, especially caretakers of the chronically ill, has unlimited spoons.
I always believed to test your relationship travel with that person. Travel with a passport to another country if you really want to test your relationship. The good, the bad, and the ugly are all on display during a trip. All the pressure of making it through the airport and boarding your plane can just about ruin you, but this is only the first step. Throw in missing a connecting flight or the forms that you must fill out before entering another country. If you are still speaking, you get to wait in line together again, get your luggage and go through customs. You finally escape the airport and its stagnant air to, YES, wait together again in the heat for a resort van to fill to capacity so you can be driven to your hotel. You know full well you will need to repeat these steps on your way back. Can you do it? Are you even still a couple at this point? Now, this was the real test of a relationship. Travel can leave ‘healthy’ people with no spoons.
I got married in 2004, about 6 years into my illness. We have successfully traveled in and outside the states fairly frequently during thirteen years of marriage. Our first few trips were supposedly good, I can’t remember much about the first few trips we took as a married couple to Orlando, New Orleans, or Cozumel. But there are pictures, I was there! (I have proof.) I believe I am even smiling in most of the photos. But unfortunately, most of my time was spent in a hotel room in complete fibro fog, with my symptoms flaring and needing sleep badly. Having me in this physical and emotional state, out of our element, did almost more damage to my husband. He was AWARE. He was in a constant state of worry. I begged him to join others and go sight-seeing. He acted like I just asked him to hang the moon! He would not leave my side for most of the time during these trips. By the time we returned home, he would literally sleep for 24 hours straight trying to recover. He ran out of spoons.
Since those first trips, we learned how to get better at this travel thing. When to arrive at the airport, how and what to pack. What type of bags are most comfortable to handle. What kind of connecting flights do we want? How to make yourself comfortable in an airplane seat!?! Yes, there is a way. A little time to rest in an airport out of airplane seats was always a welcome relief. Walking around waiting for a connecting flight also saved me from flaring on many trips. We always rested for one day after we arrived, no planned sightseeing. Every day we took an official excursion was followed by a day at the beach doing nothing. No skipping foods that were good for you even on vacation starting with healthy snacks for the plane. We got this travel thing down! But my husband always takes the following day off from work when we return from a trip, and he sleeps. He is simply out of spoons. He finds ways to relax on the trip but is always on alert when traveling with me, his chronically ill wife.
Thirteen years later, he still loves and cares for me, but he always runs out of spoons. I need to be aware of this fact. He gives me everything he can. And I give him all that I can. But there are days when all the spoons in the house are dirty. There will be no cooking, no cleaning, no overt attention paid to each other. We are both just existing. There is no energy. There is nothing wrong with this! No one can take and take and not expect to wear their partner out. No one can give and give and not expect to wear out!
Fibromyalgia Syndrome is a sneaky, deceptive little monster. It is after your job, your house, marriage, relationships, and friends. Some of it, it wins. But don’t let it take everything from you. Be aware of your demands, its demands. Don’t take everything from the one who gives you care and love. You must give care and love back too. Even then, fibromyalgia will take and take and can and will leave you with not even a spoon.