Tag Archive: spoons

In the Balance

Yesterday, my doctor raised my dosage of my anti-depressant, Zoloft, from 50 milligrams to 75. It’s a small raise, but every medication or adjustment of medication that I’ve had so far seems to throw me into either depression or hypomania. The antidepressants I was prescribed when my diagnosis was “just anxiety” made me manic (well, one made me mixed, and the other made me manic), and one of the first-line medications for bipolar II, Seroquel, didn’t do enough to stop my moods from cycling. I’m currently also on an antipsychotic/mood stabilizer, Zyprexa. The combo isn’t working as well as I’d like; I’m still moderately depressed. However, I’m definitely better than I’d be off meds, and I am truly grateful for that.

When you spend so much time in either one end of the spectrum or another, you learn to appreciate the “normal” days, when you have enough “spoons” to do what you’d like, but don’t feel restless or agitated. While since being on Zyprexa (which is a potent anti-manic), I’ve sometimes missed my hypomanias, I remind myself that my hypomanias tend to start out well (I’m happy, energetic, on top of the world) and go bad pretty quickly. Even when I’m “up”, I can become an agitated, anxious, irritable mess.

I really relate to the author of More than Words when she talks about her daughters’ small victories. Even though my mental illness isn’t as severe as Brenna’s or Ailish’s, it’s still a day-to-day struggle. I’ve really learned to appreciate the small things; the days when I’m energetic enough to go to a party, even if it makes me horribly nervous, coffee with a friend, or a sunny afternoon. I have good days and bad days, but I know there’s something better out there for me.

Here’s hoping this change gives me some much needed balance.


Today, a friend of mine asked if I was mad at her. I replied “Of course not, why would you think that?” She explained that since we last hung out, I haven’t been talking to her much.

I’ve been dealing with a moderate level of depression for the last month or so. Depression saps all my energy. When I was at my worst, I was sleeping 12-16 hours a day, and could barely find the strength to get out of bed. Even though my physical health is fairly good, I relate a lot to the Spoon Theory.

When I’m hypomanic, or even at my baseline, I’m a ball of fire. Hypomania, in particular, seems to give me a seemingly infinite supply of “spoons”. There isn’t enough to do in a day to keep me occupied; I am endlessly social, having the energy to do everything in a day. I’ll cook, play music, write, swim, spend time with friends, and do more – sometimes all in one day.

When the depression takes over, I am left with a limited amount of spoons. For example, when I came home from university, it took me several weeks to finally unpack all my clothes. I probably simply appear lazy to most people; washing dishes, walking a block down the street, or doing other things requiring any amount of energy can be almost impossible. Socializing also becomes difficult. It’s hard to make small talk with people, especially when the depression gets especially brutal.

It’s different spending time with people who I can talk to about what I’m going through, but often, I either feel like I’m imposing, or will be shunned as bipolar disorder is still a fairly stigmatized mental illness. When I’m at a low point, if you take me out for coffee and ask how I’m doing – and genuinely mean it – it will expend some of my energy, but it can make me feel at least somewhat better. Just knowing that someone cares is important.

However, time with casual friends that don’t know what’s going on, while it can also be enjoyable, becomes really difficult to motivate myself to spend. It can also become exhausting. I feel like I can’t talk about much when I’m depressed; the words don’t come as easily, and I’m left feeling like a bad friend. This can, understandably, come across as me being unfriendly, or annoyed with my friends for some reason, but really, it’s because I’m running out of spoons.

It’s hard to articulate. To someone without depression or bipolar, it’s hard to imagine depression sapping your energy to the point where everyday things become difficult.

Sometimes, I even feel guilty talking, or thinking about my spoons. After all, aren’t I, at least on the surface, what society would define as “healthy”? Am I appropriating the experiences of people with chronic physical illnesses?

To me, mental illness is similar to physical illness in many ways. I experience physical pain and fatigue when I’m depressed, and in addition to my mood, this leaves me with a limited number of spoons to get through the day.