In Autism: I Crash Because I’m Spoonie

This is really what I look like crashed. Except, not a dog. (Source:

Sometimes my own spooniness (if you are unfamiliar with spoon theory, you can read about it here) is such a part of my experience that I forget about it. I plan my activities and think about how much I can do each day automatically. If one of my kids has a dentist appointment later today and I have to go to BSF tonight, I know that I better not plan anything for Tuesday. If I have to leave the house, I know I can’t do too much in the house or I will be dragging butt through whatever I have to do out of the house or, if that’s not an option, I will be on my back all day the next day. I think, after my aversion to people looking at me and my multiple anxieties and phobias, this is the thing that affects my day to day life the most.

Before I knew about autism, I didn’t handle it very well. I didn’t know what was going on, so I just beat myself up for being lazy. Nothing was ever good enough. I never did enough for my head but my body always felt like I was falling apart. And every few days to two weeks, I would fall apart emotionally. I would either just start yelling at everyone, give everyone the silent treatment or break down and cry for a day. Or check out completely for weeks at a time. Between a bit more maturity (for me and my life/kids) and some self-awareness on my part, I am usually conscious enough of my own state that I don’t run myself to the point where I just meltdown for days. I only get to the point of shutting down usually, which is hard for me and requires consideration on the part of my family but, generally, leaves no permanent casualties. But that has taken 40 years to get to.

For the most part, these days, I have a lot of things under control, I think. I still don’t do as much as I would like. I hate how much time I have to spend…resting. It’s like a bad word in my head. I don’t want to rest, I want to use every minute, but I don’t because I know what that gets me. Sick and crazy. So, it annoys me, but I go slow and I only do so much. My house isn’t as clean as I want, but my kids get more of my spoons that way. It’s a constant balancing act. If I know I have to cook dinner for friends coming over, I keep that in mind all day long. And I don’t cook the day before or the day after.

This week, I think I forgot how many spoons mental things take. I spent much of my time this week doing mental things: writing, reading, Bible study. I started my Ligonier class yesterday. And I felt pretty good. Then this morning, I was eating breakfast and I just couldn’t focus on my Bible reading. So I thought, “well, maybe I’m tired. We have stayed up a little late the last two nights. Maybe I just need a nap.” I never used to sleep during the day. I just hated it because I ended up groggy. I think I was actually crashing because now I can lay down, watch one episode of something, maybe sleep, maybe not and feel better when I get up. It’s like vegging out meets napping. Veg-napping.

That is not what happened today. That’s what I wanted to happen, but that is not what happened. Today I laid down to watch a couple episodes of The New Detectives and the next thing I know I’ve been asleep for two hours. And then I roll over and toss and turn my way through another two hours. And it’s so hot. And that, for me, is crashing. It’s almost like being sick, except I’m not. I just feel tired and a bit cold and unfocused and then I lay down and fever sleep all morning. (You know, fever sleep? Hot and sweaty no matter what the temperature it is, you want a blanket but then you’re too hot. You half wake up every twenty to thirty minutes. You have crazy dreams that don’t make any sense and, even though, you slept for hours you are more tired then when you laid down and now you are sore and sweaty.) Then I’m groggy all afternoon. And before I know it, I’ve lost a day.

That’s what happens when I run out of spoons. That’s why I didn’t get to the next lesson of my Ligonier class. That’s why I didn’t get any photos taken or any planning done or any housework besides washing my sheets done. I am pretty lucky I got my Bible reading done and got my kid out to the mall. That’s why I’m writing this at 7 pm and I couldn’t think of anything else to write about.

And I still feel bad about it sometimes. I think, I am just as capable as anyone else. I should be able to do just as much as other people do. There are women out there who do everything that I do and they have jobs. Could I have a job? Maybe. But I don’t think I could do anything else. I think 40 hours of effort is all I have and I can either spend it the way I do now or on a paying job. Which would be far more stressful for everyone. Would I like that more? Maybe. Would I prefer to not have to guard my energy like a precious commodity? Probably.

Then I wonder. If I could just be going and going and going 24/7, or even 16/7, like some people do (and if I could, I would), would I ever just sit around and talk to God? Would I have read the Bible straight through a dozen times in 7 years? Would I give most of my life to a volunteer organization and help kids study the Bible? Would I spend any time thinking about God or reading or studying his word? Or would I be so busy going and doing and cleaning and making and cooking that I never even thought about anything?

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