Wake up. Take medicine. Stretch. Scroll through social media. Rest. Task. Vices.
That might look like your quarantine morning routine but that’s been mine for the last seven or so years. I can’t speak for everyone with a chronic illness but I know routines and consistency are so important to my day to day life. And while days are hard and often feel like things will never get better, I find myself feeling a sense of relief when sports are on. It’s like mentally checking out of the spoonie game for a bit.
The Spoon Theory
Have you ever heard of the spoon theory or maybe heard someone refer to themselves as a spoonie? The term was coined by Christine Miserandino in an essay called The Spoon Theory:
The spoon theory or spoon metaphor is a disability metaphor (for a combination of ego depletion, fatigue, and other factors), a neologism used to explain the reduced amount of mental and physical energy available for activities of living and productive tasks that may result from disability or chronic illness.[a] Spoons are a visual representation used as a unit of measure in order to quantify how much energy a person has throughout a given day. Each activity requires a given number of spoons, which will only be replaced as the person “recharges” through rest. A person who runs out of spoons has no choice but to rest until their spoons are replenished.
What’s great about the spoon theory is that it allows for visualization. You can say, hey it’s going to take me three out of my five spoons to do laundry today. Maybe I’ll tackle half so I can get other things done on my to-do list. Sometimes even talking to people takes up a whole spoon and that spoon could’ve been used for something else.
You eventually understand your body and know your limits. Sometimes you can rally through a nice mile walk and other times you can barely make it to the mailbox. There’s nothing wrong with recharging your battery.
I’ve often heard, “It must be so nice to stay in bed all day” or “You don’t look sick.”
Yes, my joints are flaring up, and my body isn’t producing enough chemicals. You can’t see my illness, so therefore it’s not real. It becomes exhausting trying to “prove” that you’re sick. Would my hospital bills suffice?
Hockey Became an Escape
Sports have become a major escape from my physical pain. I grew up watching baseball and found it to be my first love. I watched hockey too but never had a real connection. The Boston Bruins went on a Stanley Cup run the year I was being diagnosed. I would listen to the radio on my way into the city for testing and watch the games when we finally made it home. The Bruins might’ve lost at home but that spring meant a whole lot more to me.
Covering hockey became a passion just a few years ago. I got wrapped up in hockey on Twitter and started writing takes I thought people wanted to share. On the days when I hurt too much to get out of bed, I could write directly on my phone and have something published in an hour. I liked sharing my opinions with people. The feedback I received from those online was validating.
Going to hockey games is where I start to get emotional. It’s a treat to get to watch my favorite team on home ice, essentially in my backyard. Those three or so hours at a game are when there’s only one thing on my mind, and that’s hockey. Everything else melts into the background while I get wrapped up in three periods of (hopefully) great hockey.
Last April, I had the chance to go to Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Columbus Blue Jackets. It was an exciting experience as my first playoff game! The Bruins won in overtime, the pick me up I needed. I was working myself to the bone in school and crying every day on my way home from work. I needed to put those on the backburner and drown in the atmosphere of playoff hockey.
I learned a lot about myself through the diagnosis stage and eventually starting treatment. It takes a lot of strength to get up and hear a doctor tell you they don’t know what’s wrong or why this medication isn’t working. Hockey allows me to unwind after grueling appointments or bad days in general. Your vice may not be hockey, but if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance it is. Please remember to take care of yourself.