the tao of jaklumen

the path of the sage must become the path of the hero

The Spoon Theory


                          <div>         Someone that was once on my LJ friends list posted this, and I finally found the source.  I passed it on to my father, who passed it on to his TM group.  They all loved it-- it's an excellent analogy to explain how an invisible illness/chronic condition really affects someone's life.  Alas, it's not the perfect analogy for mental illness, but it's the closest thing at the moment.

I'm not reposting it here, because it's incredibly long.  Follow this link: for Christine's story on The Spoon Theory in full.

I thought of this recently because I had lunch with a close friend yesterday.  He and I were a part of a foursome group of buddies in high school.  The other two and I tend to lose track of him because he is basically a homebody and is halfway there on repeating the family tradition of a huge family (he is the oldest of about… 12, now, I think) with six children at present.

He was suggesting that grad school would be a really great idea.  He's not the first to have said it.  I was not sure how to explain to him the laundry list of stuff that had happened since we were regularly in touch with him.  Here it is in a nutshell:

  1. I was a Music Ed/Elementary Ed student.  I loved my music studies, although they are not very forgiving to those who are not willing to sell their souls in hours upon hours of practice.  It was a mess– I was studying voice to round things out, but Music Ed studies are built on future teachers specializing in one instrument or voice alone.  The department suggested I follow my guitar studies, not realizing I was nowhere up to speed with the guitar majors.  I detested my Elementary Ed studies, although I love children well enough.  Nevertheless, after a meeting with the Music Dept. chairman, I reluctantly agreed to enter the general classroom since I had run out of subsidized loans and I had a full year left of studies.  My total amount of undergrad years was somewhere around 10– having transferred a few times– and all of that is another story.

The Dept. of Curriculum and Supervision and I were at war.  You might be wondering how it's possible to fail both the pre-September and student teaching experiences, but somehow I managed (actually, failing pre-September twice).  At this point, I was repeating pre-Sept. and doing it back to back with student teaching.  In a word, the department found itself with its pants around its ankles– they had demanded certain provisions the first time, but did not follow up on them.  At the meeting that decided I'd be sent off to the Individual Studies department, one of the faculty literally cowered, as if I was a wild animal that would tear him apart in my indignation.

So… I wound up with a degree that essentially meant nothing save "failed music student".  Oh, my grades were very good the whole time, but it was a struggle to get out of there with an undergrad degree.  These days I find myself repeatedly tearing up junk mail from the alumni association.

2.  The years following Cimmy and I plummeted deep into debt.  We bounced in and out of miserable and low-paying jobs, none save one that actually paid the bills, and that job ended, too, with only a stitched gash to show for it (another story in itself).  Our bishop refused to help us, so church welfare support was out.  Cimmy was very proud (to this day, she refuses to go back to WIC) and resisted government assistance tooth and nail.  Can't say I blame her, really.  Very reluctantly, she agreed to food stamps.  We finally bottomed out, and I suggested we move back to my hometown to see if employment prospects would be better.

3.  We moved in with friends on the verge of divorce.  Cimmy asked me to swear an oath we would never repeat a similar experience.  We finally asked the state for full welfare, and we went through the welfare-to-work program, bouncing through more jobs.  She broke first, having a nervous breakdown right there in the office.  So she was switched to the disability benefits track, so to speak, and began to apply for benefits with the help of a facilitator. 

4.  Shortly before this, I took an opportunity with a program sponsored with Goodwill– and went to volunteer for City Hall in a neighboring city.  I was assisted by Sunderland's vocational services program (yes, the very same Sunderland that lost the Medicaid contract I've written of earlier).  The volunteer job was a dead end, although some of the folks in the Public Information Office helped me out in small ways when I came back purely to volunteer with no subsidy.  In the meantime, a battleaxe of a social worker was waiting for me.  When the program ended and I still had no gainful employment, she began to rake me over the coals.

5.  When I started the Goodwill program, we managed to get in an apartment of our own with the city housing authority on Section 8.  More dog and pony shows to do, ever since.  We got a crazy landlady who was an emotional nomad.  She had the brilliant idea to mention that some tenant at our fourplex ran around the parking lot buck naked at a HA meeting.  It was kinda par for the course, though— one of the tenants ran a bordello immediately downstairs, and the county law enforcement held a stakeout for another neighbor downstairs on some sort of drug bust.  (Yes, I have not told my daughter yet that when we came home one night, we were saying hi to a whore and her john.  How do you say to a 2 year old "Say hi to the nice prostitute?")  Finally, the landlady sold the property to a Hispanic guy that decided to ditch us to concentrate on a mortgage business– at about the time our rent share jumped from $20 to $568… or something like that, because that property had been "grandfathered" into HA contract clauses.  Rent share was increasing for everyone, but we'd be ruined if we stayed where we were at.

  1. Before this ended, I applied for benefits for my very first time, right in the middle of the Goodwill program.  My psychiatrist had put me on a new drug that was very slowly killing me, and it took several family members to convince him and the med nurse the drug needed to be stopped.  I decided not to appeal Social Security's rejection of my application since stopping the drug seemingly got rid of the obvious problems.

  2. After the Goodwill program ended, the social worker dug in, as I explained in #4.  She was relentless until the day I met with her after being subtly fired for a Santa gig with Noerr and she finally wormed out a medication list from me.  I will never forget the 180 she pulled, and her odd sense of surprise at observing that I was very obviously relieved.  (Even government workers rarely get it.)

8.  We declared bankruptcy, finally, with the county's Legal Aid department.

9.  I reapplied for disability benefits.  Cimmy's hearing after the three rejections (as is standard) finally came, and so she didn't have to worry about the state much at all.  She was so nervous and scared that she insisted I come along.  Her hearing was breezy compared to what mine would be.  In the meantime, I worked a job or two, but just pushed through the incredibly long application process.

10.  I checked inpatient for another drug my psychiatrist refused to take me off of.  It's an anti-seizure drug given to migraine sufferers sometimes, and it was slowing my entire thought process, logic, emotion, and all– to the point of numbness.  It was reported with city police as "suicide attempt", which was true, but obscures the rest of the story.  The psychiatrist and the mental health agency finally relented and took me off of it only because Medicaid and the participating insurance decided to refuse coverage of drugs for off-label uses.

11.  We moved into our current apartment after looking at an incredibly miserable Section 8 house painted in  Pepto-Bismol pink.   The landlord of that house had the incredible gall to say that he was going to fix the backyard fence with the big hole in it, but that we could park our car in front of it like previous tenants did.  (Hey moron, when we were looking at the house, guess what hole my daughter escaped through?  Gee…)  Mom fought over our eventual choice.  She kept asking why we hadn't looked elsewhere (even though I did all of that the last time).  Sister #2 explained that she didn't want us moving towards the slummier side of town.  Indeed, when she came to look at the place, she declared it would go ghetto in ten years.  There had just been a stabbing, and there were two robbery attempts since then.  The second time, we forgot to close a window, and the police got the manager to open our unit because they were worried the perp had ransacked the place.  After revealing our squalor, we got a visit from Child Protective Services.  They said had my daughter and nephew not been with my father, they would have taken them.  That, and we had failed an apartment inspection from KHA earlier.  Mom, of course, had a cow.    In our fear, we managed to keep the apartment clean not just for the repeat inspection, but CPS's surprise visit.

  1. My hearing finally came.  The psychological expert, at the meeting by phone, dropped a bombshell of a revelation: in her opinion, my bipolar diagnosis wasn't stopping me from getting a job– it was the narcissistic personality disorder.  (What?  Damn, my professionals hid it from me.)  Researching the condition later, I could see their reasoning (I fit the "hyper-vigilant" personality type some had written about) but was quite stunned they had actually decided to withhold the information.  At that point, I questioned everything I'd ever said or did, because I realized I needed to take a new perspective.  Then again, it also explained the PTSD diagnosis from the psychiatrist I mentioned earlier.  Oh yeah, the judge saved me, basically, when he said something to the effect of "well, I could rule based on hundreds upon hundreds of cases I've seen before, but I know everyone's case is different".  Excellent.  So the psychological expert is a cold-hearted bitch, but at least the judge has room for some compassion.

Even after this point, my mother pushes work as she had in the past.  My lawyer warned me about getting a job and working even part-time for an extended period of time, since Social Security has disability reviews every so often, and they might decide I need to go back to work.  I believe my lawyer, if only for the fact he isn't meddlesome family.

13.  My doctors like to play musical chairs.  I've explained this in my other posts.

14.  I find $11K deposited to my bank, so I call my SSI rep in Yakima.  It's correct– I got all my backpay at once.  He had removed me from SSI in a bit of a gamble to get my wife back on it.  The kids and I should still get a medical coupon.  Mom has a cow again (she's an SSI rep in our local office, and is the reason why things got sent to Yakima).  Even though Victor had worked for DSHS only a year ago, and had worked for them for 8 years, she got on a paranoid rant about how things had likely changed since he left.

15.  Sister #2 decided to have another baby (not sure how far along she is now).  I counseled with Cimmy and my father, because we knew we were reaching a breaking point just caring for my nephew.  This also I explained in another post.

16.  After lunch with my friend, I went to see the doctor for some REAL painkillers, not the poncy stuff he prescribed before.

17.  The next day, I opened a letter from the KHA explaining our rent share had jumped from $268 or so to $315.  I go in to see the manager and ask if they've informed him yet.  He said he would likely get the news tomorrow (which is today).  I told him I might pay a few months in advance since we had our backpay.

Considering #1-17, how realistic is taking a teaching job to pay for graduate studies?  But I couldn't explain all of this to my friend in a half hour.

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Author: jaklumen

Wherever you see "jaklumen", that's me- the username is still unique as of the current year. Be aware that the facet you see, is only a small part of the me that is me.

2 thoughts on “The Spoon Theory

  1. I wanted to give my own personal perspective on each of these so I handled them all numerically.

    This could get long and some of it is graphic, so be warned.

    1. During this time, I was studying as a Theater Arts Major specializing in Make-up and Costume. However, I lost my job on campus and we had to eat, so I was forced to quit school and take a job with McDonald's. I worked there for eight months until we decided to move and I told them flatly that I wouldn't work on Sundays. There was also a woman there, the only one I've ever been sexually attracted to (no, I'm not gay), but I avoided it because of religious issues and because I was and have always been utterly devoted to my husband. Don't let's forget to mention that this McDonald's was right near the highway, so we were often visited by bus-loads of people, which the staff referred to as a “push.”
    One Sunday, Jak wasn't feeling well and coincidentally enough, I got a call from my work asking me could I please come in and do a three hour shift because two charter buses had just pulled up in front of the restaurant and every single passenger was inside wanting to be fed. I resisted at first, but eventually consented to come in.
    When I arrived, the place was already a madhouse. They stuck me on the register on the end closest to the shake machine, right in front of the warmer and between the other cash registers and the fry bin. Incidentally, the girl I was attracted to was running orders for the cash register on the other end and since all and sundry were standing in front of the warmer waiting for food, she had to get past me if she wanted fries for an order. When she would slide past me, her breasts would brush my back and a surge of desire would shoot through my body, followed by a surge of guilt and then one of depression. The surges of desire never lasted long, but the guilt and depression both stayed and began to build up so that, by the time the push was over I was so depressed I could barely think straight.
    Before I continue, let me just say that there is one piece of equipment that no restaurant, no matter what kind of establishment it is, can do without and that is a utility knife. I have a scar on my left forearm from an accident involving a utility knife while I was working at Arby's. It's small (only two stitches) but it was deep enough at the time that I could see the layer of fat just beneath my skin. The important point, though, is that the would was so deep that it didn't hurt. That's how you know when I wound is serious. It doesn't hurt. Anyway, one of the main problems with utility knives is that they get lost, so the manager of this particular McDonald's had bought a series of utility knives and fastened them to the stock shelves at intervals of about 3 to 4 yards using lengths of steel cable, each about ¼ inch thick and about two yards long. That way, fewer utility knives would be lost and they'd only have to replace the blades when they got dull.
    Anyway, when the push was over, I told my supervisor that I was going to go restock the line. I was told that this would be acceptable and that I could go home when I was done. At this point, I had no conscious idea what my real reason was for going to the stock room. I had a sleeve of cups in one hand and was just opening a case of cup lids using a utility knife in my left hand when I happened to look down at my left forearm where that scar is. The thought that ran through my brain was, “It didn't hurt at all.” That's when it hit the front of my brain like a sledge hammer. I was seriously considering suicide for the first time in my life.
    I tried everything they taught us in junior high. I tried thinking about all the people in my life that loved me. All I could think about them was that they (Jak included) would be better off without me (not true, but you'll remember that I told you I wasn't thinking straight). Finally, a thought ran through my head that has to do with my religion (I'm LDS. If you're genuinely curious, go ahead and ask me sometime). That one thought enabled me to put the knife away and finish restocking the line so that a could go home. I confessed to Jak later and I've never seriously considered suicide since.
    2. I remember that job. It was one of the few jobs Jak threw his whole soul into. So much so, in fact, that he refused to leave work to go to the hospital. Instead, he had me meet him at work with surgical gaze and medical tape and take him to the hospital when his shift was over.
    Those cowards canned him because the owners were on their case because of a large number of “drive-offs” (it was a gas station/convenience center/restaurant. A drive-off means someone has gotten gas and then driven away without paying. They were suppose to report them, but loads of the employees never did). Since Jak was honest about the number of drive-offs that happened while he was on the cash machine, he was the one with the most on record. So he was canned. It wasn't fair. But there wasn't a thing we could do about it.
    3. About my “nervous breakdown,” when we went onto assistance, they told us we would have to go to something called WorkFirst. Since my daughter was still young at the time, I only had to go to WorkFirst part time, that is until she hit her first birthday. After that, they started insisting I come full-time.
    The thing about WorkFirst is that they expect you to spend your time looking for work. Both Jak and I were suppose to be looking. That was frustrating for me because all I've ever wanted since I was a kid was to be a mom. It was my greatest dream. After my daughter turned one, they started to say that I had to place her in day care. I've always thought that day care was just someone's bad excuse to abrogate their responsibilities as a parent. (If you're a working or single mom, then please don't be offended. I've come to understand, since then, that what doesn't work for some mothers is the only alternative for others). At one point, I was complaining (I admit it) and one of the WorkFirst supervisors told me that I was just being selfish. She said that most families in America were supported by dual incomes, that I would never be able to support my family adequately on only one income, that I was being lazy and stupid and that, if I found a job, “my daughter would eventually thank me.” I wanted to hit her. She didn't understand. I felt like DSHS was taking away my dream; stopping me from being a mom, which was all I really wanted to be.
    I don't know how long after that it was, but one morning I was waiting in the hallway for WorkFirst to open up and, out of the blue, I started crying uncontrollably. After that, they filed disability papers for me and I never had to go back.
    4. I remember this job, too. Another of the jobs Jak poured himself into as completely as he could. Unfortunately, they don't have much in the way of funding so, even though they expressed a desire to keep Jak working for them, they could never afford it.
    5. I was okay with the crazy landlady, except that she had a way of being intimidating at times. As for the “bordello”, it never occurred to me that the girls downstairs from us were hookers, until after they left and I was helping clean up the apartment. However, it didn't come as much of a surprise. I can't count the number of times one or the other of us had to go downstairs late at night to ask them to be quieter.
    6. I was so mad. Jak was constantly shaking, having trouble getting into and out of bed and, when he was able to sleep, he sometimes stopped breathing. But when I went to the psych about it, he said that Jak just wasn't use to the med yet and eventually the side effects would die down. They didn't. In fact, they started getting worse. I ended up having to recruit Jak's dad and together we almost had to strangle the idiot to get him to take Jak off the med. Of course, it was only later that I learned that Jak was experiencing several of the side effects listed under the heading “rare”, one of which, I might add, was “death”. The whole situation was frustrating, because, as a therapist, the psychiatrist was essentially a good guy.
    7. I never had a problem with the aforementioned social worker. Poor Jak, though. She was really making Jak's life miserable. So much so that he started avoiding the DSHS building just so he wouldn't run into her.
    8. Although the bankruptcy didn't get us completely out of debt, it did go a long way toward getting us there.
    9. Ech. I hated that hearing. I wasn't just nervous. I was terrified. I'm so relieved it's over, but the thought that they'll decide some day that I'm sane enough now to go to work is never too far from my mind.
    10. I remember that too. In junior high, we were taught that, if a friend threatened suicide, to take them seriously. So when Jak came into the kitchen threatening to kill himself with a bottle of pills, I did the only thing I could think of. I managed somehow to get him into the bedroom, held him down and called 911. That was a really difficult month for me because I had to handle much of what usually goes on at our house all by myself and still manage to go down daily to the facility were Jak had agreed to stay.
    11. Oh yeah. Pepto house. That place was a dump. The owner swore up and down that he was fixing it up, but there were holes in the yard and what we could see through the windows looked like rat bait to me. So when Jak asked me what I thought of the place I told him on no uncertain terms that I would not be interested in living there.
    12. I told Jak that I was willing to go with him. He told me he could probably handle it. When he came back, he told me he wished I'd come along after all. :/
    13. I, on the other hand, have difficulty remembering to go to my appointments.
    14. We used part of it to get the rest of the way out of debt. Oh, what a bee-you-tiful feeling it is!!
    15. We'd heard that Jak's sister might be pregnant before she officially announced it to the family. So when she finally told everyone, I had made up my mind to let her know on no uncertain terms that she was going to need to find another babysitter before her new baby was born because I would never be able to handle four kids. Of course, I wasn't expecting her to find one right off the bat, but she made arrangements earlier than I was expecting so we've had to get use to the idea of not having her son around any more.
    16. Poor Jak. His back pain has been so bad lately, it makes it difficult to function as husband and wife, if you get my meaning.
    17. We still haven't heard from him, but then we have until Friday.


  2. re: #12: I asked my father to come with me. I thought it was easier for him to come, and for Cimmy to take care of Princess, than the other way around. My father went through the disability claim process too.The judge did allow him to give his perspective on my claim, and it did #15: All she did was have her schedule and my bro-in-law's (her husband) schedules rearranged so my nephew would go back to my father's house (he was our backup). Two hours most days, but a full day every other Friday. I'm sure I explained that in another post; as you might remember. I don't think it's quite fair to him, still.


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