Depression – Buckets, Spoons, And Hatchets

Several months ago I wrote about my struggles with depression. I’ve come a fair way since penning that piece and I thought an update was in order. Now, to be completely transparent right from the get go, depression is still a part of my life. I might even go so far as to say that it’s the dominant lens that I see the world through. Depression hasn’t suddenly gone away. I haven’t discovered a magical cure and my life is far from all rainbows and unicorns. But over the months, I’ve been able to carve out a little space away from depression. I’ve cultivated a measure of perspective, and found that I can string a few good days together in a row, which creates just a bit of breathing room.

Notice this time around, I’m not using a capital D and I’m not giving depression a personality. I’m working, really working to see depression as a part of my overall experience of life and not the totality of it. I am not depression. I have depression. I also have joy and heartache and anger and ridiculously long fits of laughter. I wish there was an equal air time provision or an incredibly reliable British Rail schedule, so that I could say “tomorrow, I’ll be experiencing crushing depression, but the day after will be overflowing with joy, so stop by then.” Until that day arrives, I have to rely on other tools and methods.

 Pixabay -CC0 Public Domain Free for commercial
Pixabay -CC0 Public Domain Free for commercial use.


There’s a Work bucket. There’s a Magic bucket. In the corner over there, hiding behind the Finances bucket and the Blogging bucket, is the Public Priestess/Teacher bucket. Stacked against a wall are a series of buckets, arranged alphabetically and by size, loosely titled “Shit I Have To Deal With But Don’t Want To.”

As a rule, I’m not fond of buckets and the over compartmentalizing of my life. In fact, I’m a huge advocate for just the opposite. I love to look at life from a holistic perspective. To quote Dirk Gently, “`holistic’ refers to my conviction that what we are concerned with here is the fundamental interconnectedness of all things.” I do believe that a pebble dropped in one bucket will inevitably cause a splash and that the resulting droplets, when finding themselves suddenly airborne, will look for a different bucket to land in, and the product is a delicious pastiche of buckets containing a bit of everything and not too much of anything.

But in the middle of depression, buckets can be useful. Today, my Work bucket is pretty full and there are no pebbles about to splop droplets about. I can, for a few moments at least, leave that bucket alone. One of the buckets in the aforementioned S.I.H.T.D.W.B.D.W.T pile is in need of some real attention. Forget the pebble, a huge boulder is plummeting towards splashdown and things are about to get messy. This bucket has been causing me a significant amount of grief for many months and an easy resolution doesn’t appear to be on the horizon any time soon. But this bucket is not connected to my Work bucket. I don’t have to worry about the Work bucket or conflate the impending tsunami of the first bucket with the rather still waters of the other bucket.

I wasn’t surprised to learn that a certain number of my buckets were full. I was shocked though to find out that a great number of my buckets were empty or near empty and, along with being empty, the buckets had copious holes in them, preventing me from filling them up. This has caused much consternation and consternation is just a stop or two down the line from depression. So I had to look to a different tool.

 Pixabay -CC0 Public Domain Free for commercial use No attribution required
Pixabay -CC0 Public Domain Free for commercial use.


There’s something called  The Spoon Theory that I ran across a few years ago. Here’s my simple rendering of it. I wake up every day and there’s an imaginary cutlery drawer floating next to my bed. I reach into the drawer and discover I have three spoons for today. One spoon is labelled “Self-Care”, another says “Work” and the final spoon says “Answer those 17 emails in your inbox that you put off answering last week”. That’s it. I’ve got three total spoons to use as resources for the day.

About twenty minutes into my work day, it turns out there are three, big emergency projects that need attending to and the company in Florida I work for, needs me on it right away. It’s okay, I’ve got my work spoon. I can deal with this. Then I realize I should eat and shower (I work from home most of the time, so showering is not a pre-work ritual). I got a spoon for that. Then I get a call from my partner that there’s an important errand that needs running right this instant. Uh oh! There’s no spoon for this. I spend my “17 emails” spoon dealing with the errand. Now I have no spoons. That means those seventeen emails aren’t getting answered today. Then one of my buckets tips over and there’s “Shit I Have To Deal With But Don’t Want To” all over the floor and there are no spoons. Where are all the spoons? So, it’s back to bed for me or collapsing on the couch with Netflix or crying in the shower. Tomorrow I wake up and there are no spoons in the imaginary, floating cutlery drawer. I stay in bed.

I’ve learned that on any given day, I’ll only have so many resources to deal with what comes my way. Those resources are finite. There isn’t a supply of hidden spoons somewhere. This is new for me. I’ve always had access to all the spoons. Having a limited number of resources means that I have to communicate really well with other people just what I can do today. Of course, dealing with other people requires a particular spoon and I don’t always have that spoon handy, but I do my best with what I have. I’ve also learned that I need to be crystal clear about what I say “yes” to. And I don’t just mean agreements I make with other folks, I’m talking about agreements I make with myself here too.

Right now, at this moment in my life, I don’t have the cutlery cavalry waiting just over the hill to be called upon to bail me out. I’m learning about forgiveness and grace and letting myself drop a few things, knowing that I might be able to pick them up later or I might not, and that’s okay too most of the time. I’m also noticing who in my life is able to hear and appreciate my spoon situation and who is still demanding I show up the way they think I ought to. And that brings me to my next tool.

 Pixabay -CC0 Public Domain Free for commercial
Pixabay -CC0 Public Domain Free for commercial use


Not every situation requires cutting but some do. I get that using a hatchet to chop off my leg from the knee down, seems a bit of an overreach, when what is needed is a pair of nail clippers. And yet.

I’m a magic worker. I’ve practiced long and hard and I know the difference between an energetic lopping off and a more or less permanent hack job. There are situations in my life that are toxic, pernicious and demand a whole wing of the Oneida Cutlery Company’s spoon division dedicated to their resolution. I don’t have that kind of spoon capital and if I did, I’d put it to use elsewhere first. So, it’s off with their head…for now.

What I’m realizing is that I can only bear what is mine and I find that I’ve been holding an awful lot that belongs to other people. And worse yet, I’ve been letting the stuff I’m carrying for or because of them weigh me down so much that I can’t move. In fact, it feels like there’s so much weight and responsibility resting on my shoulders and chest that belongs with others, I can’t breathe. And to be perfectly frank, I’m also holding a ton of stuff of my own that I should have put down a long, long time ago and thought I had, until I discovered it hanging in a duffel bag, securely tied around my mid-section.

I’ve lost nearly twenty pounds in the past few months and I’ve done it quite intentionally. Part is diet and exercise (when I have Diet and Exercise spoons available that is) and part of it has been magical intention. The weight I’m shedding has nothing to do with hitting some imagined ideal number on a scale and everything to do with shedding burdens.

But of course, as with any magic, there’s a cost. Some cuts will be fatal. Some relationships will not be repaired. I will get hurt and I will cause hurt along the way. I’m not okay with that. And yet.

And that’s the piece that’s so crushing and throws me back into depression over and over again. I know there’s more grief and hurt and hacking to come.

A Note

On a rare occasion, the cutlery drawer shows up next to my bed and inside of it there’s a note. It says ” We over here at the Spoon Allocation Department have alerted the Bucket Division that you could use a few patches. Bucket lads have assured us that repaired and replenished buckets have a direct impact on how many spoons are available. Although we don’t have any actual dates to give you, we do believe that more spoons are on their way soon. Until then, here’s a shrimp fork. You never know when it might come in handy. Cheers – Your Spoons.”

Another Note To You

Today is better than yesterday. Some days this is not true. Whilst I prefer better days, I’m embracing the not so better days as they come. There are some really crappy, horrible, “Surely these are not my monkeys. What do you mean these are my monkeys? These can’t be my monkeys!” days as well. Those are the days I dread and try my best not to dwell on.

Many people, beloveds, friends and complete and utter strangers that have unfortunately stumbled upon me in this state, have extended me a million kindnesses. I have said thank you and I have not when perhaps I should have. I’ve definitely not on some days because I just couldn’t. So if you are one of those folks and I missed the opportunity to notice what you did… Thank You.

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