A lot of people have been mentioning this lately. I have a canned explanation of it so thought I might just share in case anyone else was interested.
The question can come in any number of forms. I have heard it as I don’t understand why one day you are so tired you can’t move and the next you are running around fine if you want to(implying that I am faking). I have heard it as you always seem to have so much energy every time I see you. I have heard it as all sorts of variations.
As a child the most common thing I heard relative to my energy level was that it was “as boundless as the ocean” which is probably why THIS version of this explanation sticks in my head. Dorid has her spoon theory, which makes perfect sense to me but I find it easier for me to describe it this way to others.
When we were young children most of us had energy levels that could only be described as almost limitless, we ran around as effortlessly as if we were drawing our energy from the ocean. We would recharge in no time flat and be back at it again. As we age, this level drops off at some point. We get to be teens and young adults and the energy source is more like a swimming pool. For most adult people the level stabilizes somewhere around “rain barrel”. Those of us who battle chronic illness (be it mental or physical), excessive stress, or any combination of these our energy source is more like a bucket.
You see when you are child, everything you need to do requires a ladle full of “water” from that source to fuel it. You have an entire ocean full so you can “dip” into over and over again with very little impact. As you age, you need longer to refill it but it still pretty much is unlimited. Those of us in the last category find that we have to be careful with how often we “dip” out of that bucket or we run the risk of running out.
You see, the reason we only have a bucket worth of energy in the first place is because your body can only generate so much energy. When you are young it generates so much it takes the ocean to hold it but when your body is working less than optimally it can only generate enough to barely fill that bucket.
There is yet another catch, that is that because your body is working less than optimally things that a normal person does on one “dip” might take you two or even three “dips” out of your bucket. You have plan carefully when and how much you “dip” or you find yourself running out. When your bucket runs dry, that is the day that you just can’t even find the energy to get out of bed. Those are the days when it hurts just to breathe.
In my case, I push the limits of my bucket pretty hard. I do this knowing that there will be a price to pay but I refuse to slow down just to conserve my bucket. I would rather live what life I have. Every little thing I do takes a “dip” out of that bucket, on top of that things like stress also take a “dip”. I find that certain things, while they take extra “dips” have a reward in that they give back more “dips” than they take. Going to the beach takes a fair amount of energy but is gives me back a lot more. Hanging out with the band costs me in terms of rest and energy but it gives me back almost a full bucket every time. The trick is to learn to balance these things.
In general I do a fair job of balancing my bucket load. Then there are days when someone comes along and tips my bucket. I get a turkey stressing me out. I get unexpected things that hit hard. Those all take a toll on my bucket and I might suddenly find myself low on reserves. I will cut back on a lot of things and try to make it through but there are things that HAVE to be done. I have to go to work, I have to take care of my pets, I have to be sure everyone including myself is fed, and things like that. I can’t cut those out so you try to adapt. Sometimes you make it and hardly anyone notices. Sometimes you can’t adapt enough and you have a day where you simply can’t get out of bed. Those are the days when people notice.
That is my bucket theory. I hope it helps understand a bit what some of us are going through. You have great days where you are on top of everything and not so great days and then there are the days where you simply appear to fall off the planet.
I want to mention too that there is an added tie in to this. This sort of came up yesterday because there is another factor. Yesterday I had one of those days that stressed my bucket. Well to be honest, it was a few days of bucket stress.
It started on Saturday. Some turkey came along and stressed me out. I knew I had to start conservation mode but I also already made promises that needed to be kept.
Sunday came and I was in full conservation mode…. You guessed it, turkey number two came along and took a big old drink out of my bucket.
Monday saw me still in full conservation mode and barely able to pull myself out of bed and off to work. I had that big meeting I talked about which should have been a bigger “dip” than it was. This was because of the effect of the guys helping me out like they did. I went home somewhat even thinking I had done good. Then along came turkey number three. He dumped my bucket over.
Tuesday after about 12 ours sleep I dragged myself out of bed and made my way to work. I mentioned above that days like this most people hardly notice. There are people though who DO notice. This is where that tie in comes in. I had just finished passing out those treats and thank yous to the guys and was standing in the hall outside my office. One of the guys who is not particularly close to me walked up and patted my shoulder. He gave it a small squeeze and said, “it will be alright, thanks for everything”, and then walked away. That little boost gave my bucket the few needed “dips” to get through the rest of the workday. I got home running on fumes and got hit with yet another turkey. It almost did me in. In fact, I failed to keep a promise and it was noticed. It prompted a call. The call wasn’t to demand the promise be kept but rather concern that since I ALWAYS keep promises something must be wrong. The person was quick to point out how appreciated it is that I DO but that when I don’t it is no big deal. That call helped me out a bit actually that call and the follow up to it helped me immensely. I was able to get through the night.
Today I woke somewhat better. My bucket right now is a bit below half full but I will make it through the day. What is keeping me going today though? The thought that tonight, I will throw caution and my bucket to the wind to go see that band knowing that they will refill that bucket.
This ties back to yesterday too. People made a difference in my bucket levels. They didn’t do anything huge, they just let me know that they noticed and that it mattered to them. So beyond just understanding the bucket theory…. Understand that there are times when the simple act of acknowledging someone’s distress can make a major impact on the level of their bucket. Be aware that this works the other way too…. If you stress someone by recognizing the problem AS a negative, it will further reduce their levels and make the problem worse.