I talk sometimes in my life about hitting walls. I’ll hit physical walls of just not being able to do anything physically anymore or emotional walls of not being able to cope with anything else emotionally. My friends use the terminology of “spoons” from Christine Miserandino and her essay “The Spoon Theory” wherein you only have a certain number of spoons for a day and sometimes it takes all of them to do simple tasks. Spoons are a new part of my vocabulary too.
This past weekend, I went camping. It was my first time camping without my parents and my first time camping with a tent (not an RV) in about 15 years. One of my friends suggested it a few weeks back and I latched to the idea. People have suggested camping with me in the past, since I’ve been an adult, but it’s never panned out and often they’ll end up going and neglecting to actually tell me when they’re going until after the fact. I told my friend this and he told me that he would make sure it would actually happen this time. However, the whole leadup to the trip was fully anxiety inducing for me.
There was a lot of back and forth with my friend about when and where and what was needed and who was bringing what. I made at least six lists related to the trip between lists of who to contact, lists of what to bring, lists of what to pack, lists of what to buy…
I left for my first aid course on Friday morning (with only 2 hours sleep) not knowing who was picking me up or from where, just knowing that I wasn’t going home. We managed to get to the campsite without incident on Friday evening and it even felt awesome. The first part was just me and one friend (not the one who helped plan it all), with no vehicle. Another friend joined us later on and we stayed up late chatting and playing games. We went to bed late and I was up with the crack of dawn.
In the morning, we went for some walks, chatted, played some games. On our walk just after lunch, I started feeling an ache in my knee. I get aches all over my body and have for a long time, so I thought nothing of it, however it did hurt bad enough that I was limping. After a while, as per normal, it went away. Then, I got pain again. This time, all over my body, head to toe, in random spots. All of it was fairly strong, but nothing I haven’t pushed through before. We were enjoying the walk and far enough away from our site that turning back wasn’t really an option, so I just pushed through and didn’t say anything.
About 45minutes into our walk, I hit a wall. I’d already hit a wall of pain, but I was pushing through that. This wall was different. This wall was physical exhaustion. This wall felt like I’d just gone for a 10k run and every single step and breath was effort beyond what felt like I was capable of doing. Feeling like I didn’t have a choice, I kept going.
When we got back to the campsite, I told my friends that I needed some quiet time alone with a book. I grabbed a book and vanished into the woods. The one who came late left and the other who was staying went to lay down. I was so glad they decided to do their own things because I had hit another wall in terms of emotional output. I’d run out of spoons, no more ability to deal with people.
Reading wasn’t helping and not knowing who was coming when later that day wasn’t helping either. I wandered off and made connection with the two friends who were coming later that day to find out what the plan might be. That helped me recollect enough to be able to hear what my body might actually need for me to recoup myself.
I’m grateful I packed my pocket knife (a tool I typically keep locked away due to self harm associations from my past) because I pulled it out and found a couple good sticks. I spent most of the afternoon carving a crude knife and spoon. (It seems entirely backwards that doing a physically intensive craft such as carving when feeling physically in pain and drained would help, but it really did.)
With more energy under my belt, I was able to go for another walk with my friend and play some games. When it started to rain after dinner, we tidied up the site and moved into the tent. Our other friends arrived and we played games late into the night again. One of my friends (the one who helped organize, the one who’s been my rock in this emotionally tumultuous time, the one who’s about to hide away while working on his thesis for several months) hugged me well and gave me a massage and physical connection while we chatted. It helped me come down some more and collect myself more, but it wasn’t really enough. This time, I got less sleep and was up with the crack of dawn again.
When I got dropped at home, I almost immediately wrapped myself in the borrowed weighted blanket. I ended up having a nap under my regular blankets (sheet, blanket, quilt) and the weighted blanket. Napping is a thing that I actively avoid given my issues with insomnia and historically has led to poor nights sleep, but apparently I needed it yesterday because I slept for 2 hours (making for a total of about 11 hours in 3 nights) and I still slept a full 7.5hours last night (also under full bedding and weighted blanket). I woke up this morning finally feeling refreshed and more myself.
The Take Aways
My take-aways from this weekend are not what I was hoping for. I really enjoyed the time I spent with my friends out in nature. It was great to connect away from technology and distractions, be able to get to know each other better and to just be with each other.
I didn’t know that I couldn’t handle that much time in close proximity with people.
I didn’t know that I needed my personal space to that level.
I didn’t know how pervasive the pain is that I’m dealing with.
How to Deal
I’ve fallen hard on the side of “extroversion” with spending more and more time with people. I know I need a balance of people time and alone time and this weekend really drove that point home. I’m not an extrovert. I’m also not an introvert. But I do need time in both spaces. I’m going to spend some time working on finding a better balance of this so that I’m less likely to hit those emotional walls, to run out of spoons, and be more likely to actually be fully present when I am with the people I’m with.
The pain is another challenge altogether. I have a limited amount of time off that I can take for work and I’d rather take it to enjoy time than for appointments. This coming year I have a lot of appointments between what’s going on with my transition and going back on testosterone and with what’s going on with my mental health on both the crisis/trauma side of things and the neuro-divergent side of things. I know if I were to ask a doctor about the pain, that I’d find myself in for a lot of appointments and physical assessments while they try to figure it out. I’ve been coping with it for several years already with very little change in presentation. I feel like i can cope for one more year. There’s also a possibility that it’s a physical manifestation of my mental health problems and that there would be no answer from the doctors. If that’s the case, then the pain would slowly improve (theoretically at least) as my mental health improved. So, I’m playing wait and see. I’ll go to the doctor in a year, when my contract is up with the current job I have and when I have more flexibility about what I do. Or, I’ll go when the pain impacts my ability to do my job.