My Bucket Theory

A plastic yellow bucket.

A plastic yellow bucket. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The last two weeks I’ve been dealing with a fairly intense pain flare. The last three days have been the worst with me having issues doing simple things like using the bathroom, showering and dressing myself. Painkillers that are supposed to be effective for about 3 hours are having a useful effect of half that time in my body at present and I’m completely exhausted from the lack of sleep and the general drain that the pain is putting on my body.

I had a bit of a melt down the other day with my last post. When I deal with pain, I generally apply something I call the Bucket Theory. It goes like this:

I have a bucket. On a normal day, I wake up with a bit of pain into the bottom of the bucket and carry it around. It’s not too heavy and kind of like having water in a bucket. It moves and can splash up against the sides during a pain spike if I’m not careful with the bucket. As I go through the day, other issues collect in that bucket. Bills, chores I need to do, things I need to remember. Stress and concerns are in there too, kind of like rocks in a pond. The more issues in the bucket, the more it displaces the pain and makes it more noticeable, the same way putting rocks in a bucket of water will make the water inch up. There’s also something like a balloon in there. The less sleep I get, the bigger that balloon gets. All of the  creative things I WANT to do kind of float on the surface like oil and are prone to being either ignored or aren’t eye-catching enough with everything underneath the surface. I occasionally have good things happen, but they still take energy from me, so consider them things like small coins or shiny marbles in that bucket.

Now. Some days I’ll wake up with a lot more water in that bucket than other days. On a bad pain day like today, my bucket is 3/4 full. It probably started about half full, but I had an awful night’s sleep so that balloon is taking up a fair bit of space. Today I have things that I need to get done. I have to call a car dealer about the car I bought – it has so many issues it shouldn’t have been sold with a roadworthy certificate. That’s a BIG rock. I have to call and visit two mechanics. Another two fairly large rocks. The house is a mess. A medium sized rock. More annoying than anything, but still requiring a LOT of my energy. There’s a good dozen or so little personal rocks and pebbles in that bucket and several fairly large business issues in there. There’s a shiny coin or two in there thanks to my best friend possibly having her baby today. There’s also a large rock thanks to the idea that (because of this pain flare) I won’t be able to be there for her.

Rock Me Baby

Rock Me Baby (Photo credit: Bruce McKay Yellow Snow Photography)

The bucket is pretty damn close to full and very heavy. In fact, if I’m not careful with how I carry it, water splashes up and over the edges and it requires a lot of my concentration to remain on task with all the things in the bucket. I had some plans to do something fun today, but with the bucket splashing about, those have fallen out the top. The only way to make the bucket a little more empty is to take some of those rocks out by getting the job done, but you can only take the out AFTER the work is done and you have to be carrying the bucket the whole time.

When that bucket hits critical mass and the water starts to flow over the sides, I have had enough. I cry, I get angry and upset. I’m stressed out and I have hit my limit. My body reacts the same and I have a complete blowout. This takes a few inches off the top of the bucket, but I have to work like mad to get the rest of the rocks out there since there are new ones tumbling in all the time.

It’s a very rare day when I wake up with a mostly empty bucket, and even then I get the idea that I can cram as much floaty creative things in there as possible and end up filling up my bucket that way anyway. I’ll have had fun, but I’ll be completely out of energy and sore as hell by the end of it.

The biggest problem is trying to explain this concept to people that don’t suffer chronic pain. You can’t quite get across the idea that hauling that kind of stuff around all day can also take it out of you. Just from CARRYING that bucket. That’s without even thinking of anything else that’s already inside there. So I really hope that this little explanation helps to get the message across – not just for me, but for anyone who has trouble explaining this concept. You’re all more than welcome to reblog and share this piece if you find it relevant.

Now, I’m off to try and empty my bucket :/


5 thoughts on “My Bucket Theory

  1. I really like your analogy of all the things we have to cope with in dealing with chronic pain, little every day tasks add to our pain and take away our energy so quickly! It was a really well written post too, hope this cheers you up a tiny bit! Here’s to feeling better soon!x

    • Thank you. See, I loved the spoon theory and this is what inspired me to write this, but I found that spoons just didn’t quite get through the message of what it’s like to carry the weight of chronic illness day to day. I guess I see this as being more of an ’emotional’ side of things, rather than physical.

      I really appreciate you taking the time to stop by and read 🙂

  2. This is a great explanation, it’s the best I’ve ever heard it explained. The first thing I did was show my husband, and I believe he now has a better understanding of what I go through every day. Thank you for that.

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