I blocked someone today on Twitter.1 I think I’ve done this maybe half a dozen times to non-spam accounts in the more than year since I’ve been on Twitter, and (almost?) all of those have been run-of-the-mill trolls and douchebags. This one was wasn’t. She was someone who was, I think, misinterpreting what I was saying, taking offense at it, and letting me know. She is probably a lovely person, and good at what she does.
And I blocked her.
Why? Because I was dreading looking at my timeline. Because my sympathetic nervous system was activated; my pulse was up, my breath faster, my attention hyper-focused, my hands starting to shake. Because, simply, my spoons were vanishing before my eyes.
Spoon theory, to summarize, states that we have a limited number of units of energy, coping ability, what-have-you (measured in spoons, of course), and everything we do takes some number of units. Nondisabled people have if not an infinite number then a plentiful supply; and what’s more, they are (more or less by definition) easily replenished.2 People with various disabilities (mobility, energy, psychiatric, mood/emotional, and so on) might have a smaller number, need to spend more going about daily life, have difficulties getting them back, or have more dire consequences should they run out.
I am mostly stable at the moment; I don’t have to count each single spoon when I get up the morning, nor weigh each minor activity against my remaining supply. For all that I complain (with cause!) about having to choose between sleep and work, I mostly, on balance, am getting adequate (if not plentiful) amounts of each. But always, always I must be aware of my spoon supply; always I must monitor my expenditures; always I must make sure I do not come too close to running out, else risk falling into disregulation, with the weeks — or more — of hard work and lost time and lost living that would follow. Because I am about as stable as I ever get, these things don’t have to be at the forefront of my mind; because I am and will always be bipolar, they must always at least be in the back.
Almost all of my activism is online; almost all my work is virtual. It is no less real therefore, but it does afford me this: that when I realize that my spoons are being sucked away at an alarming rate, I can have great control over/access to tools of disengagement.
Sometimes, when I stop debating, it’s not because I think you’re right or I don’t have a counter-argument or I’m giving up — it might just be because I’m out of spoons.
Sometimes, when I stop following you, it’s not because I hate what you say or think you’re unbelievably boring — it might just be that I can’t spend my spoons on you anymore.
Sometimes, when I block you, it’s not because I think you’re a troll or a bad person or are talking in bad faith — it might just be that my spoons are vanishing before my eyes.
I have to be careful with this, of course; disengagement is also a powerful privilege-protection mechanism, usually unconscious. We use it to not have to question ourselves, to ignore challenges to our unquestioned assumptions, to stay safe in our comfy familiar cages. So I question myself every time I choose it, and (too often, perhaps) don’t disengage because I think I need to hear what is being said, or am afraid it’s a too-convenient excuse, or don’t want to — hah! — be that “weak”. But I usually know, early on, whether a conversation is going to be productive; I usually know quickly whether I have the spoons at that moment to find out. Every time, I have to find my way between self-delusion and self-care.
Disengagement, thankfully, isn’t the only method of spoon conservation, and it’s definitely not the only tool I use — but I gotta say, I do it a lot3. When I do (when I see spoons disappearing or after they’ve all been drained), sometimes I explain, or try to; sometimes even the thought of that is more than I am able to do right then. Sometimes I am able to come back later; sometimes I am not. I know it can suck to be on the receiving end of; I know it sometimes makes me look like a bad activist, like I’m giving up or giving in. But none of that, none of that is as important to me as my primary goal: stability.
So I’m sorry. The person that I blocked: I was frustrated with you, yes, but it wasn’t about you at all, really. I’m sorry you probably think horrible things about me now. I’m sorry I probably hurt you. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to have a productive conversation with you, and I’m sorry I wasn’t able to simply not have a conversation with you right then. I haven’t forgotten or dismissed or ignored what you said, and I’m sorry I won’t be able to talk with you about it after I’ve mulled it over. Maybe I could’ve or should’ve made a different choice. Maybe some other time I would have been happy to.
But sometimes, spoons come first.
- For those not on Twitter, this means they cannot see my tweets, and theirs do not show up in my timeline. ↩
- Spoon theory isn’t about abled people because, simply, they don’t need it. Abled people might like the nomenclature or the idea, but there is a difference between the daily trials of abled life and the sort of spoon-economics the disabled must become proficient in. ↩
- Sometimes I think that what others see as me being composed, or kind, or serene, or able to somehow rise above, or whatever, is more a matter of me knowing that I can’t allow myself to get engaged by spouting some of the choice comments that are threatening to get out. ↩