Bare Minimum Mode

California1 947

Today I find myself caught in a dilemma that has become all too common and familiar. Should I stay home, or should I go out? In the heart of a flare, when I find myself in “bare minimum mode,” this question resurfaces again and again, and I must decide between the comfort of my home where body will hopefully be restored or friends and community which will feed my isolated soul. The pain I suffer leads to isolation for the simple reason that going out leads to more pain. And so I turn a switch and move to survival mode, focusing on only the bare necessities of life – going to work, eating, sleeping, resting, and repeating. The house falls into disarray, the friend in need goes unhelped, my relationships are put on hold, and I go through each day with the sole goal of holding on and making it to the end. Surviving with no hope of thriving.

And this is when the guilt begins to surface. When I want to attend these activities, and when I believe that others expect or want me to attend, I am overcome with guilt. Because, it is not that I am unable to attend, it is that I have carefully sorted through the pros and cons of each option and determined that going will do more harm than good. I have carefully laid out in my mind the amount of energy I have available and where that energy will be allocated. Should I decide to go out, I may not have energy to go to work tomorrow or to make dinner for my family, so I often choose to stay.

Oh, the torment of deciding. Weighing so many different factors, considering both my own good and the good of others, putting this through some complex equation in my mind that I do not fully grasp and seeing what convoluted answer emerges on the other side. Because there is always doubt that I have in some way skewed the equation and come to the wrong answer, disappointing both myself and others.

Tonight, I am choosing to stay home instead of attending a goodbye party for friends who are moving. And I feel guilty. I’m not going because I want to get better and because I do not want to be in pain. I reason that I need a few more weeks of bare minimum mode to help me get back on track. On this particular occasion, little doubt exists that this may be the wrong decision. I know for a fact that going would impede any chance of climbing out of this flare. But the guilt still remains, despite my certainty I have chosen well.

And so I question where this guilt is coming from. Perhaps I have some twisted perception that I am needed in the group, and I am letting the group down by not being there. I think the difficulty lies in my inability to know how I will feel ahead of time. Committing ahead of time has become a great burden, as following through with my word is of utmost importance to me. Perhaps the moral of the story is that I need to commit to less right now. Perhaps I need to lay down my pride of feeling as though I am needed and humble myself to take care of myself without fear of other’s disappointment.

I lay here sorting through these questions.

When you find yourself in bare minimum mode, do you feel guilty for not “doing enough”? How do you work through this guilt?


  1. The spoon theory helped me alot with the guilt, I only have so many spoons and I can’t do everything, so I have to choose carefully how to spend them. Its just an unfortunate fact of chronically sick life.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts! I do appreciate the spoon theory on many levels. But, on another hand, it fails to describe the complexity of how I experience what I can and can’t do and how I end up allocating resources on a day to day basis.

      I think my guilt lies less in not being able to do everything, and more in specifically choosing what to include and what to exclude.

      1. Maybe I don’t understand your reply… but thats what the spoon theory is all about! Christine Miserandino invented it to explain how being sick forces you to prioritize and choose what is most important, because you have limited energy and endurance and simply can’t do it all like a healthy person can. She used the spoon theory to help a friend understand what its really like to be chronically sick, and live with the reality that you have to make unpleasant choices on a daily basis. “Its hard, the hardest thing I ever had to learn is to slow down, and not do everything. I fight this to this day. I hate
        feeling left out, having to choose to stay home, or to not get things done that I want to. I wanted her to feel that frustration. I wanted her to understand.”

    2. Thanks, yeah I have read the spoon theory and really like it. However I think it has not resonated as closely with me as some others – there are days that feel much more complicated than having a set number of spoons to use up in terms of my energy and resources. It would take awhile for me to go into detail on this, so maybe a post for another time 🙂 But I don’t say that to discredit the spoon theory at all! I make reference to it in my own life, and it is a great picture for explaining to others.

  2. Yes, a very familiar place for me too. Trying to decide about commitments, important ones, this weekend. My algorithms are complex like yours are. I think there’s some truth to the concept of caring for ourselves first so that we can care more for others because we have the physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional strength in reserve for them.

    When making commitments, it’s a judgement call, not one of those black-and-white situations. I have given myself some space to attend or not by telling my friends, “I do hope to attend and I’ll feel bummed if I can’t come, but if I don’t feel well enough, I’ll let you know as soon as I can.” That way, I AM still true to my word. I wouldn’t consider my response to an invite as “non-committal” but rather as committed with prerequisites. Haha. It’s easy for us chronic pain survivors to beat ourselves up over gray areas like this – and there are SO MANY, aren’t there?! – but it’s not usually helpful either to us or our friends/partners….

    Something my psychologist pointed out to me recently was that I could be compassionate with others, but I didn’t fare well when it came to extending that same compassion to myself; self-compassion. Not self-pity – those are different! When extending self-compassion, I try to answer the question, “How would I treat someone else walking in my shoes?”

    Praying we will have grace this week to do what God wants us to do and rest in the assurance that He will fill in any gaps you or I leave neglected by accident. 🙂

    1. I have been learning to do more of the “I would like to come, and will come if x, y, z….” I really need to come to a place where I can be more open with acquaintances about where I am. Close friends and my small group at church are highly aware and so gracious. When it comes to less close friends, I find myself not wanting to go into an explanation, but I think I need to step out of my comfort zone in this.

      I am horrible at self-compassion! That is a good question to remember. I am way harder on myself than others when it comes to these things 🙁

  3. I understand what you mean, I think at times we all feel guilty for not doing things for others or things we feel we “should be doing.” However, when it comes down to it I think we need to re-evaluate the situation, weigh up the good and bad points but always put our health first. If we don’t we are going to end up being able to do even less, so with that in mind, keep thinking of it as something to do so that you will be able to do more for others in the future and then hopefully the guilt will seem less. 🙂 x

Leave a Reply