The Bucket Theory isn’t a new thing – it’s been around for a long time in a lot of different forms. It is, however, incredibly relevant to the MTHFR problem and many of us have lived out the stages of the theory unknowingly. Here it is.
A Bucket Theory Fairy Tale
You’re born and for the most part, your body is clean, undamaged, fresh with promise. You’ve got a bucket, and it’s clean, shiny, and empty.
Life starts, you get skinned knees, your first emotional wounds, pick up a few viruses and a drippy nose along the way. Your family has a pretty clean diet and you live next to a farm. Your bucket starts to pick up a few things inside of it. Some toxins, some viruses hanging around, a few emotional stressors.
There is a tiny hole in the bottom of the bucket where the contents are being processed, and released from the bucket, but it’s pretty small. Doesn’t matter – the bucket doesn’t have much in it.
You are growing up and life is great. Sure, high school kind of sucked but you’re off to university and all the fun that goes with it. You get hit with mono, but you got it from your first love, so it was totally worth it. You maybe drink more than you should and ramen noodles are your go-to meal because you only have a kettle and a microwave, but things are amazing.
Your first love leaves to study animals in the Galapagos, or to party in Ibiza or to join a big firm in New York. Your heart breaks. You spend a few months mooning around eating carbs and going on dates.
Now you are entering the work force but the hours are long and god knows you don’t want to miss out on social time, so you’re burning the candle at both ends. Plus, that old soccer injury is playing up. You aren’t aware of your bucket at all – you’ve never even thought about it – but you’ve piled on enough tiny stressors and damage to your body, that your bucket is getting close to full.
You meet the love of your life and get a promotion – everything is golden. You buy a fixer-upper and spring for new carpets. You have a big deadline coming up at work and you’ve got to pay the mortgage and you’re often up at midnight, trying to make sense of the latest spreadsheet. Then, you find out that you’re going to be a parent – hooray! Then, to nobody’s surprise, you get the flu.
The flu lingered and you couldn’t get your pep back, but this is no time to take a break. Besides, you’re out of sick days at work and your deadline is looming so you jump back in full-throttle. You have no energy, but who really does? Except now it’s turning to summer and you still feel down.
You notice that you can’t work out anymore without feeling winded and your sleep is suffering because your mind races at night and you can’t seem to turn off. You know your life is really good, but you just can’t seem to connect with that because you’re so very tired.
Does any of this sound familiar?
This person’s bucket reached full with the flu. Now, there is no more room in their bucket so every little thing causes overflow – it is all, quite literally, too much.
This is one of the most common MTHFR stories I hear. “I was always so healthy, never though about my health at all – it was just there. Then I got the flu/a divorce/new carpets/a promotion/married and the wheels fell off the cart. It’s like overnight, everything changed. I feel like my body betrayed me.”
Your body didn’t – it’s just that your bucket filled up and now every little insult comes out as a symptom because it’s all overflowing over the top of the bucket. Your bucket is full.
This is usually where people start desperately looking around for help, going from doctor to doctor, practitioner to practitioner, and testing all of the things. Often, this is when people find out about their MTHFR issues. And this is totally normal.
The ultimate goal in working with your MTHFR, is to empty out your bucket. The more room you have in your bucket, the more you can cope with additional stressor without noticing that they take your body down. Emptying your bucket is a lot like filling up your bank account – it gives you some protection when crisis strikes. Granted, an emptier bucket won’t help you pay to fix your car when it breaks down, but it helps your body cope with the stressors that inevitably come. A little virus floating around at the office, a cut that gets infected, a new car with the formaldehyde-related new car smell, relationship trouble, worries and stresses, life changes.
Stressors don’t have to seem big or important to you, it isn’t about what you consciously acknowledge as stressful. It’s the accumulation of all of the extra work that your body has to do. It has to process toxins, fight off bacteria and viruses, manage stress hormones, cope with tiny nutritional insufficiencies, and deal with all of the physiological changes that come with strong emotions.
In terms of MTHFR – optimizing your methylation pathway, doing your slow detoxification, cleaning up your diet and helping yourself to regulate your emotions all help to empty out your bucket.
A full bucket doesn’t empty overnight. All you can really do is make that hole at the bottom a little bit bigger so that you can process your junk a tiny bit faster. Giving yourself buffers takes time and patience. You have to be willing to play the long game.
There are short cuts – I am pretty sure a month of fasting and cleansing in a health center in India or Thailand would give you a little bit of wiggle room in your bucket in one short month. Given that most of people don’t have that luxury, we’re left with slower options. Also, the month long detox can be undone pretty quickly, too. This is the point where you make a commitment to life-long change.
I think the Bucket Theory is important to understand with MTHFR because it gives you a concrete way to visualize your progress, and also helps you to recognize what an achievement it truly is when you begin to be able to cope again. When a bad night of sleep doesn’t set you back for a week you know your bucket has got a little bit of space in it. It’s a really big deal.