The Spoon Theory

I was talking to a friend of mine recently about depression and how it can affect us.  One thing we agreed on was how easy it is to feel tired, to run out of energy.  It’s one thing we both struggle with.  That led her to bring up her interest in the Spoon Theory and that set me thinking…why not introduce you all to the Spoon Theory?  Perhaps you’ve heard of it, perhaps not but I did some reading and found it quite interesting.

The Origin of the Spoon Theory

So where does it come from?  Well, the Spoon Theory was created by a lady named Christine Miserandino as she tried to describe how you feel living with some kind of long-term illness.  She has written a lot about long-term sicknesses or disabilities and how it’s easy for people to say that you don’t look sick so how does it affect you.

On Christine’s website, she talks about how she and her best friend were sat in a diner talking.  It was one of the things she says she did a lot in college, sitting in the diner chatting about things.  Mostly trivial things, she says.  Chatting, eating and laughing, that sort of thing.  You know how it is, I’m sure you’ve done it too.

Anyway, she was about to take some medicine with her snack when she noticed her friend watching her.  It was one of those awkward looks people give you.  She asked what it felt like to have Lupus – Christine’s condition.  As you can imagine, a question coming out of the blue would be a surprise.  Certainly when people have asked me about my condition as randomly as that, it’s been a shock.  Still, Christine did her best to explain.  She talked about aches and pains, about medication and doctors but her friend wasn’t satisfied.  Finally, her friend asked what it felt like, not physically, to be ill.

That’s where the Spoon Theory came in.

The Spoon Theory

Christine handed her friend every spoon from the table.  Handing them to her, she said, “There you go, you have Lupus.”  She then went on to explain that the difference between being sick and being healthy is having to make choices or consciously think about things the rest of the world doesn’t have to.

At the beginning of the day, the majority of people will start with an infinite amount of possibilities.  They have enough energy to do whatever they want to put their mind to.  For sick people or people living with long-term health conditions, however, their energy levels are limited, meaning they are restricted in what they can do. They have to prioritise what they will do, think about every possible task they have to accomplish, and plan accordingly.

To do this, Christine used those spoons to convey her message.  Here is the quoted snippet from her article.

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Count Your Spoons

“I asked her to list off the tasks of her day, including the most simple. As, she rattled off daily chores, or just fun things to do; I explained how each one would cost her a spoon. When she jumped right into getting ready for work as her first task of the morning, I cut her off and took away a spoon. I practically jumped down her throat.

I said ” No! You don’t just get up. You have to crack open your eyes, and then realize you are late. You didn’t sleep well the night before. You have to crawl out of bed, and then you have to make your self something to eat before you can do anything else, because if you don’t, you can’t take your medicine, and if you don’t take your medicine you might as well give up all your spoons for today and tomorrow too.”

I quickly took away a spoon and she realized she hasn’t even gotten dressed yet. Showering cost her spoon, just for washing her hair and shaving her legs. Reaching high and low that early in the morning could actually cost more than one spoon, but I figured I would give her a break; I didn’t want to scare her right away. Getting dressed was worth another spoon. I stopped her and broke down every task to show her how every little detail needs to be thought about. You cannot simply just throw clothes on when you are sick. I explained that I have to see what clothes I can physically put on, if my hands hurt that day buttons are out of the question. If I have bruises that day, I need to wear long sleeves, and if I have a fever I need a sweater to stay warm and so on. If my hair is falling out I need to spend more time to look presentable, and then you need to factor in another 5 minutes for feeling badly that it took you 2 hours to do all this.”

It Will Cost You…

As the conversation progressed, they delved deeper into what things cost you spoons and what doesn’t.  Skipping lunch, for example, will cost you a spoon.  Sitting at the computer or standing on the train or the bus for too long would cost a spoon.  Even something as simple as choosing between running errands or eating that evening were choices that had to be thought about

Using spoons as symbols for energy, Christine conveyed her message successfully.  Every task, every chore costs you a spoon.  You can’t get more spoons – although you can borrow tomorrow’s spoons but that might burn you out quicker.  It’s all about prioritising what you can do.  That’s the only thing you can do.

The Full Article

If you’re interested in reading the full article, you can find it here.  Christine goes into detail talking about her explanation for her friend and how the conversation transpired.  I’d really encourage you to check it out!  It was an eye-opening article to read, even for me as someone who struggles on a daily basis with how many “spoons” I can start with.  Take a look.

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Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Author: Alex Davies

Alex Davies is the creator and writer for Pushing Back the Shadows. Find out more about his journey here and connect with him on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

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