Wednesday 17 January 2018

What's with the spoons?!

Often you will find those with chronic illnesses or disabilities like myself referring to spoons and our spoon count, and no, we are not talking about how many teaspoons we have left in the draw.

The Spoon Theory is a metaphor and is a way of describing what it is like to live with a chronic illness or disability and its limitations.

Where it all started

Spoon Theory was created by Christine Miserandio who has Lupus. She created Spoon Theory as a way of explaining other fine what is like to live with the condition.

Chronic illness and spoons

When you have a chronic illness or disability you have a limited amount of energy - physically, emotionally and cognitively.

With Spoon Theory it gives us a way to measure the energy we have and how we need to spend it as we don't have to bountiful amounts of energy able bodied people have.

Everything we do throughout the day uses energy in some way shape or form - getting out of bed, washing and dressing, making meals, going to work or studying, sorting out your emails, reading a book, going to a doctor's appointment, socialising with friends etc.

Spoon Theory explained

Each spoon is a unit of energy and we have a set limit for the day. Each task takes a spoon away from this daily 'bank of spoons'. So for example:

Daily allowance = 15 spoons

Getting out of bed = 1 spoon 
Making and having breakfast = 1 spoon 
Getting washed and dressed = 3 spoons 
Going to work or university = 5 spoons 
Picking up a some groceries = 3 spoons 
Making and eating evening meal = 2 spoons  (because you're getting tired)
Total = 15 spoons 

Now do you see that you've used up all your spoons and you have no spoons left for the rest of the evening so all you are able to do is lay on the sofa or go to bed early as there's not enough spoons to do anything else like meet up with a friend and you need that last bit of energy you have to get ready for bed.

This is just an average day. If you're having a really good day tasks may take up less spoons, but on a bad day tasks take up more spoons so you have to learn to prioritise. You may have to take the day off from work, or cancel plans with a friend for example so you have all the energy you have to get you through the day and just do the bare basics.

When we reach our spoon limit we experience a 'spoon crash' as we've used up all the spoons we have and we have no more left to get us through the rest of the day and we need to rest, have a nap or take time out.

Spoon Theory & Me

I find it a lot easier to say "I'm running low on spoon" rather than "I'm running low on physical, emotional and cognitive energy". (Though those who aren't familiar with Spoon Theory often give me a quizzical look wondering what the heck I'm on about!)

I was introduced to spoon theory by someone I knew at University who has MS. For a while I wondered what the heck she was on about when she kept referring to spoons and I even considered buying her a pack of teaspoons as I thought she didn't own many at home. Then one day I asked her "what is it with the spoons?' and then I was introduced to Spoon Theory and I've been using it ever since.