Spoon Theory

Have you ever heard of the Spoon Theory?

It’s a metaphor for living with disabilities from chronic illness, and it makes all kinds of sense to me. I became familiar with it when I was seeing a therapist a few years ago. Say you’re given 12 spoons at the beginning of each day; they represent the difficulty of activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, cooking, going to work, even getting out of bed. For example, a shower costs you two spoons. Making and eating a meal uses up three spoons. Grocery shopping and exercise are four spoons apiece…see where I’m going with this?

You also have to give up spoons when you don’t sleep well, skip meals, forget your meds, or get sick (physically OR mentally). This will put you behind for the day and you may even get shorted the next day if you borrow from tomorrow’s supply of spoons.

The thing with the spoons is, you only get a certain amount of them per day, 12 being the operative number here, and when they’re gone, they’re GONE. There is no substance left for anything else. So you have to be careful where you use your spoons (spend your energy). Like today, I got out of bed and performed my morning routine. One spoon each. Did dishes and cleaned up the kitchen, three spoons. Watched TV and surfed the Internet, two spoons. Cleaned up frequent puppy “accidents” and washed and folded two loads of laundry (which is a real chore for me thanks to my back), three spoons. Sat down to squeeze out this post as I can’t come up with anything else to write about, two spoons. See, I’m already up to 11 and the only really productive thing I did was the wash. And I’m done. I’ve had enough day today. I’ll use up my last spoon when I take my meds tonight and go to bed, and then tomorrow I’ll get another 12 to use as I see fit.

Let’s see, I’m going to church. Driving 25 miles to get there is three spoons, attending Mass and socializing afterwards is four. That leaves five for the rest of the day, and it’s only noon. Don’t forget, getting up and dressed and taking meds uses two…well, you see what I’m up against.

I did not make any of this up. The Spoon Theory was invented by a woman named Christine Miserandino at ButYouDon’tLookSick.com. She has lupus and she came up with the idea as an explanation for her friend as to why she has to ration her energy and can only do so much in a given day. “Spoonies” don’t have to be physically incapacitated, of course; the theory works for those of us who have mental illnesses too. Sometimes it takes a great deal of vitality that we don’t have just to complete our ADLs. I’m not kidding. There are times when it feels like taking a freaking shower uses up the whole dozen spoons all by itself and I laze on the sofa for the rest of the day; other times, like today, I had enough spoons to do what I needed to do, and I’m grateful for days like this because I don’t feel like a total failure.

I’ve actually been doing pretty well spoon-wise; sometimes I even have one or two left to spare at the end of the day and I use them to get more done the next day. But I am always aware of the need to conserve my strength, not only for the things that must be done but for the things I enjoy.

Published by bpnurse

I'm a retired registered nurse and writer who also happens to be street-rat crazy, if the DSM-IV.....oops, 5---is to be believed. I was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder at the age of 55, and am still sorting through the ashes of the flaming garbage pile that my life had become. Here, I'll share the lumps and bumps of a late-life journey toward sanity.... along with some rants, gripes, sour grapes and good old-fashioned whining from time to time. It's not easy being bipolar in a unipolar world; let's figure it out together.

One thought on “Spoon Theory

  1. And sometimes if I’m going through a “good” spell, a shower, for example, doesn’t “cost as much” as when I am severely depressed or hypomanic. LATELY tho a shower is worth 12 spoons!!! Which explains why once a week is pushing it and a bird bath will suffice.

    Liked by 1 person

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