scrapbook page with dried flowers, spoons and title spoon theory

Spoon Theory

Have you ever heard someone say that they’re out of spoons? Maybe when they’re feeling burnt out, exhausted or just completely out of energy? It’s an expression I’ve used pretty often throughout the years, ever since I discovered Spoon Theory and how perfectly it describes what I’m feeling sometimes. Today I thought I’d share a bit about spoon theory and how it can help a ‘spoonie’ explain what’s going on with them.

What exactly is a spoonie?

Basically, a spoonie is someone who has a chronic illness which can make even the simplest tasks more difficult. These people might seem healthy, as chronic illnesses are often ‘invisible’, but are often fighting hard battles. Some examples of these conditions are Fibromyalgia, Ehlers Danlos, lupus, MS and more. I’ve also heard many people in the ADHD community as well some suffering from depression or other mental health issues refer to limited spoons as well. Really, a spoonie is anyone who feels like they belong in this community and subscribes to spoon theory.

What is Spoon Theory?

Spoon theory is basically a metaphor for energy. It was created back in 2010 by Christine Miserandino as a way to help a friend understand what it was like living with a chronic illness. A spoon represents a unit of energy that is required to do something. Each task you need to do during the day requires a certain number of spoons. There are no ‘free tasks’. Each requires at least one spoon. Getting out of bed- a spoon. Brushing your teeth- a spoon. Making breakfast- a spoon. Smaller tasks might be one spoon, while larger or more complicated tasks might take a few. Sometimes, something as simple as taking a shower can lead to you feeling like you need a nap.

Every person wakes up with a certain number of spoons. But while an average person might wake up with upwards of fifty spoons, someone with a chronic condition might only wake up with ten. Knowing that your spoons are limited, you have to be very aware of how you’re going to use them throughout the day. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. Meaning if you use up all of your spoons before lunch, you’re not really going to be able to do much for the rest of the day.

What happens if you run out of spoons?

In reality, many spoonies run out of spoons pretty often. Sometimes it leads to retreating to the couch or bed and crashing until more spoons are available. But often, we try to push through. We borrow spoons from the next day and then we suffer for it later. For example, I used to photograph weddings which was a long day with a lot of heavy equipment. I would push through and work through the pain and fatigue in order to get the job done, but I often ended up stuck in bed for the next few days in order to recover.

Spoon theory can help us not only explain our limitations to others, but also serve as a reminder to plan ahead so that we can sort of distribute our energy as needed. We can save spoons for important tasks that we know are coming in order to make things easier on ourselves. It helps us remember to slow down.

Personally, I am someone who has always struggled with accepting my limitations.

Too many times, I’ve tried to push through, meaning I end up borrowing future spoons and starting my next day with even less energy. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve known that I was a part of this community for a really long time, and I still have a hard time. But knowing about spoon theory has helped me to give myself grace because I understand my situation a little more. I also know that I am not alone. The spoonie community has spread across many platforms and helps a lot of us to remember that we’re not crazy or lazy. And we’re certainly not alone.

If any of this sounds like you, I encourage you to read more about spoon theory, and also to check out #spoonie or #spoonieproblems on social media. You’d be surprised at how much better you might feel sometimes, knowing that someone else  gets what you’re going through.

Wishing you extra spoons today!


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