Spoon Theory

Since this is a spoonie blog, I figured it might be a good idea to explain what spoon theory is for all you lucky, healthy people!

The term was first used in 2003 in an essay by Christine Miserandino in which she used spoons to discuss living with lupus, her chronic illness. Basically, spoon theory is a way to describe energy levels during your day and what activities “cost” in spoons. Energy as spoons has no particular meaning; they’re just an object Miserandino had near her during her explanation of her life as a chronically ill woman to a friend and the term stuck.

Every person has a set amount of energy available to them over the course of their day. You can think of that energy in spoons. Each activity in your day costs a certain number of spoons. When you have depleted your spoons, your day is over as you are too tired for any more tasks. This theory helps healthy people understand the life of chronically ill people when you consider 2 things: the chronically ill have far less spoons than healthy people and our activities either cost more or we need spoons for things that have no cost to a healthy person.

A healthy person may have 20 spoons in a day. They spend them on basics like school (~3 spoons), work (~3 spoons), cooking meals (~2 spoons,), and commuting (~2 spoons). That’s only 10 spoons and they can use their remaining 10 on hobbies, sports, dates, workouts, etc. Everything a full life could include!

As a spoonie, I usually have 12 spoons. As it is much harder for me to get through my day with 24/7 pain and fatigue, my day looks more like this: get out of bed (1 spoon), shower (2 spoons), get dressed (1 spoon), eat (2 spoons), walk my dog (2 spoons), read a book (1 spoon), go to a doctor’s appointment (3 spoons). That’s it. That’s my entire day and I am exhausted. My husband will be making me dinner and doing the rest of the dog duties, no laundry will get done, I did nothing fun just for me, I can’t work, I did not workout, etc. I had to spend spoons on things that a healthy person wouldn’t think of as energy depleting: getting out of bed, getting dressed, and showering.

If I must have a very busy day, like days with multiple doctor’s appointments, I can borrow spoons from the next day but that quickly turns days into time needed to recover from overdoing it. I can also start out days with less than my cherished 12 spoons if I wake up with a migraine or didn’t get much sleep. I rely on my family’s calendar so that I can schedule things like workouts (3 spoons), painting my nails (2 spoons), or blogging (2-4 spoons) around prescription refills and appointments as I usually can’t do more than 1 larger activity in a day. I may seem weird to have to schedule painting your nails 2 weeks in advance but that’s the life I live now.

Using this theory, you can see why being chronically ill is a lot harder than a healthy person may realize. This is why I can’t “push through it” or why some days I can do lots and others I manage almost nothing. I hope this helped any healthy person understand us and I hope fellow spoonies now have an easy way to explain their struggles to someone who doesn’t get it!

Spoonies unite!