How many spoons do you have? I’m not referring to spoons in the kitchen, but actual spoons to measure the amount of energy you have left.
The spoon theory is a unit of measurement that cannot be seen or held; however, it tracks the amount of reduced energy left over in someone with a chronic illness. The spoon model is simple: a spoon is a utensil and dinner table measurement for food and liquids. A person with energy deficiencies that are difficult to control will assign a number of spoons for each activity. When you have a chronic illness, you only get a limited number of spoons that you can use in a daily basis. Therefore, like the energy envelope, it is important you carefully plan your day’s activities so you get maximal usage of your spoons. Otherwise, they will be gone and you won’t be as productive as you could have been.
Christine Miserandino introduced this interesting concept using spoons to give a visual explanation of how lupus can drain energy reserves. This theory has been adopted by “spoonies” (folks who count spoons) and has been able to help millions of people around the world live with chronic illness. In fact, this principle is so powerful that it even helps children with chronic illness due to its sheer simplicity. Furthermore, it applies to almost all chronic conditions including depression, fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, multiple sclerosis, autism, POTS, and PTSD.
Even more importantly, it can help relatives and friends with chronic conditions understand and adjust to the pace and schedule necessary to avoid flare-ups. For many people with chronic conditions, having to repeatedly explain a complex illness is a burden, and often energy-draining. Using the game method of the spoon theory, you can lay out spoons to represent energy units, makes it easier to explain to others. No spoons? Use forks or pens. Any object can visually represent how much energy you have available.
Not Seeing Is Believing
One of the most difficult aspects of chronic illness is that it often isn’t obvious. To the average person, anyone who looks like them should be like them – illness-free. Not only is a chronic condition challenging to explain, it is hard to visualize. When someone is visually ill, most people are naturally more empathetic. However, when someone has an invisible illness, most people are skeptical toward the extent to which the person is suffering. The spoon method helps put things into perspective. Friends and family members can visually see how much energy is expended by performing personal care (washing hair, bathing, showering), eating, going to work, or doing dishes, and warriors see how much energy their loved one has left. The spoon theory also leads to less discrimination, more understanding and greater empathy.
In addition, the spoon theory helps chronic illness warriors feel happier and joyous. They are better able to control their moods, focus, concentration and energy, and achieve goals. By understanding and using the spoon theory, they can slow down and pace themselves as well.
Moreover, the spoon theory adds a much-needed fun element to living with a chronic illness.