Spoon Theory was coined by Christine Miserandino in a conversation a close friend and roommate when she was asked what having lupus feels like. They were in a diner at the time and used spoons as a visual aid. She handed her friend the spoons and asked her to describe the events of a typical day, taking a spoon away after each hypothetical activity. This was a demonstration on expending energy. Once you have no more spoons, you have no more energy to do anything.
I have found that Spoon Theory applies to most illnesses. When I had pneumonia, I felt like I only had between 2-4 spoons each day. Just going eating lunch and then going to the bathroom was so exhausting that I couldn’t do anything else but lay there and sleep. You could easily apply this to the flu to understand Spoon Theory for yourself, especially if you’ve never had a chronic illness. I don’t have lupus, but I do have chronic illnesses.
The great thing about Spoon Theory is that it adapts to anything that encompasses limited energy. It even can be applied to mental illness. I have anxiety and for each activity that stresses me out, I lose a spoon. Once I run out of spoons, I can’t handle anymore stress. A panic attack is a more than a spoonful of energy.
I have a chronic illness currently that does expend a lot of energy. I’ve been effectively on my period for almost six months. Yes, I’ve been to the doctor and I have an appointment with a new doctor after Christmas. Some days are worst than others… like last week when I was stuck in the bathroom at work because I was bleeding through tampons, pads, and clothing within minutes. This is called Menorrhagia. This causes anemia which makes you feel tired and weak due to a lack of oxygen that red blood cells carry. I’m also hypoglycemic which is low blood sugar (not to be confused with diabetes). I get really tired and I run out of spoons.
Today I’m considering how to spend my spoons. I’m tired and nauseous and I have a lot to do. My mom is coming next week for Christmas and for the past few weeks my spoons have been limited. I need to clean, organize, move things to storage, etc. The hard thing is not knowing how many spoons you have. I don’t have an energy meter above my head that I can look at. All I can do is estimate how much energy I have based off how tired I feel. It’s daunting to look at all this work that I need to do while feeling this way. I almost feel like it’s not worth expending the spoons… but it needs to be done. Thankfully, I have my husband to help out.
It’s even harder when I’m at work, especially when there’s a training class. I have to stand for eight hours in front of a class. If I was in training right now, I’d be spending one spoon every 10 minutes for being tried and another spoon for the anxiety. Add another spoon for talking, another for thinking up analogies on the spot, and another for being extra animated to keep training fun. Lets add more spoons for having to dig up products from the cabinet and spoons for setting up demonstrations. Conducting a training class uses a heck of a lot of spoons and it’s why I’m so exhausted when I get home. If any of my chronic illnesses are flaring up, I may not have enough spoons to get through the day.
If I run out of spoons before the work day is over, I might end up sitting down and finding it hard to think clearly. I might not do the demonstrations and put them off for another day. When it’s bad enough, I might go home sick. If I run out of spoons and try to push on, things like being stuck in the bathroom with uncontrollable bleeding happens. Sugar crashes happen which can lead to coma and death. Running out of spoons means running out the excess energy, but we always have a spoon or two that is solely dedicated to minimum function – like the energy to go home and get in bed when you need more spoons.