Low on Spoons

I’m usually pretty lucky in terms of energy levels. My disability might mean I move about a lot and at times it can make it hard for me to sleep, but when I’m well I generally have good stamina.

At the moment though I’m not and I don’t. I’m exhausted after a month of being unwell with a stubborn virus. And that means I’m running low on spoons.

If being low on spoons doesn’t mean much to you, let me introduce you to ‘Spoon Theory.’ It’s a way of breaking energy down into understandable units – spoons. A woman called Christine Miserandino came up with the idea in a café one day. Christine has lupus, an autoimmune condition that can cause extreme fatigue.

She was describing her experience to a friend and grabbed twelve spoons as props to help her – and spoon theory was born. Christine designated each spoon as a unit of energy and explained what undertaking daily tasks cost her in spoons. For example, eating breakfast cost her at least one spoon, and showering two.

Lots of disabled people identify with Christine’s theory and use it to describe their energy levels. I’ve known about it for a while but until now it isn’t something I could relate to directly.

This morning, though, I could feel that I was short of spoons (Of course for me they would have to be lightweight plastic ones to avoid injury). Here’s how I’ve used my spoons today.

– 2 spoons showering
– 0.5 spoons x 4 trips to the toilet
– 1 spoon having a ‘ticcing fit
– 4 spoons being pushed to the shop by my support worker
– 2 spoons writing this post

I started with twelve spoons, which means I’ve only one left. I’m going to have to be very careful how I use it and I hope I don’t have another fit.

Hopefully day-to-day tasks will become less spoon-intensive soon. But this experience has given me a greater appreciation of my usual energy levels. It’s also introduced me to the value of thinking of energy in units of spoons, not just to describe how I’m feeling but also to make me mindful of how I allocate energy and prioritise tasks.

To all those who identify as ‘Spoonies’ or live with conditions that make exhaustion a constant reality, I salute you. I’ll certainly not take my spoons for granted in the future.

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