Spoon theory is a conceptualisation of living with a chronic disability (be that physical or mental). It is considered to have been coined by Christine Miserandino on butyoudontlooksick.com and the basic premise is that the average person has virtually unlimited spoons to get through the day; you spend a spoon getting out of bed, a spoon to shower, a spoon to get dressed, etc. Living with a chronic disability, whether physical or mental, we have a limited amount of spoons to spend each day and we must be more careful about how we spend our spoons. We may for example find that, by five, if we’ve had an unusually busy day or we haven’t rationed our spoons, we have run out of spoons. This means that we are basically spent for the day, which causes problems because we still need to eat and do housework. Some have the ability to ‘borrow’ spoons from the next day, but essentially that’s over-burning and it means that we started the next day with even fewer spoons than normal which makes everything harder. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, we will wake up to find that we have even fewer spoons than normal as well or just lose spoons through the course of the day. These days are a particular challenge to get through. It is common in some circles to have to say no to things because we’re “out of spoons;” this means we’ve either gone through our spoons already or we have spoons that we need to reserve for essential things like feeding and hydrating ourselves.
As a person with Asperger’s Syndrome I find that anything involving socialising burns through more spoons than the same activity on my own would. This lends a particular problem in a traditional work setting as just having people around increases an activities spoon cost. If I consistently run on a spoon deficit it will lead to burnout. When I am burnt out I have to essentially live a very restricted life where I’m barely able to keep myself hydrated and fed, let alone hygeine and just life. This is why I stopped blogging at the end of 2019 and for some time after. I’d get home from work having already gone through my allotted spoons, end up having to run a deficit in order to then have to perform perfunctory tasks like feeding myself and housework. After three months of this, and despite reducing my hours, I very nearly hit burnout and had to leave that job with no backup plan in order to prevent full burnout. This was almost immediately proceeded by lockdown.
This is my reality which I don’t often talk about with those outside of my support system or with neurotypical people because I don’t want sympathy. I do however need people to understand that it’s not personal if I disappear from social media. I’m not lazy if I have to go for periods of time without work, and why I am much more likely to volunteer than I am to be in paid work because I can spot burnout coming early and take time off and not be limited by limited ‘sick days’. My blog is partially an outlet, partially an attempt to earn some kind of income, and partly just to show that I’m still alive, but it does cost spoons and money to manage. This is why I do have calls to action to support my blog. Not necessarily because I think it gives value to other peoples’ lives (although I would like it to serve that purpose when possible), but to make sure I can afford to keep it going. In terms of finance as well as spoons.
What’s your relationship with spoon theory? Let me know either in the comments or by email, I’d love to know 🙂
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