Hello my Zebras and Spoonies! Thanks for coming and visiting with me today, I’m glad that you’re here! Today I am going to be talking about spoon theory and some of the ways that it has moved beyond spoons. Spoon Theory was developed in 2003 by writer Christine Miserandino to explain how having lupus impacts her ability to perform daily tasks. This theory has resonated with the chronic illness community and has grown into a lot more then what Christine first presented. I have heard many chronic illness people talking about other silverware beyond spoons. I personally love the entire silverware metaphor because I think it is fun, silly and beautifully captures the chronic illness experience in a way that can be more easily expressed to the able bodied. So, let’s look at our silverware!
The spoons represent the physical, mental and emotional energy that activities cost. Every human has a limited number of spoons. However, the standard of living is based off the expectation that the person is able bodied and thus most people who are able bodied don’t have to consider how they are spending these spoons because they always have enough spoons for the tasks that need to be completed. When you have a chronic illness, how you spend your spoons becomes a central consideration for your life.
While the value of your spoons doesn’t change, the cost of activities can. When you are feeling more fatigued or having increased pain or are more anxious, activities are going to use more spoons because you will need to manage your symptoms while you are competing those tasks. You don’t just take a shower. You have to manage your pain while you are taking a shower. So, on a high pain day the task of taking a shower will require more spoons because more energy will be spent managing your pain while taking that shower.
It doesn’t matter how many tasks you’d like to get done, you only get your set allotment of spoons each day. However, that allotment of spoons can vary depending on if you have been engaging in the required self care tasks to wash those spoons so they will be clean for the next day. If you spent the day pacing yourself well and engaged in self care to wash your spoons, you are likely to start the next day with the maximum possible allotment of spoons. However, if you spent your day pacing yourself through your tasks, but chose to do an extra thing instead of self care you will start the next with fewer clean spoons because sleeping only washes so many spoons. And if you have a very demanding day that you struggle to properly pace and don’t have the option of engaging in self care you are likely to start the next day without any spoons regardless of how much sleep you got.
So, what happens when you run out of spoons? Well, you have to resort to using your knives. These means that you are likely to be able to get the necessary tasks done but you are going to be sharp and pointy while you are doing it because there is nothing left to spare for anything else beyond doing the necessary things. Going into knife mode is less than ideal and is often difficult to recover from because it requires enough self care to wash our knives as well as our spoons. After a knife day, there is often nothing left to use the next day. The day after a knife day is often one that must be dedicated to self care whether we want it to be or not.
Ideally, we avoid knife days. No one wants to be the kind of person that cuts and stabs at the people around them. So, if we are having a knife day, know that we are hating how we are being too and wish that we had the silverware to do better. Please, offer us grace and patience on a knife day. Whenever possible, we need to simply not do anything other than self care on a knife day. Just because it is possible to do things doesn’t mean that it is good for us or the people around us to do those things. There are simply times that it is better for everyone to not do the things and to engage in self care instead. That’s the case on knife days. Consider the use of knives carefully.
These are the days that you can do the things, but the results will likely be less than ideal. The days that you might have the energy to do the things, but the focus just isn’t there. Brain fog is great for turning spoons into sporks. The spork just isn’t as functional as a spoon even though it represents the same amount of energy being available. These are the days of disorganization, poor focus and lack of motivation. Because the truth is that sometimes having the energy just isn’t enough to get the thing done.
Spork days are best used for low risk tasks where messing things up doesn’t matter. Spork days are also great for engaging in self care. They can also be used for simple socialization tasks as long as those you are socializing with have realistic expectations of the sporks.
The fork theory comes from the phrase “stick a fork in me; I’m done.” This theory says that everyone is stuck with forks, large and small, all day — and sometimes they reach their limit. Everyone has a fork limit, and when that limit is reached, the person either falls apart or retreats from the fray. Doesn’t matter how many spoons you have, if you’ve reached your fork carrying capacity you will no longer be capable of doing the things.
The thing about forks is that they require self care to remove. Some forks we carry with us all our lives. These forks are the forks of trauma events in our lives. Other forks are the little forks of inconveniences and small slights. The smaller the fork, the easier it is to remove. There are some forks that are so large that they require professional support to be removed. Some people simply carry more forks with them at their baseline which greatly reduces their ability to tolerate additional forks, regardless of how small those forks might be.
Know Your Cultry
It is really important to always know what silverware you have in your drawer and to know what amount of silverware still needs to be washed. When you know what silverware you are working with you are better able to navigate this crazy world we live in. Regardless of which silverware you have, know that you can only do your best each day. And remember that your best will be something different each day.