The first time I ever heard of the spoon theory was when I was in specialty pharmacy. The company that I worked for gave a presentation to help us understand the struggles and limitations that those with chronic health conditions experience. The deeper they got into this theory, the more I wanted to yell, “I can totally relate to this! This is me!”
It completely made sense because I was living it. Not as a patient with pulmonary arterial hypertension as was their example, but as a person who suffers from anxiety and depression. Even though I have been struggling for decades, it wasn’t until this moment that I realized I am affected by it EVERY day, not just the bad days.
THE SPOON THEORY
First, it is very important to think of these spoons as actual, tangible objects. You either have them or you don’t. Wishing you had more will NOT make them appear. The daily amount of spoons will vary from person to person and may even change from time to time.
Hopefully by looking at this you can start to understand why someone with depression is always so damn tired.
A typical day may look like this:
- Get out of bed: 1 spoon
- Shower: 2 spoons
- Do makeup/hair: 2 spoons
- Eat/make breakfast: 1 spoon
- Go to work: 3 spoons
- Actually work: 4 spoons
- Eat lunch: 1 spoon
- Drive home: 3 spoons
- Eat/make dinner: 2 spoons
So what if I wake up with only 20 spoons? Or 18?
Want to know the worst part? We don’t get to choose how many spoons we get each day. Chronic illness doesn’t care how much we need to get done or what we would like to do. Run errands after work? Nope. Attend a social event? Not gonna happen. Running out of spoons leads to physical or emotional exhaustion, and most often it’s a combination of both.
And what about digging into tomorrow’s stash of spoons? That’s just one less you’ll have the next day. Once in a while it’s ok, but it’s important to realize they can never be borrowed, only taken. You can’t use a spoon twice. EVER.
Why am I bringing this up? I want people to realize that our energy supply is real and limited. We may WANT to spend time with you, but if there are no spoons left, it simply can’t happen. I may have been “fine” yesterday, but by the time you see me at noon today, I may have very little left to give. Yesterday I did my hair and makeup, but today I don’t have the energy to shower. There is only so much energy for each day. This is not a choice, it’s a fact.
One of the stigmas surrounding mental health is that we are “just lazy”. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I WANT to be out in my yard gardening. I WANT to meet up with friends on a Friday night. Unfortunately what I want very rarely matches up with what I am able to do.
You may be thinking that this doesn’t make sense, and you’d be right. A lot of things pertaining to mental health don’t “make sense”, they just ARE. The best we can do is accept whatever is fact, and do the best we can with it. Whether it’s with five spoons or twenty.