Chronic Illness

Why the “spoon theory” just doesn’t work for me

Intro: I wrote this post for my personal blog but thought I would share it on here as a lot of us may choose or need to be stay-at-home mom’s and/or wives due to chronic illness/pain/fatigue or mental illness and so, therefore, I think it pertains to this blog as well.

I used to think the Spoon Theory was a great way to explain to healthy friends, family, and co-workers what it was like living with a chronic illness, chronic pain and/or chronic fatigue. However lately I feel less and less like this theory makes sense to me. I can understand the theory and get why some people would associate with it as a way to explain what day to day life is like for them and how chronic illness, chronic pain and/or chronic fatigue affects them. For me though, I find it is just making less and less sense as time goes by and as I really think about it, it just doesn’t seem to work for me.

Why? Well, first off though I get that by setting the 12 spoons a day is just a way to measure on average how many spoons you will get each day. Setting an average just doesn’t make sense to me, my life has taken a turn that seems anything but average to me. Every step and every day is an unknown for me most of the time. Not always bad, but just unpredictable to say the least. Setting a definitive number of “spoons” per day just doesn’t work on so many levels. For one, I never start the day with a specific number of spoons. Some days I could wake up with 20, other days I could wake up with 2.

I know this is kind of explained in the theory as that overdoing it one day uses too many spoons and therefore you wake up the next morning with fewer spoons. As well as sleeping poorly can take aways spoons, missing medication, or skipping a meal, etc. One would look at that and say it does make sense, but here’s why it doesn’t. I have had sleepless nights where I wake up the next day and function at a higher level then nights I get a decent sleep or vice versa. I will give them the missing medication one, that’s pretty predictable for me, missing medication usually equates to a “spoon” or two missing. I guess in theory the same could be said about getting a cold.

However, as far as every day, day-to-day activities go. I never know how many spoons they will take from me or even give to me. Taking a shower for example. One day taking a shower is a big task that will eat up pretty much all my “spoons” no matter how many I am given. Other days in contrast taking a shower will pep me up and give me more energy, much like a “healthy” person. So tasks that should be low on the list of spoons take away more than tasks that should be higher, or again vice versa.

Having a day where I use up more then my “allotted spoons” doesn’t necessarily mean that I will have fewer spoons the next day either. For that reason, I find the Spoon Theory so hard to connect with and rationalize on a personal level. Some times I will have weeks or months on end that I feel great, other times I have weeks or months that are horrible every single day. Sometimes oddly enough having a cold or recovering from an illness will actually give me more energy for a while, not less.

Often I may wake up with a certain amount of spoons and for some reason for no apparent reason at all my body has just sprung a leak and all the spoons just keep disappearing without doing anything in particular and sometimes in the middle of a random day where I feel like I am on my last spoon suddenly it’s like someone with extra spoons to spare has decided to gift me a few. It is so unpredictable that it just seems to me like another label and one that just doesn’t quite fit all that well for me.

Because it is so unpredictable having achronic illness, chronic pain and/or chronic fatigue, I find that trying to justify or rationalize it in such a way just seems almost more damaging to me, especially when it comes to trying to help others to understand the chronic illness, chronic pain and/or chronic fatigue, it sets an expectation of predictability where there just isn’t any.

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