Spooner or Later, it comes down to this…
Let’s talk about spoons. “Spoons? What does cutlery have to do with anything?” I hear you ask. Well, as it turns out, not much, except for spoons…I was always a very active and independent young woman, so when chronic illness reared its head in my mid-20s, needless to say, I didn’t take it well. After I had to stop working, I became depressed and frustrated, so I made a decision that would prove to be VERY beneficial in my circumstances – I went to see a psychologist that specialised in chronic pain and illness. And that is where I heard of Spoon Theory. Spoon Theory literally changed my life. It gave me the tools to not only understand and manage my own situation but to also help others to get a better understanding as well. It has been the greatest tool in my arsenal for helping me to understand if I am properly pacing myself – something that is absolutely essential for those of us with chronic conditions that impact our daily lives. So, what is this “Spoon Theory” that I love so much? It was first coined by Christine Miserandino and you can read about it here, but I’ll give you a quick run-down and share how it has turned my life around. SPOON THEORY in a nutshell…. Spoon Theory, for me, is about understanding energy. Your limitations, the costs, the payoffs, and how to pace yourself. We all have a certain number of spoons each day and every task we do requires a different number of spoons. Why does this matter? Because for those of us with chronic conditions (particularly ones that commonly cause fatigue), not only do we start each day with less spoons than the average person, but we also need more spoons that other people to complete the same tasks! So managing your spoons is important. Let’s just say, you have 20 spoons a day. Today you want to complete tasks that equal 15 spoons. So you’re doing okay, you have 5 spoons left…. well this may or may not help you out tomorrow depending on how well you sleep! On the flip side, what if you need to use 25 spoons?! Where do those other 5 spoons come from? The answer: Tomorrow. So if you exceed your spoon limit for the day, you are borrowing spoons from tomorrow. You have spoon-debt. And that, my dears, is where pacing comes in. There will always be times when we simply cannot avoid days that demand more spoons than we have to give. Whether it’s a family function, an important medical appointment on the other side of town, or something for the children, these days will happen. So what then? Pacing.
Most of the time, you will know these days are coming and you can pace yourself to minimise the impact. Don’t make unnecessary plans on the days prior to and after the event, so that you aren’t already in a spoon-debt when the day arrives, and to allow yourself a chance to recover afterwards. Yeah, it’s frustrating, even unfair… but it’s better than getting burnt out completely and spending weeks recovering, or worse – getting sick or injured as a result of overdoing things.
So, get your toolbox out, and add Spoon Theory. When you have a chronic condition, there is a lot happening in your body, so pacing is something you need to work on. Especially if you’re a woman (and even more so for mums!) – I hate to say it ladies, but society has taught us to put others first. However, that’s just not feasible when you’re dealing with fatigue or chronic conditions, so we tend to need to teach ourselves this skill.I’m not perfect at pacing by any means, but I can honestly say that since making this breakthrough in understanding my own situation, and being able to help others understand it, my management of my health has come along in leaps and bounds – and my psychological wellbeing has improved drastically as a direct result.
Life doesn’t have to end just because we have special bodies… we just need to learn a different way of living.
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I’m Michelle, and I am a New Zealand born & raised, Aussie. I have joint hypermobility & orthostatic intolerance amongst other conditions such as Crohn’s & chronic fatigue. Prior to becoming significantly unwell, I was a young, active woman on a ‘career & study’ path. My health changed that and I now currently operate a small business from home, with the help of my fiancé, who has been my pillar of support & inspiration. I have learned a great deal through my illnesses and look forward to sharing some of those things with others. I feel like I am gradually working towards reclaiming control of my life and look forward to returning to social ballroom dancing with my fiancé and partner by the end of the year.