Spoon Theory


Plagerised from Christine Miserandino

At a restaurant whilst in conversation with a friend about my illness, the spoon theory was born. I quickly grabbed every spoon on the table; hell I grabbed spoons off of the other tables. I looked at her in the eyes and said “Here you go, you have Lupus” (or any energy wasting illness). She looked at me slightly confused, as anyone would when they are being handed a bouquet of spoons.

Most people start the day with unlimited amount of possibilities and energy to do whatever they desire, especially young people. For the most part, they do not need to worry about the effects of their actions. So for my explanation, I used spoons to convey this point. I wanted something for her to actually hold, for me to then take away, since most people who get sick feel a “loss” of a life they once knew. If I was in control of taking away the spoons, then she would know what it feels like to have someone or something else, in this case Lupus, being in control.

I asked her to count her spoons. She asked why, and I explained that when you are healthy you expect to have a never-ending supply of “spoons”. But when you have to now plan your day, you need to know exactly how many “spoons” you are starting with. It doesn’t guarantee that you might not lose some along the way, but at least it helps to know where you are starting. She counted out 12 spoons. She laughed and said she wanted more. I said no, and I knew right away that this little game would work when she looked disappointed and we hadn’t even started yet. I’ve wanted more “spoons” for years and haven’t found a way yet to get more, why should she? I also told her to always be conscious of how many she had.

I asked her to list off the tasks of her day including the most simple. As, she rattled off daily chores, or just fun things to do; I explained how each one would cost her a spoon.

  •  When she jumped right into getting ready for work as her first task of the morning, I cut her off and took away a spoon. I practically jumped down her throat. I said ” No! You don’t just get up. You have to crack open your eyes, and then realize you are late. You didn’t sleep well the night before. You have to crawl out of bed, and then you have to make yourself something to eat before you can do anything else, because if you don’t, you can’t take your medicine and if you don’t take your medicine you might as well give up all your spoons for today and tomorrow too.” I quickly took away a spoon and she realized she hasn’t even gotten dressed yet.
  •  Showering cost her spoon, just for washing her hair and shaving her legs. Reaching high and low that early in the morning could actually cost more than one spoon, but I figured I would give her a break; I didn’t want to scare her right away.
  •  Getting dressed was worth another spoon. I stopped her and broke down every task to show her how every little detail needs to be thought about. You cannot simply just throw clothes on when you are sick. I explained that I have to see what clothes I can physically put on, if my hands hurt that day buttons are out of the question. If I have bruises that day, I need to wear long sleeves, and if I have a fever I need a sweater to stay warm and so on. If my hair is falling out I need to spend more time to look presentable, and then you need to factor in another 5 minutes for feeling badly that it took you 2 hours to do all this.
  • I think she was starting to understand when she theoretically didn’t even get to work, and she was left with 6 spoons. I then explained to her that she needed to choose the rest of her day wisely, since when your “spoons” are gone, they are gone. Sometimes you can borrow against tomorrow’s “spoons”, but just think how hard tomorrow will be with less “spoons”. You do not want to run low on “spoons”, because you never know when you truly will need them. I didn’t want to depress her, but I needed to be realistic, and unfortunately being prepared for the worst is part of a real day for me.
  •  We went through the rest of the day, and she slowly learned that skipping lunch would cost her a spoon, as well as standing on a train, or even typing at her computer too long. She was forced to make choices and think about things differently. Hypothetically, she had to choose not to run errands, so that she could eat dinner that night.
  •  When we got to the end of her pretend day, she said she was hungry. I summarized that she had to eat dinner but she only had one spoon left. If she cooked, she wouldn’t have enough energy to clean the pots. If she went out for dinner, she might be too tired to drive home safely.
  •  Then I also explained, that I didn’t even bother to add into this game, that she was so nauseous, that cooking was probably out of the question anyway. So she decided to make soup, it was easy. I then said it is only 7pm, you have the rest of the night but maybe end up with one spoon, so you can do something fun, or clean your apartment, or do chores, but you can’t do it all.
  •   She had tears in her eyes and asked quietly “Christine, How do you do it? Do you really do this every day?” I explained that some days were worse than others; some days I have more spoons than others. But I can never make it go away and I can’t forget about it, I always have to think about it. I handed her a spoon I had been holding in reserve. I said simply, “I have learned to live life with an extra spoon in my pocket, in reserve. You need to always be prepared.”
  • It’s hard, the hardest thing I ever had to learn is to slow down, and not do everything. I fight this to this day. I hate feeling left out, having to choose to stay home, or to not get things done that I want to. For me it is one hundred little jobs in one. I need to think about the weather, my temperature that day, and the whole day’s plans before I can attack any one given thing. When other people can simply do things, I have to attack it and make a plan like I am strategizing a war. It is in that lifestyle, the difference between being sick and healthy. It is the beautiful ability to not think and just do. I miss that freedom. I miss never having to count “spoons”.
  •   At least now she might not complain so much when I can’t go out for dinner some nights, or when I never seem to make it to her house and she always has to drive to mine. I had the one spoon in my hand and I said “Don’t worry. I see this as a blessing. I have been forced to think about everything I do. Do you know how many spoons people waste everyday? I don’t have room for wasted time, or wasted “spoons” and I chose to spend this time with you.”

16 responses to this post.

  1. Wise words–and positive way to “measure” our strength and stamina. My father, when in his 90’s, said either he could work hard today and be in pain and not work for the next 2 days, or stop in a shorter time, and have some energy and comfort to work tomorrow. I’m years behind him, and ahead of you, but arthritis requires this deliberate rationing of energy and strength, also. Thanks for taking the time to spell it out for the rest of us!


  2. Thank you for a fantastic, simple analogy that speaks so clearly. I reposted this a couple places for friends who need it.


  3. Reblogged this on CrazyQueerClassicist and commented:
    This reminds me of the other day in class when I had to choose between staying awake and avoiding a panic attack. Couldn’t do both at the same time. I ended up sleeping for half of class.


  4. Posted by The Femmetastic Feminist on April 19, 2013 at 4:33 am

    I use this every day to help me explain what it is like. Reblogged, Thank you 🙂


  5. Posted by The Femmetastic Feminist on April 19, 2013 at 4:32 am

    Reblogged this on The Femmetastic Feminist and commented:
    “Don’t worry. I see this as a blessing. I have been forced to think about everything I do. Do you know how many spoons people waste everyday? I don’t have room for wasted time, or wasted “spoons” and I chose to spend this time with you.”


  6. Posted by thatoldschoolgirl on April 18, 2013 at 10:33 am


    You just explained to me what all the specialists have been trying to tell me for years. I have spent most of those days frustrated, angry, disappointed, kicking myself for not getting enough done.


    • It’s a good theory, we need to remember that a spoon does not hold more than its bowl, it will not be overloaded.
      I tell every specialist that I meet.


  7. Posted by thatoldschoolgirl on April 18, 2013 at 10:29 am

    Reblogged this on thatoldschoolgirl's Blog.


  8. One positive about having to live by the humble ‘spoon’ is you learn quickly what’s fundamental and important. You learn to choose wisely and mindfully. Too many people charge about ‘fitting’ everything in and completely miss the opportunity to ‘savour’ precious moments.


    • Next big change will be to move up from a teaspoon to a desert spoon.
      You are right about fundamental and important, but I’m working on choosing wisely.


  9. Posted by healthiestbeauty on April 16, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    Reblogged this on The healthiest beauty.


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