The Spoon Theory… and Other Things

I was visiting my twin, Becky, last week, staying at her apartment with her. A few days in, I started feeling a bit depressed. I was sad, lonely, anxious, and had so little energy that I really just wanted to isolate and sleep. At one point, we were talking about doing things and she mentioned something about spoons. I was really confused. Then she proceeded to pull out her computer, look up a blog post, and tell me that I either had to read it myself or she was going to read it to me (which I dislike).

Here’s the article.

The article is called “The Spoon Theory” by Christine Miserandino and it’s basically an analogy of living with a disability or illness. The woman in the post suffers from lupus, but as I read it I felt a deep connection and appreciation for what was being described. I felt like The Spoon Theory perfectly described me living with mental illness sometimes.

I’m probably going to do a poor job of explaining this, so you should definitely read the article that I linked up above. The idea is that for any given day, you have a certain number of “spoons” that you can spend on certain activities. Each activity takes a spoon, or maybe even more than one, and once you’re out, you’re out. Just getting out of bed could cost a spoon, getting dressed and taking a shower could take two more. Going to work, eating dinner… more spoons. Towards the end of the day you might only have one spoon left but still have several tasks or events that you want to do. Every day might be different but you can never forget that you have a limited number of spoons to work with.

When my sister shared that with me, it really got me thinking. It made me realize that she does understand, to an extent, the effort that some things take for me. That even little things can feel insurmountable at times. It made me really appreciate the compassion and understanding that she has.

In other things, in therapy today I brought up that concept with my therapist. She said it sounded really similar to something else that she wanted to talk about. The amount of energy we spend on things. She had me list eight things that are important to me. I could only think of six, so we went with seven instead. She said, if you have a total of 100% energy, how much do you spend on each thing every day? I came up with the following list:

  • Mental Health – 70%
  • Physical Health – 5%
  • Family – 10%
  • Friends -1%
  • Productivity – 4%
  • Creativity – 10%
  • Independence – 0%

We only have so much energy to give, and lately, a lot of my energy has been going towards my mental health, towards living safely and trying to have a life worth living.  I’ve been taking some walks lately and putting in some effort towards my physical health, but my mental health has been highly prioritized for so long. I spend a lot of time around family, but don’t always put a lot of energy into it – that happens when you live with five family members. My friends have fallen to the side, partly because of my energy being elsewhere and partly because they live so far away. My creativity is holding out but could be stronger, and my productivity has been really low. And independence-speaking, I haven’t been putting hardly any energy into it. Things have been out of balance for me, that’s what this exercise has helped show me. My mental health is still incredibly important but I still think I could use more balance in my day-to-day life.

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