10 October, 2009

The Spoon Theory: How Does It Affect You?

The Spoon Theory is a theory used to explain life with a disability. In short: you have 12 spoons. Every activity uses up a number of spoons, some more than others, due to pain, emotional turmoil, and a host of other symptoms. Able-bodied (and neurotypical) persons have mostly unlimited spoons, and so don't have to worry about rationing their spoons out for fear they may need them more for another task.

While reading a post at Hoyden About Town about able-bodied people co opting the spoon theory, I began thinking about how spoons affect everybody differently.

For me, it's about mental illness, somethng which I still struggle to identify as a disability. There are three ways that this can hit me. They are all inextricably linked, but for the purpose of this exercise I will talk about them separately. These three things are: depression, anxiety and social anxiety.

Depression: this is probably the most constant thing I feel. It is slowly but surely taxing. Every day I experience depression it takes a little bit more out of me. Every day it gets a little bit harder to function until, before I realise it's happened, I've hit rock bottom and am no longer living. And suddenly I have no spoons. Without LM to prompt me I will not get out of bed, I will not eat, I will just lie in bed doing nothing all day. I wish I was exaggerating.

Anxiety: this comes in bouts. It's hard to tell whether it is a precursor for deprssion or occurs because of depression, but the two get worse at a similar level. When I am in an anxious period I have to ration all of my interactions, including those that take place online. Each time I venture from the house, a spoon is used. Each bus or train I get on uses a spoon. Online interactions use less, but it's often hard for me to tell until they've been used up. I am paranoid during this time. It feels like I am constantly being watched and judged. Every action feels forced and fake.

Social anxiety: this is similar but different to "normal" anxiety. It can and does strike at any time, regardless of previous mood. It is the anxiety I feel when seeing specific groups of people (my family, LM's family, northam, some others) and the anxiety I feel when I am around unfamiliar people. I need to ration carefully or I will start bawling in the middle of a social interaction. LM is my rock, and often I can cope by hiding behind Him, but spoons are limited.

I should note that although these are separate uses of spoons, they are not separate supplies. If all my spoons are drained when I am depressed, for example, that's it, they're done.

There's my story. How do your spoons affect you?


Ann Somerville said...

I habitually think of myself as able-bodied, but posting on that disgusting Scalzi blog thread made me realise that I'm not when it comes to those discussions - and that I really do have to count my spoons when I engage in that kind of thing. Because I suffer from hypertension and depression (both usually controlled by medication), and the impact of dealing with those men (fruitlessly, in the end) has left me depressed and anxious enough that I have to up my medication, and drained and helpless enough that I'm really hoping no work comes in to day because I'm physically incapable of it. I would be absolutely certain that my BP is through the roof, which certainly is not of minor concern. I'm going to have to spend the day resting to negate the harm this has done.

How this affects me is that I resent very bitterly that I am limited in effectiveness by my illnesses, and yet I am judged for that lack of effectiveness. Yes, men, do mock me for not being the calm, little nice woman. Do attack me for not bearing *your* attacks like a good little soldier. Do pat yourselves on the back because you've 'learned' something from wasting so many women's time (even though you haven't) and do, absolutely, ignore the harm you've done.

I can't even be coherent now, I'm so upset by all this. Sorry for inflicting it on you.

Leaper said...

I've had to ration and control for a long time. Even in the time before I blocked out of my mind acknowledgment that I actually had limitations that I needed to and did work around, I rationed out how much social interaction (or whatever else) I could cope with, and made calculations of if I do this today I'll have that much more trouble doing the other thing tomorrow. Spoons make a very good metaphor for it. I may be temporarily able-bodied, but I'm not an abled person who exists in society without effort.

(Sorry if I'm a bit incoherent. The depression's been stealing all my energy lately and I've only recently realized this stuff/admitted it to myself.)

Pharaoh Katt said...

Please don't be sorry. I had to bow out of that thread for similar reasons; it just took it's toll and I wasn't willing or able to handle that.
And I want to thank you for coming here and posting this. It makes me feel like I'm not alone, like there's someone else who understands, especially since we were dealing with the same jerks at that time.

((hugs)) if you accept them, otherwise, I send you wellness thoughts and care.

You have every right to be upset.

sandy said...

Wow, what an interesting theory. It's so true. :( Depression & anxiety is on my plate too - luckily not as bad as how I've heard people get it. But it does make it difficult to remember and manage, because it's not obvious and most of the time, I don't feel sick enough to think of myself as "that way". The medical terminology is kind of a new thing for me too - those words only came into my life in the last couple years or so.

I've been experimenting with a number of lifestyle & attitude changes to manage it all. Getting decent results on the whole, but the process requires a lot of mental vigilance - mostly for perseverance, swallowing my pride, and remembering that sometimes I have a spoon ration to be mindful of. :)

Thank you for sharing your story. It's actually really nice & a bit reassuring to read how people experience & deal with their mental things. :) Hope to see you at a dinner sometime!