By: Dani Kessel
Hi everyone. My name is Dani. I suffer from Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome, limited mobility, and at least 5 different diagnosable mental illnesses. This affects my daily life resulting in a different normal than those who are ablebodied and neurotypical. I am a spoonie.
Plural noun: spoonies
- Someone suffering from disability and chronic illness/es that can be explained with the spoon theory.
“my sister calls herself a spoonie”
The spoon theory is a metaphor created by Christine Miserandino for the energy and ability limitations that disabled folks live with. The idea is this:
From waking up to falling asleep, every task throughout the day takes a certain number of spoons. Ablebodied, neurotypical folks have a nearly infinite number of spoons, so they don’t have to think about where their spoons go. Disabled folks have a finite number of spoons though. We have to ration. Often, we must choose between activities in order to ensure our spoons last throughout the whole day. We can brush our teeth or brush our hair. We can shower or make dinner. When someone invites us out to a social event and we’re out of spoons, we have no choice but to decline. We give up on our hobbies in order to manage necessities. Sometimes, spoonies can’t even complete all their daily tasks. We are simply out of spoons.
The hard part is that, once we are out of spoons, we cannot do anything until our spoons replenish. Sleep helps increase our spoon quantity. Sometimes listening to music or doing self-care can give us more spoons. The problem is that these activities also require spoons. This leaves those of us with disabilities in a cycle of perpetual exhaustion.
Now that you know what the spoon theory is, you might be asking yourself how to apply this knowledge to your daily life.
According to the World Health Organization’s 2011 World Report on Disability, 1 in 7 people experience disability. The United Nations’ Mental Health and Development page approximates that 1 in 4 people experience mental illness or neurodivergence.
If you do not personally experience these ailments, chances are that someone you love and care for is suffering from them. The spoon theory can help you better understand and empathize with their experiences. The metaphor provides a tool you can use to communicate with them about their needs.
If you do experience these ailments, applying the spoon theory to your schedule can empower you to better plan out your day. It helps you prioritize the most important goals. You can also share your experiences with family and friends by educating them on this metaphor.
All in all, the spoon theory provides a metaphor to help “normal” people understand the experiences of disabled folks. Our reality is vastly different than that of ablebodied, neurotypical people. Tasks deplete our energy faster, and we have limited resources to work with. Functionality can change from good to horrendous instantaneously, and there’s nothing we can do about it. We never get a day off. Incorporating the spoon theory into my daily life helped me connect with friends, family, and the disabled community in a way that nothing else has. It validated my experiences and identity as a person with disabilities. Applying it to your life can do the same for you and your loved ones.
Please take the time to share this post with the people that matter most in your life. The more people learn about diverse experiences, the better off we all will be.