How Many Spoons Do You Have Today?

As I am writing this post, it is a Sunday evening, I’m laying down on the sofa in a onesie with a glass of wine. My boyfriend is going to cook dinner tonight because I simply don’t have enough spoons left for today (and I’m not talking about cutlery)…

Grief is debilitating.

On my worst days I describe myself as feeling like a dead weight. I’m simply not capable of getting out of bed, getting dressed and feeding myself. Life is too heavy for me to handle. I feel as though I am slowly sinking into thick black tar. My clothes feel like lead, pulling me under even more, weighing heavy against my lungs making it difficult to breathe. I don’t have the strength to put out my arm and reach for help. I feel completely overcome with grief for my mum. I feel debilitated.

I can’t always predict when these days will happen though and for the last 6 months, I have been so angry and feel that they are cropping up all the time. My mum was ill, not me, so why don’t I have any energy now? But what I am learning slowly is that there are ways to prepare for them, and even manage them when they do occur. One thing in particular that I would like to discuss is the Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino  and how it is helping me deal with grief and communicating the way I feel on my worst days. I first read about the Spoon Theory here, if you’d like to read that post too!

According to the Spoon theory, the number of spoons an individual may have, corresponds to their energy level and what they feel capable of doing during that day. As your energy levels change from day to day, so does the number of spoons!

Sometimes, I wake up with a good amount of energy and on days like these I might consider myself to have 10 – 15 spoons. I am able to make breakfast, exercise, engage myself fully at work, make dinner or write a blog post, in the evening I feel accomplished and fulfilled.

On my lowest days I consider myself to have perhaps a total of 5 spoons. Both my mind and energy are consumed by the grief and longing for my mum. 5 spoons is equivalent to 5 energy points, and each task – however simple it may seem – requires a spoon as a sort of payment for the task. I get out of bed and get dressed – 4 spoons remain. I get breakfast and feed the cats, 3 spoons remain. I need to do the shopping, which means driving into town and spend an hour in the busy supermarket, I feel overwhelmed. This task has taken all of my remaining spoons and I am not able to do anything else for the rest of the day – 0 spoons remain.

Before I read about this theory, my boyfriend and I had planned a nice weekend away visiting both Bath and Bristol. The Saturday was spent in Bath and though a little tearful, I had the energy to take in and enjoy the beautiful architecture of the city. Due to my high level of emotion, I would say I woke up with about 8 spoons that day – pretty good. On Sunday morning however, I woke up with considerably less energy and feeling considerably more emotional than the day before. I felt pretty weak and incapable of packing my suitcase and going ahead with the day’s plans exploring Bristol. But I was unable to understand why I felt the way I did, and unable to communicate the reason behind my low mood and lacking energy. It was at this point that, had I known about this theory, I would have reflected on myself to see how I was feeling that morning and what I was realistically going to be capable of doing that day. But, not wanting to disappoint, I kept pushing myself. By the time we arrived at Clifton Bridge a couple of hours later, I was completely exhausted and couldn’t stop crying. A dead weight. Completely weighed down in that thick black tar – debilitated. I had completely run out of spoons.

Since I have read about this idea of the Spoons Theory, I have been a lot more mindful about the grief that I am feeling and what its physical and emotional effects have been on my body. As I wake up in the morning, I do a quick body scan to evaluate exactly how I feel. Do I have low energy? (5 spoons) medium energy (10 spoons) or am I feeling good about the day ahead and feeling capable with 15 – 20 spoons? After this quick evaluation, I am better able to plan my day ahead. If I only have 5 spoons that day, I change my plans, and leave the tidying up for tomorrow, or do an online shop rather than go to the supermarket so I have time to regain my energy.

This has also improved communication between my boyfriend and I. Before he would ask me “How are you feeling today?” and as irrational as it sounds, I found myself getting angry quite often because in my head i’d think “Can’t you see how upset I am!?”. The Spoon Theory  opens a simple and effective dialogue to make sure we both understand why a trip to Bristol would may be far too demanding and that all I really need is to lay on the sofa and have a good cry!

We wrote a post called Saying Yes to Yourself by Saying No to others, which I think reinforces this idea of only doing what you’re a capable and comfortable with for that day.  Be gentle with yourself.

Katie

13 thoughts on “How Many Spoons Do You Have Today?

  1. Interesting theory – and if it helps you in your day to day life ‘after’ then that is a good thing!

    I’d like to offer a suggestion of how it might be improved however…

    Setting the energy level for the rest of the day and using it up as you go seems a little counter-productive/fixed. How about considering that you may be able to ‘top up’ on some spoons throughout the day by doing things that GIVE you energy/happiness/relief rather than just using up throughout each different day what you allocate when you wake up? 🙂 ( A one hour midday nap may, for example, give you two more spoons, if it refreshes you a little?)

    Always seek the positives in life, while having to deal with the negatives.

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    1. Hi Lwbut – Thanks for commenting, and sorry for the late reply! It’s interesting that you say that because it is something that I have been discovering myself since exploring the theory nearly a month ago. At the time I posted this, I think i was so exasperated and low as it had just been the 6 month mark and there were so many triggers. When I woke up with little to no spoons, that was it for the day. But recently I have been listening to myself a lot more, and I find myself saying “I just need to lie down” in the middle of the day. Not to sleep, but i just need to be horizontal, on the sofa and rest for about half an hour. I feel like this gives me the top up that you mention and allows me to continue with my day 🙂 If anything, this concept has helped me to learn to focus on what I need and listen to myself 🙂
      Katie

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s great – you have a good coping mechanism/restorative. 🙂

        Understanding ourself and our needs both physically and mentally has been considered of the highest importance since the times of Ancient Greece and the Egyptian Pharoahs.

        I’m sure as you practice your focus and listening to your own body and moods you will learn other mechanisms to restore your self back to a harmonious balance and not have to be feeling so low in energy or motivation. 🙂

        It’s not always about supressing stress, sometimes we can let our emotions run and ‘guide’ them into giving us the energy we need to overcome obstructions to our progress. or just to ‘blow off some steam’ as a safety valve does. 😉

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  2. Bonjour mon Ami ou Amie
    Il y a des mots que l’on écrit sur une feuille de papier
    Comme enchantement la feuille se remplie
    Il y a aussi des mots que l’on tape sur son clavier
    C’est, ces émotions que je te fais partager
    Car se sont des mots d’Amitié avec du bonheur
    Passe une Bonne et agréable journée
    Une belle fête de Pâques à venir avec ta famille
    Gros bisous
    Bernard

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  3. I lost my father with no warning when I was 21. Grief/depression is very real. I love the spoon analogy. You do what you can and let go of what you can’t do.

    Walking helped me. Reading scripture out loud did, too. 2 Timothy 1:7 was my favorite verse at the time. Talking about the situation was not particularly helpful, interestingly. It was too much like pulling off a Band-Aid constantly to check if the wound’s healing.

    Blessings on you ladies!

    Liked by 1 person

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