A few days ago, a friend indicated on her Facebook page that she had “run out of spoons” and asked for support and energy to be sent her way. I had heard the term but didn’t know what it meant, so I turned to Google and typed in those words and what came up was the explanation that came from a conversation between two friends, one of whom had Lupus.
Christine Miserandino was sitting at a table with her college roommate who asked her what it was like to have a disease that for many people would be considered invisible since overt symptoms may be elusive to the casual observer.
Christine pondered for an ever so brief moment and began gathering up spoons from their table and those around them. As she lay them out in front of her, she explained that at the beginning of any day, she would be given a dozen spoons. Each act, such as getting out of bed, showering, cooking, dressing, driving, going to work… would cost her a spoon.
Since they were limited, she needed to use them judiciously, not knowing what unplanned need could present itself. Some days there just weren’t enough of these utensils to go around and she needed to strategize.
I nodded knowingly as I read this, since as a therapist, I have clients who have all manner of physical and psychological conditions that call for them to count spoons. I started sharing the story with them and they nodded along with me.
Last week, I spoke at a meeting at a rehab for people who had experienced Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) “The top three causes are: car accident, firearms and falls. Firearm injuries are often fatal: 9 out of 10 people die from their injuries. Young adults and the elderly are the age groups at highest risk for TBI. Along with a traumatic brain injury, persons are also susceptible to spinal cord injuries which is another type of traumatic injury that can result out of vehicle crashes, firearms and falls. Prevention of TBI is the best approach since there is no cure.”
Most of the attendees at the meeting had experienced strokes. I was astounded at the resilience they exhibited. One was a yoga teacher who had partial paralysis on her left side and needed to move that arm with the functional right arm. She has returned to teaching part time from her wheelchair.
On my way over, I decided to incorporate the spoon theory into the presentation. It occurred to me to stop and pick up some plastic spoons to give to them as palpable reminders of the concept. There happened to be a convenience story around the corner, so I walked in and perused the aisles until I found bags of…. forks. Disappointed initially, I decided to add that concept to the mix, since sometimes, to paraphrase Alanis Morissette’s song “Ironic” — “It’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife.”
When the time came to use the analogy to explain what it might be like for them and their caregivers, I opened the bag and the forks went flying wildly. I scooped them up to the sound of their laughter. They agreed that at times in their own lives, they did run out of spoons, sometimes spoons were replaced with forks; the unexpected situations that might arise and at other times, even they were beyond their control and needed to be gathered together and being able to laugh at the absurdity of it all, made all the difference. I added the reminder that sometimes we just need to ‘fork it.’
A few days later, I was visiting a dear friend who is living with cancer. She has been resilient, doing what she can for herself and asking for assistance when needed. There are times when she suddenly runs out of spoons and wonders where she will find them when the proverbial utensil drawer is empty. That’s when resources present themselves. Before I left home, I took a spoon and fork, tied a red ribbon around them and wrote out a card that reminded her that there is always extra, just in case.
As a caregiver for family and friends over the years, and a professional caregiver for nearly four decades as a therapist, I too have a supply of spoons at my disposal each day that I expend by simply doing my job, let alone meeting personal needs and performing ADLs. I have told myself that I don’t have the luxury of running out of spoons, since I often feel that it is my role to be the one to dispense them and that I have an infinite supply. That belief has proved to be erroneous since in the past few years, I have experienced various health crises that could be attributed to being inattentive to my own spoon supply.
Ways to add spoons to your drawer:
- Time with family and friends who sustain your energy and don’t drain it
- Immersion in nature
- Healthy food
- Working out at the gym
- Engaging in hobbies
- Support group attendance
- Listening to music
- Creative activities
- Taking a bath
- Playing games
- Time with animals
- Writing music
- Adult coloring books
- Going somewhere new
- Reminding yourself of your accomplishments
- Making a Vision Board
- Having a good cry
- Throwing a brief temper tantrum
- Having a good laugh
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