View Full Version : "Running Out Of Spoons"


aprokcndy
03-06-16, 08:33 PM
Have you ever heard the term "I'm running out of spoons?" I just heard it from my sister who has Cystic Fibrosis and sometimes finds it hard to explain to people that she has a limited amount of energy throughout the day to work with, so she found this term and uses it now whenever she's getting tired/using up the last of her energy.. ie, "running out of spoons." Since I JUST heard it I might not explain it very well but it's a term used for people with disabilities (mental or physical) that have limited energy resources. It sorta gives a visual of having a certain number of spoons per day, and the spoons represent energy. Some people have more spoons than others-- her and I both have a limited number of spoons due to two different things (hers being more physical reasons and mine being mental). Her spoons tend to run out for more physical reasons and mine mental. So whenever you're using up spoons, you tell someone "I'm running out of spoons" and hopefully they understand your little analogy about energy levels. =)

Anyway... hopefully that very ranty explanation makes sense and if you didn't know what that term was, you can use it in a helpful way.

I'm still learning how to deal with my "spoons"-- how many I have, what uses them up, and how quickly. I was just diagnosed a couple years ago with ADHD so it's been a big learning experience for me.

I'm sorta getting past the euphoric stage of my diagnosis where I'm adjusting to my medication and excited about the things I'm capable of doing now & the things I'm learning about ADHD. Now I'm sorta in that learning stage where I see-saw back and forth between MY normal life (which may be slightly more laid-back than real-normal) and "hey I can do normal person things, look at me!" which usually tends to end in a meltdown.

Today I went to an IKEA for the first time while on my period. NOT the best idea... It started off with lots of promise and excitement, and let's just say my spoons got used up very quickly. I ended up having a full-on, toddler-size meltdown on the way home, and the rest of my plans for the day (which were kind of a lot, I admit) went down the toilet.

I feel like that's a big part of having ADHD-- not knowing how many spoons you have, or sometimes just denying it and trying to do more than you can handle anyway. Now that I'm more aware of my spoons though, it's easier to deal with than before I got diagnosed. But it's still frustrating, especially in the early stages of "wow I'm capable of more than I thought!", when you end up doing something you realize you can't handle as well as the 'average person.' Like going to a massive department store with endless displays of (cheap) furniture. It's depressing and I still have to stop myself from going into a downward spiral of self-deprecation. But I've gotten much easier on myself.

Does anyone else have this problem? Are there certain things you can't do or have to limit yourself to that you sometimes get embarrassed or ashamed to explain to others?

finallyfound10
03-06-16, 11:41 PM
"The Spoon Theory"
http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/

I have many fewer spoons after I hit the wall during/after being diagnosed with ADHD-I and Depression and Anxiety. It's all taken it's mental, emotional and physical toll on me. I feel your pain!!

ginniebean
03-06-16, 11:47 PM
Yes, it's been discussed on here a few times and it's a good tool to discuss limitation. Now, whether others will be receptive varies from person to person.

The amount of spoons I have varies from day to day,so planning around my energy levels is difficult.

Fortune
03-07-16, 12:47 AM
I am currently out of spoons and should go to bed.

TiggerToo
03-25-16, 07:04 PM
This is just my opinion - I just read through that article, and really dislike some of the assumptions the author made. Healthy people do not have unlimited 'spoons'. Everyone, 'healthy' or not has a certain number of 'spoons' and for different people, activities may take more or less spoons. What about things that give you more spoons, like regular exercise (as tolerated), healthy meals, connecting with friends and family? While it may be a helpful analogy at times, 'spoon theory' sounds like it could be an easy excuse to get out of doing things that could actually help. I think this is especially true for people with mental health issues. Again, this is all just my opinion :)

Fortune
03-26-16, 02:23 AM
This is just my opinion - I just read through that article, and really dislike some of the assumptions the author made. Healthy people do not have unlimited 'spoons'. Everyone, 'healthy' or not has a certain number of 'spoons' and for different people, activities may take more or less spoons. What about things that give you more spoons, like regular exercise (as tolerated), healthy meals, connecting with friends and family? While it may be a helpful analogy at times, 'spoon theory' sounds like it could be an easy excuse to get out of doing things that could actually help. I think this is especially true for people with mental health issues. Again, this is all just my opinion :)

The author isn't assuming anyone has "unlimited spoons." However, people who are not disabled are able to do many of the things they are expected to do, whereas people who are disabled find this difficult. The point was to see through the spoon metaphor that the author's energy is quite limited compared to temporarily able-bodied people.

It's not an excuse to "get out of doing things that could actually help" but it does seem like an awful lot of people are vigilant about the possibility of disabled people "getting out of doing things" and I am pretty skeptical of such perspectives.

BellaVita
03-26-16, 03:12 AM
This is just my opinion - I just read through that article, and really dislike some of the assumptions the author made. Healthy people do not have unlimited 'spoons'. Everyone, 'healthy' or not has a certain number of 'spoons' and for different people, activities may take more or less spoons. What about things that give you more spoons, like regular exercise (as tolerated), healthy meals, connecting with friends and family? While it may be a helpful analogy at times, 'spoon theory' sounds like it could be an easy excuse to get out of doing things that could actually help. I think this is especially true for people with mental health issues. Again, this is all just my opinion :)

For me, there is no activity that doesn't take away spoons. Even things I enjoy doing, take away my spoons. So I even have to plan around my "happy and nourishing" activities because those, just like any activity, take away my spoons. (I have both physical and mental disabilities)

I have to agree with Fortune. I, too, am skeptical when people try to say disabled people are trying to use a helpful analogy for a negative purpose - "another excuse." That is what we've heard all our lives - and that is one reason this enlightening theory was produced in the first place. To open others eyes about the realities of physical and mental disabilities - and how demanding and draining every day tasks and activities can be for us.

The part where you wrote, "sounds like it could be an easy excuse to get out of doing things that could actually help." doesn't seem to actually make sense. What did you mean by that?

And what were your intentions behind it?

To me, it sounds like another way to shame disabled people and to tell them that they aren't doing enough. (When often, the case is that they are doing way more than they can handle.)

Attitudes like this are unhelpful to the disabled community because they add to the energy behind false claims that we are all just lazy and faking our illnesses, and that we don't want any help, and don't want to help ourselves. It can be quite dangerous for us, actually.

stef
03-26-16, 03:59 AM
An excuse? Certainly not. Its a brilliant illustration designed to explain. Unfoteuntéy you have missed the point....

Socaljaxs
03-26-16, 10:01 AM
Does anyone else have this problem? Are there certain things you can't do or have to limit yourself to that you sometimes get embarrassed or ashamed to explain to others? yes, it's very common analogy amongst people with disabilities both mental and physical. I first learned of this analogy years ago when I was active in a spondylolisthesis support group online. However I never personally use this analogy.

This is just my opinion - I just read through that article, and really dislike some of the assumptions the author made. Healthy people do not have unlimited 'spoons'. Everyone, 'healthy' or not has a certain number of 'spoons' and for different people, activities may take more or less spoons. What about things that give you more spoons, like regular exercise (as tolerated), healthy meals, connecting with friends and family? While it may be a helpful analogy at times, 'spoon theory' sounds like it could be an easy excuse to get out of doing things that could actually help. I think this is especially true for people with mental health issues. Again, this is all just my opinion :)

I kinda understand what she is saying, or I'm assuming I do...I don't think it was intended to be mean or accusing in terms of using it as an excuse. I am someone that lives with a physical invisible illness. Been battling chronic pain type issues for over 6 years now. I've also, watched my mom deal with her life threatening illness and admire her outlook on how she lived with it. Maybe that's why I understand this in a non-disrespect to disabilities. Hopefully I can explain myself clearly also.

My mom had stage 3c ovarian cancer, she lived with this disease until a few months ago. She refused to let her life threatening illness get in her way. I remember telling her that she had ovarian cancer but ovarian cancer never had her.

She had many physical and mental issues due to this. However she never let her cancer define her, yes she hurt. Yes she was sick, but she refused to let it take over her life or who she was. That's kinda what I am taking away from this above post..

Before my back surgery, I allowed my pain and limited mobility to take over my life. It affected every aspect of my life. I existed barely and suffered more so because it affected me to the degree I allowed it too. I let my pain take over verses just living with it.

The limited mobility had me verses it is just something I have. Does that make any sense?

With my current mental/emotional issues and my new diagnosis of ehler's danlos. Which is a life condemned to daily pain and suffering. I'm trying to be like my mom...I am now fighting tooth and nail to not allow it to take over again. Yes it's difficult and some days I just want to curl into a ball and cry for how horrible life is for me now. It's been a horrible year. But I'm fighting, so that's what I'm taking from this. If that makes sense.

And im not saying that the limited spoons are an excuse. Yes everyone is fighting something and uses spoons to keep their quality of life, I just am trying to explain what I think the poster may be trying to say

Lunacie
03-26-16, 10:19 AM
yes, it's very common analogy amongst people with disabilities both mental and physical. I first learned of this analogy years ago when I was active in a spondylolisthesis support group online. However I never personally use this analogy.



I kinda understand what she is saying, or I'm assuming I do...I don't think it was intended to be mean or accusing in terms of using it as an excuse. I am someone that lives with a physical invisible illness. Been battling chronic pain type issues for over 6 years now. I've also, watched my mom deal with her life threatening illness and admire her outlook on how she lived with it. Maybe that's why I understand this in a non-disrespect to disabilities. Hopefully I can explain myself clearly also.

My mom had stage 3c ovarian cancer, she lived with this disease until a few months ago. She refused to let her life threatening illness get in her way. I remember telling her that she had ovarian cancer but ovarian cancer never had her.

She had many physical and mental issues due to this. However she never let her cancer define her, yes she hurt. Yes she was sick, but she refused to let it take over her life or who she was. That's kinda what I am taking away from this above post..

Before my back surgery, I allowed my pain and limited mobility to take over my life. It affected every aspect of my life. I existed barely and suffered more so because it affected me to the degree I allowed it too. I let my pain take over verses just living with it.

The limited mobility had me verses it is just something I have. Does that make any sense?

With my current mental/emotional issues and my new diagnosis of ehler's danlos. Which is a life condemned to daily pain and suffering. I'm trying to be like my mom...I am now fighting tooth and nail to not allow it to take over again. Yes it's difficult and some days I just want to curl into a ball and cry for how horrible life is for me now. It's been a horrible year. But I'm fighting, so that's what I'm taking from this. If that makes sense.

And im not saying that the limited spoons are an excuse. Yes everyone is fighting something and uses spoons to keep their quality of life, I just am trying to explain what I think the poster may be trying to say

I recently realized that's what I've been doing (the bolded part above).

So I started making an effort to walk normally but with shorter steps of course, to see if that helped the back and knee pain.

I forgot I don't have very many spoons and had one terrific day where I walked without my canes and did a lot.

And I've been in pain all over again for the last three days! Used all my spoons for the whole week in just that one ... lovely ... day. :rolleyes:

Taking that reminder to heart I'm going to try again ... more slowly this time. ;)

daveddd
03-26-16, 10:33 AM
i don't get it, i don't throw spoons away after i eat

yet i go to the drawer and nothing

im converting to all sporks

Fuzzy12
03-26-16, 12:29 PM
i don't get it, i don't throw spoons away after i eat

yet i go to the drawer and nothing

im converting to all sporks

I'm assuming you'll wash them after using? :eek:


If you do then they won't be available till you've washed them.

I run out of spoons all the time though we have lots of them. Maybe I just use them inefficiently.

daveddd
03-26-16, 01:00 PM
I'm assuming you'll wash them after using? :eek:


If you do then they won't be available till you've washed them.

I run out of spoons all the time though we have lots of them. Maybe I just use them inefficiently.

the loss appears to happen between the use and washing phase

renjas
03-26-16, 08:37 PM
i understand what u are talking about. I'm ganna give u one example of what I do. every auguest we go on a week long trip to visit my grandparents and fish. we leave friday after work and drive home a week later on saturday. It's a 10 hour drive by the way. Instead of working on monday i dont return til wednesday. I take off a week and a half every year. On sunday I veg out on the couch. Monday I do laundry and Tuesday I restock the pantry and shop for back to school.My boss doesn't understand but I put in for it and I have the pto coming to me. So generally I get at least Monday off. Tuesday if things aren't too busy. This is one way I manage my energy levels.

Little Missy
03-26-16, 09:13 PM
Well, tonight all I have are a couple of dull paring knives.

psychopathetic
03-26-16, 09:14 PM
One of my big problems...is instead of cleaning my spoons so I can reuse them the next day, I often opt to just throw them away and use a new one >.<'.
In fact...all my spoons are plastic at this point haha.
I own 1 metal fork.

But yeah, I've seen this running out of spoons idea here on these forums before and really like it, though I haven't used it myself with anyone.

another problem I have...is admitting to myself how many spoons I really have. I convince myself that I have a drawer full of them...and this is a habit, I've done this time and time again without learning. I think I have tons of these spoons...but it turns out that no, I really don't.
And I feel SO ashamed about it. Like I'm suppose to have all these spoons. Everyone else does...and there's no outward reason I shouldn't...so I beat myself up for it.
Lots of guilt.
/sigh

Ah well. Today has been a good day. Haven't come near to running out of spoons! :D

TiggerToo
03-27-16, 09:03 AM
The part where you wrote, "sounds like it could be an easy excuse to get out of doing things that could actually help." doesn't seem to actually make sense. What did you mean by that?

And what were your intentions behind it?

To me, it sounds like another way to shame disabled people and to tell them that they aren't doing enough. (When often, the case is that they are doing way more than they can handle.)


I was presenting a different way of looking at it.

This is actually why I avoid posting on message boards. I said twice that it was my own opinion, I even put a smiley face to show I had no ill intentions. I was speaking from my own experience. I have lived with anxiety and depression since I was 8 years old. I grew up with a mother who was emotionally abusive. I have panic attacks in stores. ADHD makes it extremely hard to listen to directions and participate in my favorite activities, which happen to be dog training classes.

It is very easy FOR ME to make excuses when I am exhausted from shopping at the grocery store, and to just pull the covers over my head and sleep all afternoon, because I could. It is very difficult FOR ME to push myself to get up and take the dogs for a walk; to turn the car around a third time and take the road I missed AGAIN while trying to go someplace I've been a hundred times, instead of just heading home; to go to a dog agility class and try to follow directions, despite having to ask four or five times for repeated instructions, and frequently getting so frustrated that I cry.

I told myself for a long time I just COULD NOT do these things and no one could make me. I got very angry at people who told me I could and should. So I guess by your definition I'm not disabled, since I make the extra effort to do these things which actually have the end result of making me less tired, have better social skills, and learn to control my frustration better.

I have a brother with cerebral palsy and a niece with Asperger's, both of whom lived with me for a while. I witnessed firsthand their limitations and frustrations when it came to dealing with what life threw at them. I see how they have to push themselves to do activities other people take for granted. I am not shaming disabled people.

Socaljaxs
03-27-16, 10:44 AM
I was presenting a different way of looking at it.

This is actually why I avoid posting on message boards. I said twice that it was my own opinion, I even put a smiley face to show I had no ill intentions. I was speaking from my own experience.

If you read my response here also, I did understand what you meant, I wrote it in a little bit different manner, but similar in the intent of what you wrote.. Somethings written word needs clarification. Especially when it is subjects that have affected people greatly or continuously...

:grouphug::( please, don't ever feel that you can't/shouldn't post here. We are here for support and differing ideas and ways of thinking and/or how someone else looks at things are extremely helpful to others on here... Your opinion/ideas and experiences are wanted and can be very beneficial to others on here....I personally enjoy reading and looking at things in a different ways....

Sadly, written word without a tone behind it like in person, may need additional clarification.

It is very easy FOR ME to make excuses when I am exhausted from shopping at the grocery store, and to just pull the covers over my head and sleep all afternoon, because I could. It is very difficult FOR ME to push myself to get up and take the dogs for a walk; to turn the car around a third time and take the road I missed AGAIN while trying to go someplace I've been a hundred times, instead of just heading home; to go to a dog agility class and try to follow directions, despite having to ask four or five times for repeated instructions, and frequently getting so frustrated that I cry.

I told myself for a long time I just COULD NOT do these things and no one could make me. I got very angry at people who told me I could and should. So I guess by your definition I'm not disabled, since I make the extra effort to do these things which actually have the end result of making me less tired, have better social skills, and learn to control my frustration better.

I have a brother with cerebral palsy and a niece with Asperger's, both of whom lived with me for a while. I witnessed firsthand their limitations and frustrations when it came to dealing with what life threw at them. I see how they have to push themselves to do activities other people take for granted. I am not shaming disabled people.

Unmanagable
03-27-16, 11:22 AM
I have to remain incredibly mindful of my spoon count.

I decided to start eating more finger foods so I have less self-imposed worry about spoons, and all of the other utensils/dishes that I'd dirty up in a day.

Fruit and veggies, baby....the original fast food. lol

Less energy in the planning, MUCH more energetic output as a result. Bam!

Spoon reserve finally functional, most days.

Fuzzy12
03-27-16, 02:19 PM
I was presenting a different way of looking at it.

This is actually why I avoid posting on message boards. I said twice that it was my own opinion, I even put a smiley face to show I had no ill intentions. I was speaking from my own experience. I have lived with anxiety and depression since I was 8 years old. I grew up with a mother who was emotionally abusive. I have panic attacks in stores. ADHD makes it extremely hard to listen to directions and participate in my favorite activities, which happen to be dog training classes.

It is very easy FOR ME to make excuses when I am exhausted from shopping at the grocery store, and to just pull the covers over my head and sleep all afternoon, because I could. It is very difficult FOR ME to push myself to get up and take the dogs for a walk; to turn the car around a third time and take the road I missed AGAIN while trying to go someplace I've been a hundred times, instead of just heading home; to go to a dog agility class and try to follow directions, despite having to ask four or five times for repeated instructions, and frequently getting so frustrated that I cry.

I told myself for a long time I just COULD NOT do these things and no one could make me. I got very angry at people who told me I could and should. So I guess by your definition I'm not disabled, since I make the extra effort to do these things which actually have the end result of making me less tired, have better social skills, and learn to control my frustration better.

I have a brother with cerebral palsy and a niece with Asperger's, both of whom lived with me for a while. I witnessed firsthand their limitations and frustrations when it came to dealing with what life threw at them. I see how they have to push themselves to do activities other people take for granted. I am not shaming disabled people.

I don't doubt your intentions and I'm sure you aren't trying to shame anyone but this is how I interpret the Spoon theory.

I think the whole point of the analogy is that different people have a different amount of energy (or resources aka spoons). What takes a huge amount of effort for me might be kid's play for person A and what is easy for me might require an impossible effort for person B. Now this does not mean that any of us, neither me nor person A nor person B are not trying 'our' hardest or are making excuses. It just means that the effort required to overcome is different and therefore we run out of energy at different stages, some earlier, some later.

I'm sure that you are putting in all you can and all you have to achieve your targets but you can't assume that the person who wrote the article and came up with the spoon analogy isn't doing the same, that they are not putting in the extra effort and that they are just making excuses.

If someone says that they have run out of spoons for the day maybe we should just believe that they have put in the extra effort and have really exhausted all their spoons. The whole point of the article is that we can't judge other people (disabled or not) or assume that we know better how many spoons they have .... or should have.

If I understand correctly this is pretty much what you said in your first post (and I agree that no one has an unlimited number of spoons) however I don't think that the spoon theory really increases the risks of anyone making excuses. It's just a way to explain why different people might not be able to do as much as others.

Sometimes the hardest thing can be admitting that you have run out of spoons especially when others haven't and when they can't see or can't accept that you have.

Fortune
03-27-16, 03:31 PM
I kind of think if one wants to talk about disabled people and difficulties with doing things, that the word excuses carries a lot of negative baggage for many of us and only serves to antagonize.

BellaVita
03-27-16, 03:37 PM
I was presenting a different way of looking at it.

This is actually why I avoid posting on message boards. I said twice that it was my own opinion, I even put a smiley face to show I had no ill intentions. I was speaking from my own experience. I have lived with anxiety and depression since I was 8 years old. I grew up with a mother who was emotionally abusive. I have panic attacks in stores. ADHD makes it extremely hard to listen to directions and participate in my favorite activities, which happen to be dog training classes.

I have trouble guessing what smileys mean, I mean I guess it helped the tone to an extent. I mostly just read what you wrote and responded to your words. When someone says they have an opinion, I think it is okay to challenge that opinion. I also think that that particular opinion could be incredibly dangerous to the disabled community, so I felt the need to speak up.

Hey you and I sound similar, and I'm sorry you've struggled with all of those things. :grouphug:

It is very easy FOR ME to make excuses when I am exhausted from shopping at the grocery store, and to just pull the covers over my head and sleep all afternoon, because I could. It is very difficult FOR ME to push myself to get up and take the dogs for a walk; to turn the car around a third time and take the road I missed AGAIN while trying to go someplace I've been a hundred times, instead of just heading home; to go to a dog agility class and try to follow directions, despite having to ask four or five times for repeated instructions, and frequently getting so frustrated that I cry.

Have you maybe thought about perhaps you aren't making excuses, that when you are exhausted you truly are exhausted and can do no more? You've described things that are very difficult for you - to me that sounds like it is due to your disabilities and not because you are making excuses.
Sometimes, when we have parents who are abusive, we internalize the horrible words they've said over the years, including the famous "you're just making excuses!" I'm gently suggesting that that might have happened to you, when in fact you were actually struggling with disabilities and were never making excuses.

Even though you said what you wrote was an opinion, I felt the need to comment on it because of this part:

While it may be a helpful analogy at times, 'spoon theory' sounds like it could be an easy excuse to get out of doing things that could actually help. I think this is especially true for people with mental health issues. Again, this is all just my opinion

You said it was "especially true for people with mental health issues" which is talking about a huge group of people - which includes me. And so I felt the need to explain how this type of talk is hurtful, and that disabled people are not making excuses when they say they have run out of spoons/are low on spoons. They are just being honest and also vulnerable by being so open, which is hard to do and so should be respected and we should show compassion and understanding.

I told myself for a long time I just COULD NOT do these things and no one could make me. I got very angry at people who told me I could and should. So I guess by your definition I'm not disabled, since I make the extra effort to do these things which actually have the end result of making me less tired, have better social skills, and learn to control my frustration better.

I'm not sure why you think I would not consider you disabled. You have disabilities, no? The point is, that some people with disabilities can't push themselves in the way you describe, because they have already pushed themselves over and over to the limit. But to an outsider, it looks like they haven't pushed themselves at all.

Here's an example:
A shower.
For me, a shower takes many many spoons.
It is a difficult and draining process. I feel so overloaded by the colors, shapes, the bright light, the sound of the fan is too loud, the water beating down on me, the tasks I have to do in the shower (shampoo, conditioner, wash face, wash body) are very mentally draining for me. My body aches in pain while this is going on, sometimes my lower back and stomach start hurting so bad I have to stop what I'm doing and just let the water pour down on the hurting places. I can almost *feel* the life draining out of me. My OCD also kicks in and I have a compulsive need to check the caps over and over, and if my arms or leg touches the shower wall I have to reclean the body part. I have other OCD compulsions too that often happen. By the end of this whole ordeal I am so exhausted both mentally and physically that I just sit on my bed in my robe, for however long I need, until I feel okay enough to dress myself.

See, for many people showers are just "another easy, often relaxing, activity that people just do" but for me, it is often hell.

And so, when I say to someone after I've had a shower "I'm sorry, I just had a shower so I need time to rest before I can participate in an activity" I really truly mean it.

I have a brother with cerebral palsy and a niece with Asperger's, both of whom lived with me for a while. I witnessed firsthand their limitations and frustrations when it came to dealing with what life threw at them. I see how they have to push themselves to do activities other people take for granted. I am not shaming disabled people.

Yes, disabled people always have to push themselves. But sometimes we push ourselves to the limit and collapse because our bodies literally can do no more. Your post actually did sound like shaming, but I'm glad to hear you are not shaming.