Could somone please explain the spoon theory?

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Regular Member

Date Joined Mar 2009
Total Posts : 28
   Posted 4/9/2009 10:09 PM (GMT -6)   
I can follow that the spoons represent tasks, but I don't get how it relates to my Fibro.  I have to grimmace through things that have to be done until they are done or not do things I can pass on or don't have the ability to do.  I don't have a set number of things I can do (as I understood the spoons to mean), before I'm done for the day, it's the have to's or I'm just not going to's. I'd love to understand this so I can finally find a way to explain  things to my parents, inlaws, family and friends who just can't believe that I'm that "bad" off.  My hubby sees that I'm having it bad, but has a hard time  beliving some of it.  Gee, and they wonder why I enjoy spending so much time with my birth family.   It feels good to be around others that go through it too and know how I feel and what to expect from me. 



~Fibromyalgia, Arthritis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Lordosis, Chronic Fatigue, IBS, Chronic Cystitis, Bicornuate Uterus, PCOS, Cancer Survivor, Dyslexia, Memory Loss, Anxiety, Depression, ADD, Kidney Disorder, Kidney Stones, Migraines, Allergies, Eczema, Diabetes, Bulging Disks, Weak Ligaments in Knees~


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Date Joined Oct 2005
Total Posts : 3
   Posted 4/9/2009 11:08 PM (GMT -6)   
I assume you have read the whole spoons theory: 
I have most of your list and some of my own so I understand you completely.
The spoons theory is just a tool to help others try to understand.  I took 10 spoons to my neighbor not long ago.  She keeps ringing my doorbell at night without calling me first.  By night time going to the door is not on my list of important tasks.
I understand it like this, and its how I explain:
When I wake up in the morning, I don't always know how my day will go.  It depends a lot on the weather patterns because they heavily affect my cold intolerance, seratonin in my brain and my energy level in my cells.  If its a good day, I give myself 10 spoons. 
Each time I do something, perhaps something small, it takes the energy of one spoon.
I get up, bathe, put on clothes.  Some days that is 3 spoons right there.  Just takes the energy and drains my cells to death.  Then any morning chore, or lunch... takes more of my spoons away.  By the time I am ready for the evening, I may have purely exhaused all of them.   You could use coins just as well.... spending energy...
There are days with CFIDS and FMS that I wake up and have no spoons on the table at all.  I am drained before I get out of bed.  The weather front that came through in the night messed with the cells in my brain and body.  That stress on my cells just drained my adrenal glands to death and I can't function.  There is no ATP to be converted into energy. 
The good news is I look great.  I do the things I want to do because it is all I have now.  Sometimes they may not be the things others may think I should do, but I only have a few spoons per day........
Reading Dr. Sarah Myhill's new tests for CFIDS may well help explain the energy level of all of us, no matter what the diagnosis. 
does that help?

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Date Joined Aug 2007
Total Posts : 6067
   Posted 4/10/2009 9:42 AM (GMT -6)   
Hi Katie, I don't believe I have welcomed you yet. There are so many things that affect our energy level, how we sleep and the weather is two of them. Wed morning I woke up and felt like I hadn't slept for two days, so I started the day with very little energy and have learned on those days to do what i can and not fight it. Yesterday I had more energy and got quite a bit done. That's the thing with fibro we don't know how much energy we are going to have from one day to the next. I am lucky that I can arrange my life around my energy level. But even on the best of days i only have a few hours of energy.
It's like being on a financial budget but you don't know how much money you will have coming in til it gets here so when you do have money you have to use it for the most important things first and if there is anything left you treat yourself to something.
I use to be a planner and scheduler, not anymore unless it is something that has to be done at a certain time. I have not worked since having fibro so I don't know how I would drag myself to work on bad days like so many of you do.
luv and hugs
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Regular Member

Date Joined Jan 2009
Total Posts : 376
   Posted 4/10/2009 11:10 AM (GMT -6)   
People without chronic conditions like fibro, CFS, and Lyme haven't had the experience of budgeting their energy - and getting by on a very small budget.  The spoons are the energy that you have for one day - and not the tasks themselves.  If I'm really tired and having malaise, going to a crowded, noisy place might take 3 spoons. 
The spoon theory is a way to make people aware that there is only so much energy to go around.  Like any other budget, if you spend it one place you don't have it to spend somewhere else.  I also found this series of articles interesting - from a Seattle area fibro/fatigue support group:
From the second section on finding your limits, I'll quote this (hope it's OK with the forum rules)

"The Energy Envelope

One way to explore the idea of limits is through the concept of the Energy Envelope. You can think of your situation in terms of three factors: 1) Available energy: the energy you have.  It is limited, and is replenished by rest and food; 2)  Expended energy: the energy you lose through physical, mental & emotional exertion; and 3) Symptoms: fatigue, brain fog, pain, and so on.

If you expend more energy than you have available, you will intensify your symptoms.  This is called living outside the Energy Envelope. This approach commonly leads to the push and crash cycle described above. An alternative is living inside the Energy Envelope. If you keep your expended energy within the limits of your available energy, you can gain some control over your symptoms. If you accept your limits (keeping your activity level within the limit of your available energy), you can reduce symptoms and the severity of relapses, and over time may be able to expand your limits.  This is an upward spiral.

The Fifty Percent Solution & the Bowl of Marbles

Let me suggest a couple of ideas you might use if you wanted to apply the concept of the Energy Envelope.  The first is called the fifty percent solution.  Each day estimate how much you think you can accomplish.  Then divide this in two and make it your goal to do this lesser amount.  The unexpended energy is a gift of healing you are giving to your body.

The second idea is to imagine your available energy as a bowl of marbles.  You have a limited number of marbles to use each day. The number may vary from day to day. Physical activity uses some, but mental and emotional activity do as well. With every activity, you take one or more marbles out of the bowl, remembering that stress is a big marble-user and so lessening stress will preserve your supply of marbles for other uses. 

The overall idea in both the fifty percent solution and the bowl of marbles is that the limits imposed by the disease force us to set priorities in order to control our symptoms and bring some stability to our lives. Both techniques are ways you can reframe your situation to give yourself permission to do less as a way to promote healing."

Lyme, anxitey, depression, chronic C. Pnuemoniae
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"I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened." (Mark Twain)

Veteran Member

Date Joined Jun 2008
Total Posts : 716
   Posted 4/10/2009 2:24 PM (GMT -6)   
Good job everyone, as usual, so much good, usable information. Thank you.

Katie & Hopabout, Welcome, welcome to this wonderful place with such good, knowledgeable people. I hope you find your answers here.

hugs, Denise

 I have:  Fibromyalgia, ME/CFS, Holt-Oram Syndrome, nasal allergies, food allergies, depression, TMJ, anxiety  Married to a wonderful supportive husband & between us we have 4 children & 7 grandchildren As apples of gold in silver carvings is a word spoken at the right time for it.    Prov. 25:11

Regular Member

Date Joined Mar 2009
Total Posts : 28
   Posted 4/10/2009 6:38 PM (GMT -6)   
Thanks that explains it. Its kinda like the energy level bar on a video game. I don't know why but I would have never thought of the spoons as being energy lol. I guess at this point I don't try to figure things out if it's not pinpointed. Its like I don't want to waste what energy I have on it. Thinking requires a lot of the same energy that physical activity does. Unfortunately I don't think that it will work for my family. They have a hard time believing that anybody can run out of energy that quickly. My dad thinks its all put on. My parents actually said to me "Do think you deserve to get a disability check just like an amputee missing a limb?" since I've already filed twice and been denied both times. I've had fibro since I was between 10 years old and 12. I'm 28 years old now, and it's at the point where medicines don't really work and I wear out too easily along with pain that makes me not be able to move around well. I'm greatly enjoying my daughter's handicap tag because I finally make it into the store with enough energy to walk around to get what I need.



~Fibromyalgia, Arthritis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Lordosis, Chronic Fatigue, IBS, Chronic Cystitis, Bicornuate Uterus, PCOS, Cancer Survivor, Dyslexia, Memory Loss, Anxiety, Depression, ADD, Kidney Disorder, Kidney Stones, Migraines, Allergies, Eczema, Diabetes, Bulging Disks, Weak Ligaments in Knees~


(Insulin, Gabapentin, Cyclobenzaprine HCL, Zolpidem, Rozerem, Hydrocodone ES, Toradol Shots, Steroid Shots)


*Don't dream it. Be it!*

Veteran Member

Date Joined Sep 2006
Total Posts : 1713
   Posted 4/10/2009 6:51 PM (GMT -6)   

That is simply awful what your parents said to you. Talk about not getting it. I'm glad you told us that little tidbit. Allow me to support you by saying, yes you DO deserve disability. Don't let that negative thinking get to you if you can. You know like depression, unless you have fibro, you really can't fully comprehend what it is all about. And you have a lot on your personal plate. I will definitely pray for you. And I will pray that you finally get your much deserved disability too.

Gentle Hugs,

Moderator Chronic Pain
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Veteran Member

Date Joined Mar 2009
Total Posts : 599
   Posted 4/10/2009 9:31 PM (GMT -6)   
The way I explained it to my family was to take the most gossipy member with me to my rheumatologist appointment. She got to watch while the doc tested my tender points, and sent me thru the roof. She had no idea that just gentle pressure would make me sick to my stomach for two days after the exam. Now she understands when I say I'm having pain, she can visualize where and how it hurts. I think I made a good decision to take her because she is now more understanding. And she spread it around the rest of the family that I'm really ill, not faking it or lazy.
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