Most likely if you, or a loved one is living with an autoimmune disease you have heard of the “Spoon Theory”. When I was first diagnosed I came across this theory when I was working to educate myself about Multiple Sclerosis. People living with an autoimmune disease experience high levels of fatigue. Unlike normal tiredness, this fatigue is all-consuming and cannot be warded off with a simple cup of coffee or a quick nap. It is bone aching, lead eyelids, energy sucking exhaustion. When fatigue hits we really don’t have any other option than to rest. It’s not a suggestion from our bodies, it’s a demand.
The spoon theory was created by Christine Miserandino in an essay she wrote in 2003. She used spoons as a physical representation of the amount of energy we have available to us to complete activities in our daily lives.
Imagine that you only had 12 spoons, that’s what people with MS get. 12 spoons to get you through your whole day. Waking up costs you one spoon, showering is two, getting dressed is two, eating is one. That’s half of your spoons gone before you have even walked out the door in the morning!
That is why people living with chronic or autoimmune diseases need to plan their activities carefully. Prioritize things that need to get done for early in the day in case we run out of spoons by 1pm. That is why it makes working full-time hard for many people. That is why sometimes we have to put rest first.
Spoons can be replenished by getting a full night’s sleep. The caveat here is that many people living with autoimmune diseases suffer from sleep issues such as insomnia or pain that keeps them from getting a good night’s sleep. This can cause us to go even further in the hole with our spoons! We can borrow spoons from future days if needed but those spoons will eventually need to be replaced by taking rest days. That is why it is important, I am learning, to make sure I plan a couple of days of “nothing” after any big events or holiday weekends.
So when I say I am low on spoons, now you know I’m not just begging you for free silverware!…but maybe a nap…