Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Trifecta of Spoons

I’m sure you all know by now of my deep, undying love of the Spoon Theory by Christine Miserando.  In recent months and years, I’ve expanded my own, personal definition and application of the spoon theory to include three parts:physical spoons, cognitive spoons, and emotional spoons.
Physical spoons: Physical spoons are the spoons used for physical tasks - walking, standing, writing, carrying something, showering, etc.  As a person with CP, these tasks take a lot more energy than they do for someone without CP, and therefore I have to be very conscious of my physical spoon count.

Cognitive spoons: Cognitive spoons are the spoons required to think and produce a coherent output of words, whether that’s in speech or writing.  Cognitive spoons are required to write long blog posts like this and organize them in a manner that makes sense, as well as writing other things like poetry or fiction.

Emotional spoons: Emotional spoons are used up when I’m really, really feeling something.  My mental health issues, anxiety and depression, both eat up a lot of spoons.  Talking to friends who create a lot of drama also takes up a lot of emotional spoons, spoons which I can’t always spare.

These three categories of spoons overlap and intersect in a variety of ways.  For instance, speaking verbally takes both physical and cognitive spoons.  It takes cognitive spoons to put together the words I want in my head and make sure they come out the way I want them to.  It takes physical spoons to make the words come out of my mouth clearly and without stuttering.  And the lower I get on spoons, the harder it is for me to do these things.

And when I get low on one type of spoon, I tend to borrow spoons from the other spoon areas.  Which means if I’m doing a presentation, I will do much better if I am able to sit.  My thoughts will be clearer and I will be able to express them better if I am not using up spoons by standing, a task which is very hard for me to do.  There are three types of spoons, but they are very heavily influenced by each other.

When I say I’m exhausted or out of spoons, I may mean physically.  I may mean cognitively.  I may mean emotionally.  Or I may mean all three.  Either way, it’s a signal for you to back off and give me some space to rest my body and brain for awhile.  If I don’t want to talk to you, it’s nothing personal.  It just means that I can’t handle the toll on my spoon count right now.


Hannah said...

I was wondering about emotional spoons after first having seen this. That being said, I didn't think in these terms before, because I had help to do these things, as I could do tasks such as my morning routine, but they cost me more time and spoons just to get dressed and into my chair (given the right environment), than I would theoretically have for the whole day. And I didn't even shower, eat, or get to class yet!
As a result, I have various PCAs/staff for this reason, to help with time constraints, and focus on my education/life. Some say that what I can do is not functional or realistic, and I have to choose what to focus my energy on. I will admit that I have gotten lazy on various ADL tasks from having staff, and this is not a good thing! Socks are evil! I can do It but I rarely have the time, energy, or patience to put them on!
Take for example my newly acquired skill of transferring myself TO the bathroom. This takes a lot of spoons. I can do this if necessary, but the reverse is hard, given the height and angle of my power chair, so i still require help as of yet. I am very proud and glad that I can do this, but if I focused on all the physical aspects of my life, I wouldn't be where I am with my education (on a full academic scholarship to one of the top colleges) or my social life or other experiences.
I have been raised to do every single thing within my ability for myself, and to not take no for an answer, I still tend to think that way, and I am very hard on myself when I can't do things that I know I can do (internal ableism??)
At the same time, when I want to try to do something new, in this case, try a walker some people (particularly some of my family) either doubt the functionality of it, and say it's pointless or immediately try to dream up the future of total functionality. I know that for me, it may not be 'functional', but it helps me in many other ways such as strength, balance, posture, lack of stiffness, etc. This was the first time spoon theory really came to mind, when I had just walked two times, step by calculated step across my brother's room, the farthest I've walked so far, and I thought "Wow attempting walking for 20 mins takes up so many freaking spoons, but it's so worth it."
And then I started thinking about how I would incorporate these new skills into college life, on top of all the emotional bullshit I dealt with last year, getting myself established in a new city and state, PCA drama, wheelchair drama, not knowing what was going on, no one taking me seriously, and, oh yeah, SCHOOL, that thing I'm here for.......
If I had any emotional spoons left after the summer, I was in negative spoons by the end of first quarter. As a result, my focus and school suffered a bit. I am hoping that now that I am established, the toll on my physical and emotional spoons will be less, and I can focus more on my work while still being active. I do not see myself as a person who tires easily, and i tend to push myself to the limit. I would be interested in yours and others thoughts on the situation. ( I apologize if this post is TMI to share, but I felt background context needed to be stated. Also, I talk a lot, hahaha :) )