Counting My Spoons

I am fascinated by counting spoons. The first time I read the counting spoons story, I Immediately ran through my day and wondered how many spoons I must use. The results: way too many.

I grew up with horrendous asthma. I probably didn’t run more than 20 feet at a time until after high school. Wheezing was just part of life, an obvious limitation well suited to a geeky, gangly kid with a proud rat tail. One day in Junior High health class (when such a thing existed), the teacher brought out a pack of straws and passed one out to each kid. Each kid examined their straw with either confused interest, mimed spitting wads of wet paper through it, or generally goofed off while the teacher calmly addressed the class.

“Ok everyone,” she announced, “Put the straw in your mouth and cover your nose. You can only breathe through the straw.” Kids looked around, confused, and did it. If only took a few seconds before each person in class was gasping for air.

“This is what it is like to have an asthma attack.” As soon as she said the words, the class erupted in discussion. At the time, asthma wasn’t as prevalent as it is today. I was probably the only kids in class seriously affected by it. Breathing through that straw was uncomfortably familiar, a grim reminder of what each night was like during certain seasons. I found myself deluged by questions from the other kids, who were now suddenly interested. Before they just didn’t understand, but as soon as they were restricted, they had an inkling.

That is why I am fascinated by counting spoons.

If you haven’t heard of this, here is a damn good read:

A quick recap (TLDR) is that Christine Miserando, trying to explain to her friend what is like to have Lupus, hands her a bunch of spoons and says she has to spend one for each burst of energy she uses throughout her day (showering, cooking a meal, getting out of bed). When her spoons are gone, she is done for the day.

Here is an exerpt:

At that moment, the spoon theory was born. I quickly grabbed every spoon on the table; hell I grabbed spoons off of the other tables. I looked at her in the eyes and said “Here you go, you have Lupus”. She looked at me slightly confused, as anyone would when they are being handed a bouquet of spoons. The cold metal spoons clanked in my hands, as I grouped them together and shoved them into her hands.

I explained that the difference in being sick and being healthy is having to make choices or to consciously think about things when the rest of the world doesn’t have to. The healthy have the luxury of a life without choices, a gift most people take for granted.

Most people start the day with unlimited amount of possibilities, and energy to do whatever they desire, especially young people. For the most part, they do not need to worry about the effects of their actions. So for my explanation, I used spoons to convey this point. I wanted something for her to actually hold, for me to then take away, since most people who get sick feel a “loss” of a life they once knew. If I was in control of taking away the spoons, then she would know what it feels like to have someone or something else, in this case Lupus, being in control.

Her friend was excited at first. I think you can imagine how that excitement turned to horror when her friend actually tried it. One huge issue with a condition like fibromyalgia is that it is really, really hard to understand it unless you have it. The brain just doesn’t want to cope. Even telling someone that it’s like having a 104 degree fever and body aches all the time will only temporarily bring a healthy person into that mindset. With something tactile, like the spoons, people get to understand the choices you must make, and then they can start to have empathy.

If you are reading this and have fibromyalgia (or another chronic illness), how many “spoons” do you find yourself using in a day? How closely do you have to ration your spoons?

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