A Spoonful of Energy Please?

The spoon theory is a disability metaphor used to explain the reduced amount of energy available for activities of daily living and productive tasks that may result from disability or chronic illness. Spoons are a tangible unit of measurement used to track how much energy a person has throughout a given day. Each activity requires a given number of spoons, which will only be replaced as the person “recharges” through rest. A person who runs out of spoons has no choice but to rest until their spoons are replenished – Wikipedia


Tonight I’m going to discuss the term ‘spoons’ in Autism and how it affects me. I wasn’t aware of such term to describe energy consumption until a few years ago but it’s been very helpful since. I’ve finally been able to refer to the theory of spoons when explaining to people my reasons for feeling exhausted after completing minuscule tasks. I’ve noticed that Autistic people tire easily because so many of our actions are attained with mental energy as well as physical exertion, making the spoons theory for us, very easy to associate with.

When I was younger I had heaps of energy. I loved keeping fit, going out clubbing and hanging out with my friends, although it did tire me out and made the next day almost impossible to cope with, but I was able to achieve more. I can’t say the same for today. It seems with age I’m finding it extremely hard to push myself into doing the simple things others wouldn’t even spare a thought for.

Since being in a relationship with someone who is constantly on the go it’s become blatantly obvious I lack the drive and energy of a healthy person. I almost felt guilty in the early stages of our relationship. I would force myself to attend concerts, dine at restaurants and socialise with his friends and family (who I love) but would suffer and recuperate for days after. Luckily, he understands (after explaining the spoon theory) and goes out of his way to make sure I’m not using too many spoons.

So, for me at the moment with my depressive state, I have 10 spoons per day. The hardest spoon for me to use and probably always has been, is showering/brushing teeth first thing in the mornings. I’m an insomniac anyway so struggle to find any motivation to wake up in the first place. I’ve always found the idea of washing a chore, I’ve no idea why but it really feels like an obstruction I constantly have to fight just to take on my day. I use 2 spoons on my daily walk with my foster dog. I choose quiet rural locations purposely to avoid people which adds more spoons. It takes 3 spoons to prepare meals. I love cooking but do find it tiresome. Socialising on the phone with my mum and seeing my friends uses 1 spoon as I find it easy/relaxing to be in their company. The rest of my spoons are usually spent on being around people (crowded places etc.) and tidying up etc.

I guess you’re now wondering how I use spoons when doing certain activities or travelling? Well, Will helps out on those days by cooking our meals, walking the dog and tidying up. I don’t know what I’d do without him. He’s been amazing.

There are times when I use more spoons than permitted a day. On the odd occasion of this happening I tend to sleep for hours more the next day and avoid doing anything that exerts energy. This can go on for days depending on how many spoons went over. It’s not just tiredness that’s affected, I become very moody and hungry which can result in overeating to ‘sooth’ the crappy feelings that come with it.

Recently I’ve felt so deflated realising my lack of energy is preventing me from achieving so much in life. I often have days when I feel an increase and have several ideas that can change my life and make me happier but the next day I’m lethargic and the thought alone uses a damn spoon!

I hope this post has raised a little awareness. I’m not great at this sort of thing at the moment with a cluttered mind but if it can help some understand that just because some of us can’t give ourselves to something doesn’t mean we’re unworthy of it, we just haven’t got the energy to accomplish it at the time. I’ve been beating myself up for too long knowing I have the potential to achieve in life and feel proud of myself but lack the energy to do so. I’m sure in time I’ll tidy the mess in my brain and things will fall into place.



Useful spoon theory links:




11 thoughts on “A Spoonful of Energy Please?

  1. Re: Lack of energy: In my studies (Jung) & in my own experience, lack of energy is the result of psychological dissociation. (what you Maria refer elsewhere to as ‘meltdown’). It could be that you are not recovering from the dissociations. You are clearly high functioning though… in a relationship, driving, travelling.

    1. Hi Paul, I don’t believe mine are due to meltdowns as I’ve always lacked energy compared to say a healthy person. I am functioning yes but doesn’t deter the fact I feel absolutely broken and shattered afterwards. I only drive to places I am comfortable and familiar with and being in a relationship is easy for me most of the time. Sorry I haven’t gotten back to you lately, I’ve been doing a lot of DIY around the house and have been struck with migraines! Hope you’re well?

  2. I used to be what I would now class as in a permanent meltdown psychology. i.e., no psychological freedom had been achieved. And that was low energy. So I am wondering if that is what you are experiencing. On the social point, I am no where near as social as you.

  3. When I progressed out of the permanent dissociation (i.e. permanent meltdown) state, I then experienced a mixture of psychological freedom and meltdown. It went on for years. Now I experience more freedom than dissociation. Because I am so introverted its tended to be ideas that have dissociated me. So I have had to tackle that area of life. As I said to another online friend recently… Its scary that you can empower an opposing idea in your own mind. Intellectually it sounds literally insane… yet I have done that on countless occasions. My not attaching theory is like a piece of Buddhism. But ironically someone like me must never feel too close to Buddhism lest we dissociate when someone attacks the Buddha or attacks Buddhism per se. Oppositional ideas develop in the unconscious. To prevent that from happening I focus (not on the oppositional ideas themselves) but rather on the conscious attachment. Because its the conscious attachments strength that gives birth to, and empowers, the oppositional ideas. My online friend chipped in with the following comment: “Makes sense. You always have to keep some kind of distance”.

  4. Always a good read, can definitely relate to spoons, wired up different so tasks expend more energy than neurotypicals, i often find myself in a catch 22, eatfor more energy but then crash cos of it, i often find i burn out cos im constantly in front of a screen working or gaming, id be lost without it though

    1. Yes that’s it, I find I exert as much energy mentally than physically. I’m the same with eating, I eat to stay energised and less ‘cranky’ but find it tires me out just as fast! AHHH!

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