Today’s columnist, Dr Mary Wren: Learning about Spoon Theory

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I love it when my patients tell me about new things they have discovered that help them.

It is impossible for us to keep up with all the possible therapies and support available, so when you tell your doctor about something new and helpful it helps them too.

This lady has depression and often finds that she struggles to do ordinary daily tasks like getting dressed or going shopping.

Some days it is hard to get out of bed, whereas others she can be active all day. It can often be difficult for the people she lives with to understand this, and hard for her to explain how she feels.

She told me about how something called “spoon therapy” had helped her.

The idea is very simple. The basic idea is that each day you have a certain number of spoons available. Some days you have more than others. Each action in the day will cost a number of spoons – the more demanding the task, the more spoons are required. The phrase “running low on spoons” can be a useful way of communicating to others the need for help or rest. And if someone has run out of spoons then it means they have to stop and rest.

For people who have chronic pain or chronic fatigue or depression, this can be a really helpful way of expressing need and explaining how they are that day.

It is also easy to understand for friends and family and helps others empathise with the person.

Those of us who are well can easily forget how much energy is needed for some people to do ordinary daily tasks.

This lady told me how much difference it made for her to use this analogy –

it helped others realise how much energy it cost her just to function some days.

The Spoon Theory was written by a lady called Christine Miserandino, who was trying to explain to a friend what it was like for her being chronically ill. You can read her story online, or even buy posters with the story written on.

My patient has been really helped by this and I hope you may be too.

It may also help you understand friends or family who are ill.

And if you come across a new thing that helps you with your health, let your doctor know. The more we share, the more we all learn and benefit.