I’ve been suffering with a lot of pain lately – I’m scheduled for back surgery next week – and I’ve come to relate very personally with a theory I learned via disability studies. It’s called the Spoon Theory, and the basic premise is this: for everything you do in a day, you expend a certain amount of energy and effort. For most people who are able-bodied, there’s an endless number of spoons, but for those with lupus and other conditions that leave them differently abled, there is a set number that they have to guard carefully in order to get through a day.
It takes me twice as long to walk to work, for instance. Putting on socks is a kind of torture. I use up a lot of spoons doing ordinary, easy things, and because I’m on pain meds, I lose a few more spoons – not physical ones, but mental ones – loss of focus, inability to concentrate, etc.
I’ve been very lucky: having no chronic physical ailments, and mental health issues that have been helped by decent access to health care. But this recent injury has made me so much more aware of how much the world is designed for people who don’t need breaks to rest, who can sit or stand or walk or sleep when they need to, who don’t have to figure out how to manage limited energy and focus to get through an ordinary day.
I hope I don’t forget once I’ve recovered from my surgery, so that I keep working to make the world a little easier for those who carefully count, and guard, their spoons every single day.