The Spoons Theory and Depression

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Living with depression is challenging for many reasons. This illness zaps your energy, crushes your motivation, and makes it almost impossible sometimes to have meaningful relationships with people.

Additionally, we often struggle to communicate what we’re enduring because, honestly, we have a difficult time understanding it ourselves. That’s why I’m beyond grateful that I came across the Spoons Theory.

My wife and I both have depression, and for the last year, we’ve been using the Spoons Theory to communicate to each other about our needs and limitations due to our illness.

The Spoons Theory was initially developed by Christine Miserandino to tell a friend what it’s like to live with lupus, and it works with any chronic illness. However, I found that when I applied it to my fight with depression, it became a game changer for me and my relationship with my wife.

The Spoons Theory for Depression

The Spoons Theory and Depression [Infographic]

The Spoons Theory is very powerful when applied to your mental illness for a few reasons:

We give more grace

When you look at your day and realize you only have a few spoons to work with, you can give yourself a bit of grace. There are times when I can’t do something or deal with a subject in conversation, and I used to think it’s because I was a bad person. Now I realize, I just don’t have the spoons for it at the moment.

For example, I’m notorious for my hatred of meetings. I used to think it’s because I suck. But I now know that one of the reasons I despise meetings is because I lack the spoons for that kind of stuff. Social interactions like meetings and phone calls take a lot of spoons for me. Some things might take more spoons than others, so you need to be self-aware and sensitive to what takes the most spoons from you.

We communicate better

My wife and I use the Spoons Theory to communicate efficiently. If one of us says we’re running low on spoons or we don’t have any spoons left, then the other immediately knows to tread lightly and to help make the situation lighter for the one running low on spoons. We know what the other is dealing with even if our illnesses are vastly different because the Spoons Theory gives us some common ground and some necessary shorthand.

We better understand the limitations of our condition

I understand my limitations better because of the Spoons Theory. Each day we make thousands of choices. The average person is unaware of most of them.

“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.” – Christine Miserandino

Because of this theory, I’m able to ‘size up’ my day and see where I’m going to need more spoons. I’m also beginning to learn how I can gain more spoons throughout my day. Through self-care and recovery techniques, I’m now able to get back previously used up spoons later in the day. So don’t look at the limitations necessarily as a bad thing. Look at them like guide rails for now and something you can improve later.

We maximize our efforts and energy

I make better choices in life because I’m conscious of the spoon-related consequences. Each decision costs me energy (spoons), so I must make the right one based on my current energy level.

I work each day to make the most of my spoons so I can still achieve success no matter what my illness throws at me.

We can explain to loved ones what it’s like

Like I noted above, the Spoons Theory’s original intention is to share with others what a chronic illness is like for you. It gives you a simple way to explain your struggles to those who are curious and who just may not be able to process what you’re going through on the regular.

I’m thankful for the Spoons Theory. Not only does it allow me to share what it’s like with others, but I’ve found it to be incredibly empowering when I’m trying to achieve success while navigating my illness.

I hope you can use the Spoons Theory to help yourself and others better understand depression, and how to beat it.

Adam Weitz
Adam Weitz

Adam Weitz is a multi-discipline designer, business owner, and founder of Sad Runner. He is passionate about encouraging people with depression and works through Sad Runner to positively impact their lives.