BADD 2015: A Game of Spoons

It’s that time of year again, it’s Blogging Against Disablism Day 2015, a time to raise awareness of the issues people with various disabilities face. You’ll be able to see other blogs on the same subject by following @BADDtweets or #badd2015, there is also a facebook page.

I posted two posts last year, Worst Things You Can Say and Employ me? Work and disability hurdles. Since then I’ve got my diagnosis (hello hypermobility syndrome) and I’m starting to figure out how to manage daily life, now I can understand what is likely to trigger the worst pain. Part of that is knowing that everything I do, no matter how small, has an effect.

I remember the revelation of reading about Spoon Theory, and realising that it made perfect sense with how my days go, so with that in mind, and with my new understanding of my disability I thought I’d break down the kinds of decisions you have to make every day when you have a chronic pain condition. It’s something I find a lot of people struggle to understand, and can lead to some problems with the way Spoonies are treated. Yes, sometimes we do fun things that require more exertion, but what you aren’t seeing is how much we have to sacrifice to be able to “afford” to do those things. Try to remember the daily choices we have to make next time you find yourself doubting a Spoonie, or thinking they are just lazy.

Note that this is written from my experience, other spoonies will have different decisions to make.

Here’s the rules of the game, you can choose any options you want on each section, but you only have 20 spoons, once they are gone you don’t get any more and it’s Game Over.

So.. are you ready to play a Game of Spoons?

start

Good morning, you’ve just woken up, what are you going to do now?

  • Brush your teeth (holding your arms up hurts) 1 spoon
  • Have a shower (it’ll hurt to stand up, but you might ease achy muscles) 1 spoon
  • Have a bath (you get to lie down, but you’ve got to somehow climb in and out) 1 spoon
  • Skip 0 spoon

If you picked bath or shower, what do you do once you are there?

  • Wash hair (it’s those arms up again) 1 spoon
  • Shave body or facial hair 1 spoon
  • Bare minimum 0 spoon

You’re all clean (or not) what do you do now?

  • Get dressed 1 spoon
  • Brush your hair 1 spoon
  • Style your hair 1 spoon
  • Make-up 1 spoon
  • Skip grooming 0 spoon

On to breakfast, what are you having

  • Cereal (that milk carton is heavier than it looks) 1 spoon
  • Toast (spreading butter affects your wrists) 1 spoon
  • Cooked breakfast (standing up to prepare and cook it) 2 spoon
  • Hot drink (standing to prepare it) 1 spoon
  • Skip 0 spoon 1 spoon (you won’t lose that spoon straight away, but it’ll sneak up on you later)

Now what?

  • Wash up 1 spoon
  • Skip washing up 0 spoon

Ok, so what are we doing today, there’s some housework to be done, what did you want to tackle?

  • Hoover the living room 2 spoon
  • Sort and file paperwork 1 spoon
  • Clean bathroom 3 spoon
  • Mop kitchen 2 spoon
  • Rest 0 spoon

You need to go out and do the weekly food shop, you can’t skip this one, or delay it unfortunately. Automatically subtract 1 spoon for the journey there and back. So do you?

  • Go to the store which is cheapest but involves more walking? 2 spoon
  • Go to the more expensive store that involves less walking? 1 spoon

You best pick up lunch while you are there. What did you want?

  • Ready meal, so no preparation at all 0 spoon
  • Fresh fruit, veg, and meat for a home cooked meal 2 spoon
  • Something midway between the two 1 spoon

Back home again. Time to put the shopping away, automatically lose 1 spoon. What next?

  • Wash up 1 spoon (minus 2 spoon if you skipped it earlier)
  • Rest 0 spoon (add 1 spoon if you rested earlier too)

Time for your doctor’s appointment, none of this is skippable (think of it as a really irritating cut scene)

  • Travel to and from the appointment 1 spoon
  • Sitting in the waiting room on uncomfortable chairs 1 spoon
  • Doctor checks you over, this involves manipulation of sore spots 2 spoon

You’ve been given a prescription, taking the pills would give you back 1 spoon, however it’s going to cost you 1 spoon to get there and back, and 1 spoon to wait for it. Do you go and get it and lose a spoon, but gain a spoon the next day? Or do you skip it and do it tomorrow?

Back home again, took a while at the doctors and now it’s dinner time. What are you having?

  • Quick, easy but not necessarily healthy 1 spoon
  • Healthy but takes some prep 2 spoon

Time to wash up?

  • Yes 1 spoon (add spoons for any other times you skipped washing up)
  • No 0 spoon

Ah, it’s the evening, time to indulge in some hobbies (if you have any spoons left). What are you in the mood for?

  • Something active 2 spoon
  • Something passive (reading, watching TV, browsing web) 1 spoon if you need to be sat up or move even slightly, 0 spoon if you can lie still to do it
  • Skip 0 spoon

Time to head to bed, what’s your bedtime routine?

  • Brush your teeth (holding your arms up hurts) 1 spoon
  • Have a shower (it’ll hurt to stand up, but you might ease achy muscles) 1 spoon
  • Have a bath (you get to lie down, but you’ve got to somehow climb in and out) 1 spoon
  • Skip 0 spoon

Last thing before sleep

  • Get undressed 1 spoon
  • Go to sleep 0 spoon

Obviously I’ve over simplified this massively, but this is how you go through your days, constantly weighing up whether doing action X will mean you can’t do Y and Z later.

So how far did you get before it was

Game Over



  • NTE

    So much truth. Having to explain that showers and “doing anything else” have to be accomplished on separate days to any non-spoonie is so frustrating, but it’s my truth. The worst part is when the spoon value of something goes up without warning, and suddenly, making a sandwich ate all of the spoons you thought you had for the rest of the day. Excellent post!

  • Yes! While my spoon supply is better these days, I still think this is SO very accurate! I remember the days where I would debate with myself for 10 minutes over whether a shower would help or hurt, at nothing but toast and jelly because it was easy and I had it (didn’t have to go to store) or went to bed hungry because even toast was too difficult.

    Also, please excuse my goofy American-ness, but I think that the fact that you say “hoover” instead of “Vacuum” is adorable 🙂 I should try to make that a thing here in the states…

  • Mother Mands

    Really informative post, I’ll admit I didn’t have a clue what a ‘spoonie’ was, so it’s really helpful to understand all this!
    I also didn’t have a clue what hypermobility syndrome was, so I looked it up and had a read, was quite suprised to see that some of the symptoms included the ability to place the palms of the hands on the floor with the knees fully extended, Scoliosis (curved/twisted spine), back pain, double jointedness and pain in knees…I had all of these throughout my teenage years, in particular really bad back pain! If my curved spine had of been a bit lower I would of had to had surgery, but it was too high and I did wear a brace for a while. I was really surprised to read all the other things and find out it is an actual condition. I am also very thankful that I don’t suffer with any particular pain anymore, I was one of the lucky ones who as I grew the symptoms improved, but its given me quite an insight into anyone suffering with this into adulthood and having to continually put up with chronic pain!

  • I loved the spoon theory the first time I read it, and your example is spot on! I always describe my tasks in terms of the energy expenditure required. On bad energy days, I simply can’t do as much. Great post.

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