On Human Energy Conservation aka being a Spoonie

“I’m not lazy.”

That’s something sickle cell warriors often say when asked what they want others to know about them.

I personally have never been called lazy, however I have had that uneasy feeling where a peer is doing the most and I choose to do the least. Or when a friend sleeps over and I feel judged for sitting down after simple tasks like taking a shower. Yup – I take breaks after taking a shower – and recently learned I’m not alone in this.

I call this energy conservation. You can hear me saying things like “Nah, I don’t have the energy for that.” Or “Nah, I’m gonna save my energy for something else.” Most importantly, my energy conservation theory is why I do not live the YOLO lifestyle. It’s why I get annoyed when someone tells me I have the next day to rest after I decline to go out. I know I’ll bounce back – I just won’t bounce back as fast as you, person with normal hemoglobin levels.

As I got more into the health advocacy world, I learned that other people with chronic illnesses refer to this behavior as being a spoonie. The basic concept is that you start each day with a certain number of spoons. Different tasks take a certain number of spoons to execute and when you’re out of spoons for the day, DAS IT, you’re done for the day.

In this theory, healthy people have infinite amount of spoons every day. But someone with sickle cell may have 20 spoons on a given day. Just because two people have sickle cell does not mean they’ll have the same number of spoons. Heck, I don’t even have the same amount of spoons day to day. In the original Spoon Theory post, author Christine Miserandino explains that sometimes you borrow against the next day’s spoons, then you start the next day in a deficit. Ultimately the items on your to do list will get done, but you may have to roll some over to the next day or week.

Most people are worried about time management, but I think energy management is a much better approach to living. People wake up and think about the literal amount of time they have to complete the ten tasks on their to-do list then break down their day into hourly increments. Meanwhile a spoonie plans her day based on the energy she will have for the day. If there is a task that may take up a lot of spoons,even if it won’t take much literal time, that may be all on the spoonie’s agenda for the day.

This pretty much sums up why my love language is acts of service. Some tasks most people don’t think twice about may cost me all the spoons I have for the day. So future bae, I hope you’re fluent in act of service 😉. In the original article that explains #spoonielife, you actually lose a spoon just for getting out of bed. Going to work could cost five spoons, but if your work is more than sitting at a desk, that’s three more spoons. It’s really the simple things. So if I make dinner, I won’t have any spoons left to clean up afterwards. (Part of the reason why I hate doing dishes, the other part is because patriarchy. LOL)

I personally don’t identify as a spoonie, because most days I feel like I have hella spoons and don’t think about it. But I wanted to write this because I don’t see many people with sickle cell discussing this idea. Warriors, I’d love to know if the spoon theory resonates with you.

I hope this helps you identify spoonie behavior in yourself or loved ones who may not have told you about their chronic illness. Extend to them more patience and consideration.


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3 thoughts on “#Spoonie

  1. Wow I love your article it was early on this year where I also learn about the spoonie theory, and back in Feb I went to Florida to spend my Birthday with my Sister it was back then that I had explain to her about the spoonie theory and how it works, She was able to understand what I go threw and be more compassion about how I was feeling on the day to day, thank you for this amazing article, We usually call our self Warriors but we can also use the theory Spoonie.

    • yess! I think the spoon theory really helps others understand a bit of what we are going through. Warriors with Spoons! lol <3

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