Managing Spoons

Photo by Thirdman on

I have trouble making plans. Too far ahead and I tend to forget them, too little notice and I don’t have time to arrange things. It’s a fine line, and it isn’t just planning that gets in the way. One of the things I have always been aware of is my tendency to bow out of things at the last moment. In the past, I have always blamed my epilepsy, although recently I have realized that autism also has its part to play. 

The autism community often refers to “spoons” as a way to indicate how physically/mentally able they are at any point in the day. As an example, I often have a full set of spoons in the morning, but as the day progresses I find I have fewer and fewer spoons as I participate in activities. This becomes problematic when something comes up that drains me (usually unexpectedly, like taking a call from a creditor), and suddenly I go from full spoons to one spoon. I prefer to think of it in terms of battery life. My level at the start of the day is my “full battery” and slowly it depletes, and the more taxing activities can make the battery drain faster. 

Why do I bring this up? Even when I make plans, there is no guarantee that I will have the mental and physical energy to actually carry out the task. Often, I try to prepare for low energy and allocate fewer activities at times I know I’m drained, but more often than not I end up cancelling plans instead. This is especially true for activities that take me out of the house into unfamiliar places. To make matters worse, cancelling plans often makes me feel more drained emotionally, as I find myself feeling extremely guilty for letting others down.

There are ways that I can help to reduce the impact of low spoons/battery. I’m still in the process of figuring out the most effective ones and how to put them into practice. The key one for me has been to try to understand which things are going to drain me the most and adjust accordingly (for example, saving up energy for one big thing instead of doing multiple small tasks that will leave me exhausted).

So, how can others help me? One of the biggest aspects is understanding that my abilities vary and I may cancel at short notice or have to leave quickly. This can be quite frustrating for others (especially when there are a number of people involved), but it is important to my wellbeing. It is also best to avoid making me feel guilty for not attending or leaving before things have finished, it often makes me less likely to participate in future activities (often a simple “we understand” is more effective than trying to get me to explain things). Other things people can do is to avoid busy/loud places as they can be draining, as well as allowing me to leave with the minimal amount of fuss. Sticking to the same meeting place, as well as a routine (eg. the last Friday of the month at midday) often makes it easier to have to avoid planning ahead (which is quite draining).

As I mentioned earlier, I’m still trying to figure out how best to manage the physical/mental drain I experience, but knowing that people are understanding helps to take a lot of pressure off. If you have any advice that works for you or someone you know on the spectrum, feel free to leave it in the comments.

Published by Kle

A busy bee deep into video games and other gaming related things

One thought on “Managing Spoons

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