Blogger Widgets Ender-Chan's Thoughts: ADHD and a Weird Stoichiometry-Ish Spoon Theory

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

ADHD and a Weird Stoichiometry-Ish Spoon Theory

Ah, the classic spoon theory! Though spoon theory mainly applies to chronic illness, it applies to a myriad of other areas as well.

Let's say I start the day on average with a nice round number of 10 spoons and my peers have 15. It's only a 5 spoon difference, right? No. That means I have 66% of the spoons of my peers. 66% out of 100% means that there is a missing 34% that my teachers, family, etc. demand from me that I don't have. "Spoons" are subjective units of sustained attention and energy. There is no standardized criteria for what a "spoon" is.

I wake up with ten spoons for a relatively easy day. French and band take one spoon each. That gets me down to seven spoons. Study hall takes another two spoons. That means I have five spoons left. If I have homework, that takes another four spoons to complete. I have 20% of my spoons (1 spoon) left at the end of the day.

However, I realized that I don't always have to give a full spoon to everything I do. One fork equals 1/2 of a spoon. I can give forks instead of spoons when my reserves run low, even when I can technically give a spoon. If I have 10 spoons on some given day, I have 20 forks. On my hard day, chemistry requires three spoons, resource requires two, algebra requires four, and English requires two. That's an eleven spoon demand, but I only have ten! No problem. I can give English three forks if chemistry demands three full spoons. The homework demands five spoons. Now, what? I don't want to be lazy, but I don't want to have negative energy either!

I can break down my energy further into deci-, centi-, milli-, etc. forks. Let's say I wake up and feel terrible. I have five spoons on this day. I also have all my hard classes on this day. I'll give three forks for chemistry, 2.5 deci-forks for resource, another 5.5 deci-forks for algebra, and yet another 2.5 deci-forks to English. I have used 40.5 deci-forks, which is 4.05 forks. I have used about 20% of my energy.

However, despite all these precautions, I can still have negative energy. In the negative energy state, I still expend spoons despite not having any. Some people have the "Kelvin system of spoons" in that they collapse (figuratively or literally) when they run out of spoons. I don't have that advantage. On a day where I have 10 spoons' worth of homework, I will get it done. I won't rest, eat, or sleep until the work is done. If I have one spoon left, I will exert 10 spoons until my negative spoon state catches up with me and I can't focus on anything.

I can wake up with two spoons one day and twenty spoons the next. I don't have a predictable recharge system. If I wake up the next day anticipating something fun like a concert, I'll have (no joke) around fifty-five spoons. However, if I can't anticipate something fun, that leaves me with about a tenth of my potential spoons. On days when I wake up with negative spoons, I will drag myself through and choose things that give me spoons over things that won't regardless of any consequences. I will, then, overgather spoons and end up not using any of them.

ADHD spoons are quite unpredictable. Does anyone have similar experiences?


  1. I have similar experiences to you. If I start with ten spoons,On my hard day 1spoon goes to English,2 to gym, 1 to LC/Speech (reasource) 1 to history, 1 to math workshop, 1 to science, 2 to Algebra and then I have 1 for the remainder of my homework. On my easy day if I start with ten it's 1 to English, 1 to woodworking, 1 to LC, 1 to history, 1 to band, 2 to science (depending if I take my medicine if I don't then it's only 1), 3 to math and I have either 1 or no spoons left.

  2. I'm well beyond school and can totally relate. It was always this way for me in high school and college. Through years of practice you learn to cope. Ideally you can create a consistent schedule that works for you. Sometimes I have one, sometimes I don't. When I don't I will often overload my schedule socially, and I've learned that when I see my spoons reserve heading to negative numbers I call off everything and take care of myself. Just this week I had three friends and family members texting and upon realizing I was feeling overloaded and had ignored the texts for a day, I wrote them all back and told them the truth "I am feeling a little overloaded, I need to take some time to get my head straight." The equivalent of saying, sorry I am out of spoons. I'm not sure if they all understand honestly, a lot of people I know are push-throughers and don't get it, but it doesn't matter because after years I do understand my own needs and how important it is to take care of them.

    I like the part where you add that you have extra energy for things you are interested in. I drag myself practically military-style out of bed daily but if I'm catching a flight or going on a road trip I will be the first one up and making breakfast with butterflies in my stomach. Funny how it works, and the inconsistency is so hard to deal with- for yourself and the people who know you. I've really learned to shrug it off and be flexible to however many spoons I wake up with in a day.

  3. I think I used up all my spoons just keeping up with all your data! This is very enlightening information. Everyone who works with special needs kids should read this. Applying this analogy to life with Bethany will remind me to try to be more understanding.

    1. I hope Bethany has ample spoons to get through whatever the day has set before her. More people should read about spoon theory. I guess people ignore it because the spoon system is not scientifically-based. However, science is a limited field as is any other field of knowledge.


Comment! I won't know what you have to say unless you say it.