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The Spoon Theory is a metaphor that can be used to talk about how much energy a person has each day or at any given time.

It was originally coined by Christine Miserandino as a blog article on her site ButYouDon’tLookSick.com. While eating at a diner with a friend, the friend asked her to explain what it was like to have lupus. Christine obliged, and attempted to explain what it was like to spend each day with only so much energy. She found that using spoons from a nearby table was the easiest way to show a “unit of energy.” She explained that each day, for everyone, when they get up, they only have a certain number of spoons (energy units) per day, say, twelve. And each part of someone’s day uses up a certain number of spoons. So, for an average person, getting up and out of the house could be a spoon. Then a really long meeting before lunch could be two spoons. At the end of the day, the person may have three spoons left so they still have the ability to make dinner, clean up, and watch some TV before hitting the hay.

But someone with a chronic illness or someone who is recovering from surgery or a traumatic injury, might wake up each day with only, say, nine spoons. And if they expect to get done all the things that someone with twelve spoons can do during the day, then they’ll come home and collapse dinner, cleaning up, relaxing, all of those would take energy that they don’t have. In addition, some of those actions might take more spoons for someone who is living with depleted resources. For an “average” person it may take just one spoon to get ready in the morning: shower, dress, breakfast, get stuff together, out the door. But for a “spoonie” (someone with a chronic illness or someone recovering), just taking a shower could use up a whole spoon.

If you have had an amputation (either traumatic or elective), you may find yourself with depleted energy resources. Giving yourself the grace to take the time to recover is the best thing you can do for yourself.

Abe with his wife Susan

It’s okay to give yourself more time to get things done. It’s okay to stay home when you need to. It’s okay to not attend events that you know will only burn you out instead of lift you up.

It is also okay not to have a timeline for when you are “back to normal.” After an amputation, there is going to be a new normal. In that new normal, you may always have one less spoon than you did before your amputation, or even fewer than that. Part of this adaptation is because you are trying to function in a world built for people with two arms. You can absolutely thrive in that world. But it may take a whole spoon to shower now, because you have to do so one-handed. Or maybe you get to the end of a long week and you would just rather go home and take off your prosthetic device to give your residual limb a rest instead of going to that party. That’s okay too. Go easy on yourself. We all have our limits, and we all do better when we recognize and respect them.

If you feel that pain is contributing to your daily fatigue, please check out our article on Dealing with Pain After an Upper Limb Amputation. Being an amputee does not mean you need to live with pain. If you would like help with mitigating the pain you experience as an amputee, please contact us.

We’d love to hear about your experiences after your amputation. Please comment below to share your story with us and with your peers.

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