Sunday, 17 January 2016

On Spoons and Appropriation

Before I start the next week of posts, I want to make this unscheduled post to address an issue that has come to my attention within the disability community by courtesy of this article.  The reason I feel it particularly important for me to address is due to its connection in subject matter to Tuesday's post: Invisible vs Visible Disabilities.  For those not familiar with The Spoon Theory, here is a description, but for the purposes of brevity, I've always summed it up as a good way for people with inhibitive energy levels to explain to able-bodied people what it's like to be so limited.

The theory goes that you have a certain number of spoons per day that represent the ability to complete a task - one task per spoon, and it's less spoons than most people and you have to decide very carefully where and how you will spend them in order to function as best you can.  It was initially created by a woman explaining to her friend what it was like to live with Lupus and it has grown steadily in common usage.  An issue challenged in the aforementioned article.

To be honest, I hadn't really thought about it and now I wonder if I have been misappropriating it too.  It is true that I do have very limited energy and a degree of chronic pain.  The effects of which I felt much more in my late adolescence than I do now - though I can't help but wonder whether this means the spoon theory is no longer relevant or appropriate for me to use, or it just means that I have learnt to manage my limited spoons better?  I do find myself agreeing with the author that the spoon theory should perhaps be limited to use by those with chronic illness, but I also feel like there should be a similar analogy for people with physical disabilities that are limited in the things they can manage or deal with in a day (or ever) to those who don't understand, or those with anxiety, depression, or other mental illness to explain to friends why they need to cancel or postpone their plans.  Even introverts need a way to explain to extrovert friends how they can only manage a certain degree of socialisation before they need time to themselves to recharge.

To be honest, I don't know and I have no answers, but I mostly wanted to make it clear that I do understand that there are varying degrees of disability and that the disability community is as diverse as any other group of people.  While I stand by my statement that competing about who has things worse is unproductive, to say we should try for a united front was perhaps naive if not imprudent.

What do you think about the article?  Where should the boundaries be? what alternative theories for other disabilities should there be?  Comment below!

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