The Spoon Theory came about in 2003 to describe life with a chronic illness. The spoons represent measures of energy that one has, and they are “used up” as one performs tasks. Different tasks use different amounts of spoons. Once someone’s spoons are gone, they need to rest in order to replenish their spoons. This theory works for people with chronic illnesses as well as people with mental health or social disorders. We’re often called “spoonies.”
With such a great model in place, why did I create a similar one, called Splat? Well, you may know, it was an accident. I just said to coworkers one day, “Every day I feel like I’ve been run over by something. It’s just a different vehicle on different days.” Then I began to state how I was feeling each day by saying what that day’s vehicle was, which was way better than listing symptoms and using morose adjectives. The vehicles are as light as a moped or a motorbike, and as heavy as a freight train, or worse—sometimes I’m hit by an asteroid. The word “splat” is used to denote impact. Think, the shape of the cartoon character after something with ACME printed on it falls from the sky.
Both explain the revolving limitations of hidden disabilities, but they come at it from different angles.
Splat acknowledges that each day is different and proclaims the severity of symptoms for each particular day. “I’m having a sedan day.” or “I’m having a tractor trailer day.” Spoon states what capabilities remain for someone during a day. “I’ve only got two spoons left, and I need them for my shower.” “If I do that, I’ll be taking spoons from tomorrow.” or “I’m out of spoons.”
Spoon can come across with a “glass is half empty” kind of vibe as it highlights the short supply. Splat is more matter-of-fact, even with a touch of silly, with the hyperbole in the fleet of vehicles. “Splattie,” can hardly sound like someone taking themselves too seriously. Which one you identify with most could simply be a mood thing. I’m definitely a Splattie. My chronic crap is serious enough without my help.
While Spoon has that great way to measure one’s diminishment during the course of a day, there is one thing Splat has that Spoon does not: Splat has its own tools, so that now we’re not just explaining how we feel, but we’re doing something about it.
By displaying our Splat vehicle, whether with a Splat bracelet, a Splat Cube (find these at TalkingSplat.com—the cube is free), or any other means of wearing or showing one of the seven Splat vehicles or its color, an informed observer can immediately know how we’re feeling without us saying a word. This can be trickier if we’ve got to carry around spoons and display how many are left. How many spoons do we start with? When we’re down to zero, how can we show that? (Never having spoons sitting out is what most people just do. They’re in the drawer.)
Better yet, we can actually improve our quality of life by using an Impact Map and/or a Splatvocate Map, which are charts that delineate how we perform essential or desired tasks depending on our Splatus, or what self-care or care-giving measures we or our partners will perform based on how we’re feeling. These establish expectations, eliminate excuses, alleviate guilt, enable routines, clarify needs and wishes, and help treat or prevent flare-ups. I’ve got how-to guides and templates for these in this article: “Mapping” Your Way to Routines and Care.
Whether you’re a Splattie, a Spoonie, or a combination of both, let’s keep the discussion going! Let’s keep spreading awareness and normalizing the disability conversation.