So I'm neurotypical and trying to understand the spoon theory, what happens when someone runs out of spoons? What does a rest period entail, how would I write it?
Spoons for physical disability and spoons for mental illness do work a little differently. This’ll be a tutorial on spoons for mental illness.
When you run out of spoons, it’s basically the same as being mentally exhausted. Every person will has their own specific methods to deal with a lack of spoons, so I’ll go into some guidelines and some examples, and hopefully you’ll be able to make your own if you don’t find the perfect fit!
As a general rule, once you start getting low on spoons, the ability to act ‘’normal’’ goes wayyy down. Your characters will probably be less adapt at socializing and reading emotions, bright lights and loud noises will go from minor irritants to Big Problems. Characters who stim might take a break to go stim in the bathroom, or enact a soothing ritual of some kind. They might also isolate themselves so they don’t feel pressured to perform social labour.
You ever hear of someone bursting out into tears over a super minor inconvenience, like the wifi taking to long to connect? This sort of thing is most likely to happen when someone has no spoons left and isn’t processing things properly/ can’t hold back all the built up emotions or reactions anymore.
People who are low on spoons will probably try to stick to task that dont require too much mental engagement, like stimming or folding the laundry, or may nap or go to bed to recover some energy.
A couple of more specific examples include
Overstimulation is when your brain tries to process a bunch of stimuli all at once and glitches out. It’s common with autism, social anxiety, type 1 schizophrenia, ect. Basically you’ve had Too Much!!! To much what?? Talking, socializing, bright lights, noise, ect. You’ve run your brain ragged trying to keep up with stuff.
A rest period for overstimulation is going to involve quiet time like lying in a quiet, dark room for 15 or 20 minutes to let the brain get used to existing again. stimming, performing a soothing ritual, touching soft things or cuddling with a pet is also great!! Especially if you can keep the lights off for a while.
Say the character ran out of spoons because they were performing heavy emotional labour, like working retail or consoling a friend through a crisis? The character in question will likely feel intense exhaustion and lack of motivation to do anything but rest. Actual emotions may be hard to come by, instead replaced with numbness until they rest and recover some spoons
understimulation can also murder your spoon count. It’s basically when you haven’t had enough stimulation or distractions to keep the mind healthy. It’s more common with extroverted characters, but if youve ever seen space shows like voltron or star trek, I’d be worried about characters running into understimulation due to the limited space and people available. It can also happen when a character is isolating themself due to poor mood. Some gentle stimulation like watching youtube videos, or existing in a public space, even if they don’t interact with any strangers would be a good way of working that off
I hope this is helpful! Let me know if there’s something I missed, or if you’d like more info.