Thursday, June 7, 2018

Still here, an introduction to fork theory, and all of the stuff that's hindering my ability to do the things I want to be doing.

My internet was indeed turned back on.  That's good and such and I thought I should let you all know.

Yesterday I got a bunch of food, which is also good because eating is important and I haven't been doing the best job of it given the limited options that I had on hand.

The whole plan to try to get back into writing by starting with really easy stuff hasn't really begun.

At this point fork theory might be a good thing to talk about.

Before I do that, obligatory "Just because I agree with one thing . . ." note:
I have read "The Spoon Theory" and "The Forks Model of Disability" and, so far as I know, nothing else written by the creators of the theory/model/metaphor/things.  My use of their theories should not be taken as an endorsement of their other views, which I don't actually know anyway.

Spoon theory, a model by metaphor of disability and chronic illness, is pretty widely known and widely applicable.  The reason it's called that, for those who don't know the origin story, is that the person who first described it initially did so using actual physical spoons as tactile representations.

The spoons represent the ability to do stuff.  Do a thing, spend a spoon.

They're finite.  When you run out spoons you can't verb anymore.  You're spent.

If one is out of spoons they can't do stuff, if a low-spoon individual doesn't ration spoons carefully they end up fucked over.

Spoon theory has the spoons replenish themselves, usually over time.  So, for example, one might talk about waking up with some number of spoons each day.

The creator of spoon theory, Christine Miserandino, wrote:
I think [spoon theory] isn’t just good for understanding Lupus, but anyone dealing with any disability or illness.
which has proven true and is why it's so widespread and well known.

However, given the wide range of disabilities and illnesses, there are invariably things where modifications could make it better for understanding the specific case in question.

Thus fork theory was born.  (Fork theory was named to compliment spoon theory, and did not involve the use of physical forks as tactile representations at its time of conception.)

Fork theory is for describing situations in which "the ability to do stuff" can be actively replenished.

Much of the time the forks of fork theory are treated just like the spoons of spoon theory in that you need to spend utensils to do stuff, which leaves you with that many fewer utensils and that much less ability to do stuff.

The difference is while spoons are always like that, for example:
Doing X will take three spoons, and then I won't have those three spoons to use on other things.
forks will sometimes work differently, for example:
Doing X will take three forks, but give me five back, so I'll actually be able to do more stuff if I spend the three forks now.
(Worth noting that the two ideas are not mutually exclusive.  A lot of different things go into being able to do things, and it's possible for some act spoon-like while others act fork-like.)

A really good example of a fork-gaining activity is eating when you're low on calories.  If you're not getting enough calories that will both leave you with low energy and fuck with your head, both of which make it harder to do things.  Unlike low energy due to chronic illness, though, there's an extremely straightforward solution: eat.

Given that you probably didn't set out to be undernourished, there's probably complications involved, but if you are somehow able to expend some portion of your limited ability to eat such that you're no longer wanting for calories, you will get back more than you put in.

The spoon theory doesn't really have a way to describe that sort of situation, because that's not the kind of thing it was created to describe.  (Unlike being low on calories, lupus has no cure.)

Anyway, important points from fork theory:

(Let's stick with the "three in / five out" example.)

First off, that requires you to have three to put in.  If you've only got two then the thing that you know would make things better for you and allow you to do more stuff is outside of your ability to do and instead of being beneficial to you in that moment it's more being one of the tortures of Tantalus: exactly what you need, so close you can almost taste it, yet forever out of reach.

Second, it's not always a clear and deterministic as that.  Three in five out seems like and obvious deal to take (we'll get to why that's not true later) but when it is instead, "eh, maybe you'll get five back and end up with two more than you started, or maybe you'll get none and thus have three fewer than when you started," things get more complex.

Then there's the fact that even if the five out is definitely assured, you can't always see that or, if you can see it, you don't always believe it.

In discussions about depression one thing that's come from a lot of people is something that I've come to call the horizon effect (only the barest connection to the AI shortcoming of the same name.)  I don't think I made up the term, I think I adopted or adapted it from someone else.

Anyway, it comes from a visual metaphor.  There are some things you can see, and there are other things that are too far away and thus over the horizon.  A lot of people with depression, myself included, find some things that are close and present enough to influence the decision making of healthy people are hidden over the horizon and out of sight out of mind for us.

So you might see the cost of something (you have to give up three) while the benefit (you'll get five back) is over your personal horizon.  Or you might be well aware of the benefit intellectually, but unable to feel it emotionally.  So what you know "pay three, get five; net gain of two" is canceled out by what you feel "lose these precious three, then . . . all is sadness and loss forever."

And you end up acting on what you're feeling instead of what you know, and thus lose the opportunity to gain some forks.

I do believe we're at the fourth point now, so here goes:

People often prioritize what's important, what's urgent, or both.  Notice that no part of that includes "What will give them enough forks to make it through."

Say you've got four forks and you need to do urgent thing that takes three forks and important thing that takes two forks.

You start with urgent because, you know, it's urgent.  That takes three of your four forks.  You try to do important thing but since you only have one fork left and it needs two, you're screwed.

On the other hand, if you're paying attention to your forks you can do our three in \ five out thing.  You spend three of your four and then get five, making six. (4 – 3 + 5 = 6)  Do urgent thing and you've got three forks left.  (6 – 3 = 3)  Do important thing and you've finished your the stuff that needed to be done and have one fork left over.  (3 – 2 = 1)  Woo!, you win all the things.

Which is to say, the fork model encourages you to prioritize self care.

Finally, thing five: the fork model can be used to describe things that never fill up on their own and thus always require work to get a useful number of.

Really quick oversimplified recap of all that:

Spoons and forks both represent the ability to do things.  Depending on the situation this can be energy or willpower or motivation or . . . anything really.  In order to do things you need to spend spoons or forks.

When you run out, you've lost the ability to do shit.

You start with a given certain amount of spoons and that's all the spoons you'll have to work with until the replenish on their own (which then becomes your new start.)

Forks are things that may or may not self-replenish, but can be actively gained by doing certain things provided you have enough forks to do those things.

Knives are . . . not yet used in any theories I know of.

~ The short SHORT version ~

Or, really short:
  • you start with a set number of spoons and that only goes down as you use them
  • if you have enough forks you can invest them in things that will/may get you more forks

Ok, so now it's time to talk about why I put a massive section on fork theory in the middle of a post that's mostly just here to say that I still have internet and am, unfortunately, not producing stuff.

I know of so fucking many ways that I could gain forks, but I don't seem to have enough forks to do any of them, and it's really god damned frustrating.

Um . . . maybe that's not accurate.  That's how it feels.  I definitely know of some ways I could get more forks but never seem to be able muster the forks to make use of any of those ways.

There's also just stuff that needs to be done that, while I'm able to do it (no spoon or fork problems), takes time.  A pretty big backlog of stuff built up while I was being blah.  The fact that I'm still blah doesn't change that.

And, as I've probably noted somewhere, my depression has been out in force of late.

I could probably write a whole post on that, but I'm not sure it would be of a form that would be worth reading.

Also, money.  I so fucked things up there.

I was so focused on trying to pay down high interest debt while simultaneously not adding to it that I left myself in a situation where I have a bunch of credit but what I really fucking need is cash.

That's not all there was too it, my food money going into limbo played a big role, but if I had been thinking things through properly that could have been completely mitigated.  It was only because I was so focused on one thing and one thing only that it was able to make things as bad as it did.

Oh, and the next non-monthly bill has come around.  I'm now over a thousand dollars behind in getting bills paid.  (Here's a paypal link if you want throw money in my direction.)

Anyway, that all leads to stress, and stress make it hard to write, and thus it goes along with the depression and the lack of forks to explain why I'm not getting much of anything posted to Stealing Commas.

There were probably other things too, but I've spent most of the day trying to make this post and I also had a primary to vote in in the middle of this.


  1. We talked about a lot of this stuff at group Thursday without referring to this theory. Perhaps when I am more awake I will try to post on it.

    One thing I think of is with forks there can be anti-forks, maybe? Like circumstances that deplete forks or make it so you can't access them... But with sufficient understanding of what those things are for you, and sufficient...uhh...cutlery... to act on that knowledge, you can shift to a situation where you can access and accumulate forks. Especially if you have help.

    I think maybe certain mental health issues are spoons things (like stuff with trauma and abuse and their effects maybe?) but things associated with your neurotype are mostly forks issues when you have the resources to manage them...

    It might be in some way associated with the meltdown/shutdown vs. burnout thing people discuss with autism which I think applies to ADHD too.

    Depression seems able to encompass all those types of issues and confuse you about which kind you are dealing with. 'Tis a powerful yet sneaky gremlin.

  2. I was just thinking that the knives could go with the things that should only cost 2 spoons but end up costing 8 because of useless nonsense or snafus or both. For example, I went to have a routine lab test on Saturday. The ride to get there was unexpectedly scary, the lab lady messed up my name, she also messed up my actual test, then my ride took a different way out than we had taken in and I ended up getting a panic attack-like thing from "everything being wrong". Should have been a two spoon trip - ran in to knives.

    Before I had heard of spoons & forks, I used to think of it as having points to spend (like character building in an RPG). If I really need to, I can steal points across categories for a day but that both depletes Charisma in the short term and costs a penalty the following day (or more).