I’m a “Spoonie”. That term might sound a little odd, but if you’re someone living with a chronic illness you’ve probably come across this term before.
Living with an invisible illness can be an exhausting scenario not just because of the physical symptoms that come with the condition, but because of constantly being misunderstood by your friends and family who might think you’re just being a little lazy or melodramatic when you try to explain why you just can’t get out of bed today.
Spoon Theory was the brainchild of Christine Miserandino, a spur of the moment attempt to explain her chronic illness reality to her friend while they sat at the table together. She picked up a handful of spoons from the table and used them to represent finite units of energy, handing them to her friend “Here, now you have a chronic illness”. Energy is often limited for people with many chronic illnesses and depends on factors like stress, pain, and quality of sleep. Most ablebodied folks start their days with unlimited numbers of spoons to do whatever they like, and calculating how many spoons they have is not something that crosses their mind as they consider getting dressed, showering, or chopping fruit for a salad. For a person with chronic illness however, each one of these tasks can cost a precious spoon and on a bad day you might be nearly out of them before you even make it out your front door. If you use up more spoons than you have, you might pay for it the next day. “When your ‘spoons’ are gone, they are gone,” she writes. “Sometimes you can borrow against tomorrow’s ‘spoons,’ but just think how hard tomorrow will be with less ‘spoons.’” If that spoon debt incites a flare, you might be out of commission for weeks. These little considerations are a constant calculation in the minds of “spoonies”.
Christine walked her friend through a normal day, taking away spoons from her friend as she explained each task. It helped her friend understand what she went through every day, rationing her energy because she didn’t have the luxury of “spending” many spoons. When she wrote about her spoon analogy online, the concept resonated for a lot of people with disabilities and chronic illness and you can find a lot of self-described “spoonies” if you head into disability spaces on twitter or support groups.
Looking for more information about Spoon Theory? Check out this article: “I Am A “Spoonie.” Here’s What I Wish More People Knew About Chronic Illness”