“Day in bed for me it seems…#spoonie.” You may have seen tweets or posts similar to this pop up on your social media news feed which include #spoonie. For many of you that do know what it means, it’s probable that you are a spoonie yourself.
The term ‘spoonie’ originated from an article written by Christine Miserandino titled The Spoon Theory. The article, which was featured on her blog, told the story of how she described what life was like for someone with a chronic illness, in her case someone with lupus. After explaining the ins and outs about her medication, pain and constant aching, her friend continued to probe, searching for an answer that was more personal, “She asked what it felt like, not physically, but what it felt like to be me, to be sick.
“At that moment, the spoon theory was born. I quickly grabbed every spoon on the table; hell I grabbed spoons off of the other tables. I looked at her in the eyes and said “Here you go, you have Lupus.
Spoons in this analogy, describe the amount of energy a person has in a day. She then went on to describe how a healthy person has an infinite number of spoons, meaning they can carry out daily tasks and activities as normal and without having to consider that they may in fact run out of spoons. A chronically ill person however, does not have that luxury. Each action, each step you take, and each job you do can take up a certain amount of energy, or a ‘spoon’. Getting dressed, making breakfast, walking to work, all these things take up a significant amount of energy for a chronically ill person, making each day a challenge to see how wisely you can spend your spoons. It is not only the choices you make that can affect your ‘spoon’ limit, but external uncontrollable factors such as the weather outside, or having to stand on the train while commuting, can all affect the number of spoons you have left to get through the rest of the day.
Christine continued, “I need to think about the weather, my temperature that day, and the whole day’s plans before I can attack any one given thing. When other people can simply do things, I have to attack it and make a plan like I am strategising a war. It is in that lifestyle, the difference between being sick and healthy. It is the beautiful ability to not think and just do. I miss that freedom. I miss never having to count spoons.”
The spoon theory resonated with the entire community of those with chronic illness, such as those with Lupus, Fibromyalgia or depression, to name but a few. Having an invisible illness means that other people can’t see the pain that you’re going through, but to finally have a way to measure the struggles people with a chronic illness have to go through day to day in a way that other people could understand was inspiring.
Although the spoon theory can sound quite limiting, reminding a person with chronic illness of the things they can’t do – it can also highlight the things you can do, and encourage us all to spend our spoons wisely, “My family and friends refer to spoons all the time. It has been a code word for what I can and cannot do.
“I think it isn’t just good for understanding Lupus, but anyone dealing with any disability or illness. Hopefully, they don’t take so much for granted or their life in general. I give a piece of myself, in every sense of the word when I do anything…I have become famous for saying to people jokingly that they should feel special when I spend time with them, because they have one of my “spoons”.
If you’re living with chronic illness, and you want to join in the conversation, tweets us at @talkhealth using #spoonie.
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