What is the Spoon Theory?

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Where did the idea come from?

The spoon theory came from a lady called Christine Miserandino who has Lupus. She was eating in a diner with her friend who started to ask her about what it is actually like to be sick with Lupus. Christine had struggled with this question herself as have I to try and fully explain what living with a chronic illness is like.

She looked around the table and picked up a spoon, then picked up spoons from other tables too. The spoons symbolised Lupus for Christine. The conversation started with how life with chronic illness is different and we have to think about how do to do things that healthy people wouldn’t think twice about. She explained that healthy people wake up with energy and do not consciously have to think about the effects of normal life on their bodies.

Christine asked her friends to count out the spoons that she held in her hands. Her friend was quite excited to do this. She explained that people living with chronic illnesses need to know how many spoons their days start off with. Some days will have more spoons, some days will have less and some spoons will get lost throughout the day also.

The friend then told Christine about what she did in a normal day. As the friend reeled off her day with ease Christine stopped her and explained how that activity e.g. having a shower was so big to her so it used up a spoon. This continued with Christine breaking each task down into details of how the activities are when you have a chronic illness.

Christine’s friend had already used 6 spoons before she had even got to work (getting up, getting dressed, having a wash, having breakfast, getting ready for work). Her friend started to realise that she needed to think about how she would use the remaining 6 spoons for the rest of the day.

By the end of the day Christine’s friend got upset. She hadn’t realised how much thinking goes into planning everyday normal life activities and how tough they are to a person with a chronic illness. The spoon theory had forced her to think about things differently e.g. standing up on the train, could she borrow a spoon from tomorrow.

The reality is that life with a chronic illness requires much more thought than it would for a healthy person. People often think I’m mad when I say how long it takes me to pick out something to wear or how I have to chunk my housework because it’s something that they just do without having to think about it.

And that is how the spoon theory was born. It has been so valuable to me in explaining to other people what living life is like with a chronic illness. Now the term spoonies is used to describe people who suffer with chronic illnesses.

Examples of things that use up more than one spoon.

  • Having a shower – by the end of the day I am physically and mentally exhausted but in the morning I struggle to get going so showering is something that I have to do when running low on spoons and it really takes it out of me.
  • Washing my hair – having my arms raised up hurts to massage the shampoo into my head. Then I need to dry my hair which means holding the hairdryer in my already achy, tired arm.
  • Styling my hair – I love to style my hair but since having fibro I struggle to do things such as French plaits or fishtail plaits due to the fact that my arms need to be raised and I have to lower them to have a break.
  • Wearing makeup – if I’m not going out of the house I don’t wear makeup. My day to day makeup is simple as I don’t have the energy to do any more.

These are just some examples of how I have to think about remaining spoons and how I use my time.

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all understood each other a little more. If we didn’t judge and think just because a person looked ok that they were. If we took the time to encourage, be accepting and support spoonies so that their lives could be a little easier. Wouldn’t it be lovely for spoonies to be a recognised phrase by people who don’t suffer with a chronic illness. That they would just know to think about how they could support that person just a little more. That is my hope through my blog. That is my hope through blog posts like these because if someone has a broken leg people are more courteous, or if they see someone with something physically wrong.

Here’s to all of the spoonies reading this blog post. You are fabulous, you are loved, you are appreciated and you are a fighter.

Below I have popped a link in to a gorgeous sterling silver spoonie necklace that I have found.

Sterling Silver Spoon Necklace.

Sterling Silver Spoon Necklace.

Isn’t it just beautiful? There are lots of other necklaces, bracelets, mugs, t-shirts available. If you’d like me to write a post with these in then just let me know in the comments 🙂 thank you for reading!

If you’d like to read Christine’s article in full then click here.

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