If you have a friend, coworker, or family member with a Chronic Illness, you’ve probably heard the word ‘spoons’ used in every situation except when there’s soup.
So what’s with the spoons? Are there forks also? And what on earth is a Spoonie?
The Very Beginning~
Christine Miserandino wrote an essay titled “The Spoon Theory” describing a conversation she had with a friend about energy usage with chronic illness; in her case, Lupus. She used nearby spoons as a visual representation for her energy with each activity in the day using a certain number of spoons. Everyone begins the day with a certain number of spoons to use as they see fit. People with a chronic illness or disability have a smaller number of spoons than people who are able bodied.
So, what is a Spoonie?
People with chronic illness or disabilities might identify themselves as a ‘Spoonie’. This could mean that they start each day with fewer spoons than most, that everyday activities require more spoons to complete, or both. ‘Spoonie’ is a label with power, like ‘Avenger’ or ‘Mother’. When I identify myself as a Spoonie, I’m telling my friends and family that things might take more time for me to complete, while also reminding myself that I am a fighter. For some, walking around the mall for a few hours might take one or two spoons. For me, with the walking, being on my feet for extended periods, and being around lots of people and stimuli, that would take two or three spoons. That doesn’t mean that I can’t come window shopping with my sister, it just means that I need to manage my spoons accordingly and maybe have a lie down once we get back.
Using your spoons
Arguably one of the hardest parts of being a Spoonie (besides the chronic pain and illness) is figuring out how to manage your spoons. Each day is different. If you didn’t sleep well, are dealing with a pain flare-up, or are stressed, your number of spoons are affected. And if you continue despite having only one or two spoons left, you’re depleting yourself of spoons for the next day. This can be particularly difficult when holding down a full-time job, being a student, or even just wanting to attend social events. I might agree to come to a party next week, but when the day comes, I could be out of spoons and have to cancel. I have to prioritize my spoons, and sometimes showering and finishing homework use all the spoons I have.
Some days may be harder than others, and as a type A person, it’s difficult to not know how much energy I’ll have tomorrow, let alone next week. But there are ways I can conserve energy, take care of myself, and still have a semi-normal life. This might mean that after a trip to the grocery store, I put away only the things that need to be frozen or refrigerated, then have a lie down before dealing with things in the pantry. Or if we have an excursion planned I might take short breaks, or use a mobility aid to keep my spoons in check and my pain down while still participating.
Every day is different as a Spoonie, and every day comes with its ups and downs. But I suppose learning how to navigate this is just a part of life.