COLOUR OF OCTOBER BLOG- What is a Spoonie? I explain and talk about the chronic illness analogy: The Spoon Theory written by Christine Miserandino.
What is a spoonie?
This was a question I was asked by a bewildered friend of mine who was wondering why the hell I had been writing, the word “spoonie” in different typographic fonts in my sketchbook.
Contrary to what you may have initially assumed, a spoonie is not actually someone who likes to spoon, although… I’m sure some spoonies do like to spoon!
A spoonie, is a term used by the chronic illness community, that came about after a brilliant article called “The Spoon Theory” was written by Christine Miserandino. Definitely recommend reading it here.
The article explains an insightful analogy called “The Spoon Theory” created by a Lupus sufferer who was attempting to explain to a friend what it really felt like to live with chronic illness.
In summary the analogy goes like this: people with chronic illness wake up each day with a variable amount of spoons, according to how well their body is on that day. Some days they will wake up with 12, others only 8 and it can be very unpredictable. Now, these aren’t literal “spoons”. The spoons represent the energy one has for the day and, each daily task takes a certain number of spoons in order to be completed. A healthy person typically has an unlimited amount of spoons, so doesn’t have to think twice about what they are using their spoons on. However, as a spoonie, you have to think about and prioritise the most important tasks each day, because you never have enough spoons to do it all. You have to work out what’s more important: shaving your legs, or washing your hair. You have to think about how much energy a task is going to take and make sure you ration out the rest of your spoons to make sure you have enough left for the important tasks, like eating (which, if not completed, will cost you even more spoons). And even still, no matter how careful you are with your spoons, 2 can be stolen off of you unexpectedly and completely mess up the day’s plans. You might have a sudden pain flare and that will write off the rest of the day. And remember, if you overdo it today, you are going to wake up tomorrow with even less spoons! It’s an exhausting balancing act; making sure you pace yourself because if you don’t, it will catch up on you.
I identify as a spoonie because the Spoon Theory really does explain the daily struggle I go through.
I wanted to introduce the term, “spoonie” to you all because it’s a term I use quite frequently. It’s important to educate people about what it means- whether you are suffering with chronic illness or not. To people suffering, I hope this reaffirms to you that are not alone and that there are many spoonies out there fighting to get simple daily tasks done, just like you. And for friends and family of spoonies, I hope this analogy helps you get an insight into the mind of a chronically ill person and what we are battling. It’s an accurate representation about how precious spoons (energy) are, and justifies why sometimes we (spoonies) have to make sacrifices in order to keep on functioning. It explains why your spoonie friend hasn’t replied to your text for a couple of days or why they might always be “cancelling plans.” It is not because they are being rude or don’t want to hang out- it’s because everything (everything!) takes spoons. This leads to inevitable sacrifices that need to be made. And these sacrifices, the frustration that comes from not being able to do everything you want, is what it really feels like living with chronic illness.
Please don’t stop inviting your spoonie friends out for coffee, or not bother texting them because they “take so long to respond.” Chronic illness is so so (SO!) isolating, we want to chat, to socialise, but sometimes it’s just not possible. We don’t want to be forgotten. And we haven’t forgotten you.
I really hope you’ve learnt something whether you yourself battle chronic illness or you know someone who does! Again, I recommend going and reading the original article here. It goes into more depth and everything about it is such an accurate representation of what it’s like for me, and many others battling chronic illness.