I live with a chronic illness and disability. Over the years I have come to discover more about myself and how to communicate my needs with others. Several years ago I discovered the Spoon Theory, But You Don’t Look Sick, by Christine Miserandino. This incredible theory explains how an individual with a Chronic Illness starts with, say, 10 spoons a day. Each spoon represents a task that uses energy. Whilst someone without an illness may have double the number of spoons, you have to limit what you do that day to prevent you running out of energy.
It’s an excellent way to explain to those who don’t understand your illness what it does to you. An example of how I may spend my spoons:
- Wake up – expel 1 spoon
- Get out of bed – expel 1 spoon
- Have a shower – expel 1 spoon
- Get breakfast/coffee – expel 1 spoon
I’ve only managed to get up, have a shower and get breakfast and I’ve used half of my spoons for the day!
- Empty the dishwasher – expel 1 spoon
- Fill the dishwasher – expel 1 spoon
- Make lunch – expel 1 spoon
- Sit on the sofa and recover… – conserve a spoon!
I have one spoon left. Do I tidy the kitchen? Hoover the house? Cook dinner tonight? It’s a difficult decision. Some days I start off with a few more spoons. On those days I’m able to go for a walk, or see friends. I used to have only 8 spoons a day. I have trained myself over time to improve my cache of spoons, which requires a more flexible way of living.
Being able to express my challenges and needs has been liberating. There’s something to say about being vulnerable and open with those that can be trusted. It allows people to offer me one of their spoons to make it through the day. And that can make all the difference.