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Contributor: Using Spoon Theory to Explain Chronic Illness

When you suffer from a chronic illness like arthritis, lupus or CRPS, every day can be a real struggle. Some days will be worse than others, so it helps to devise some coping strategies to help you through the roughest days. This may mean having to turn down social invitations or skimp on preparing a ‘proper’ dinner, but only you know how your body feels, so looking out for yourself in these situations is not selfish.

Another challenging aspect of chronic illness is trying to make others appreciate the pain through which you’re living every day. There are cynics out there who routinely accuse invisible illness sufferers of being melodramatic in describing their pain, but there is no call for such ignorance. Sometimes, it takes more than words to truly get a message across.

That’s what inspired Christine Miserandino to come up with the Spoon Theory, a metaphor that is now used across the world by chronic illness patients to communicate their struggles. She devised the theory in 2003 when she was asked by a friend over lunch what it was like to have lupus. Instead of launching into a detailed depiction of her pain, Christine took 12 spoons from unused tables, handed them to her friend and took them away one by one as her friend described a normal day. The point she was trying to communicate was that chronic illness sufferers only have so many ‘spoons’ in a day and regular activities like showering, cooking and cleaning all require spoons, so there is very little energy left by evening time.

Here is an infographic from Burning Nights that goes into further detail about the Spoon Theory and lists some great pointers on how to manage chronic illness effectively.



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