Using Spoon Theory to Explain Chronic Illness

Guest blog post

For people living with a chronic illness like arthritis or fibromyalgia, every day is a struggle. Daily tasks like showering, getting dressed or preparing meals that come so easily to most people are genuinely strenuous for ‘spoonies’, the informal name given to chronic illness sufferers.

This moniker owes to a stroke of genius from lupus patient Christine Miserandino and a visit to a café 15 years ago.

She was having lunch with a friend when she was asked what it was like to live with lupus. Christine did not launch into a long-winded depiction of her struggles, but instead grabbed a dozen spoons from unoccupied tables, gave them to her friend and asked her to describe a typical day.   

Every time her friend mentioned a task like showering, Christine would take a spoon from her, explaining that this activity took from her daily energy levels. After a few minutes of this exercise, her friend truly realised the scale of the struggles that chronic illness sufferers experience every day. 

Christine’s theory is now used worldwide to explain the difficulties faced by people living with a range of medical conditions, many of which are not apparent to the naked eye. In many cases, people’s struggles are heightened by a narrow-minded, cynical attitude from others, with accusations of “milking it” or “being lazy” thrown around with abandon. If only those people knew what it was like to find it arduous just to get out of bed in the morning, their perceptions might change.

Find out more about Christine’s Spoon Theory and its real-life application in this infographic from Burning Nights