Explaining Chronic Illness: An Alternative to the Spoon Theory

If you are active on social media and have a chronic illness, you’ve probably come across the term “spoonie.” The word comes from a woman’s explanation of how she has to manage her energy levels each day.  As she was in a cafe at the time, she grabbed a bunch of spoons to demonstrate how much energy even seemingly small tasks take, such as getting dressed or showering. She then wrote about the conversation with her friend on her blog.

MORE: Fibromyalgia patients found to have common viruses. 

The unpredictability of fatigue and energy levels is one of the main symptoms people with chronic illnesses face. Rationing their energy becomes something that most people need to do to get through each day.

But sometimes the spoon theory isn’t quite so easy to demonstrate, particularly if you don’t have a bunch of spoons handy (or other props). Michelle has another way of explaining her energy levels, as she writes on The Mighty. Instead of using spoons to illustrate her point, Michelle uses batteries, in particular, a cellphone battery. She explains that often with older cellphones, the battery isn’t as good as it used to be. It can often be unpredictable, even when left charging overnight.

Sometimes your cellphone will have a lot of charge and you can be on Facebook and Instagram for hours, whereas other times your cellphone will barely have enough juice to make a quick call to your mom. This is when you have to put your phone into battery-saving mode to conserve energy, just as a person with a chronic illness needs to stop, take a break and conserve what little energy they have until they too can recharge their battery.

MORE: Six tips to prevent fibromyalgia flares.

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  1. Val says:

    I can totally relate to this, and as much as it’s exactly how I feel at times, I still find it difficult to tell people why I can’t make it to an event or whatever was planned because I know that I only have so much energy and I have to pace myself or I just need to recharge my battery. On the surface I look normal so if I say anything people usually give me a blank look or like last week when this Thai yoga teacher told me Fibromyalgia is a scam. My Chiropractor told me it’s all in the head, I haven’t gone back to him since. Yikes!

    • Mar says:

      Well if it is a scam and I quit “scamming” my pain and fatigue and all the other symptoms will go away??? OK, I quit scamming! Wait! I still have those symptoms. What an asinine thing to say!

      As for the cell phone analogy, it works better for me.

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