There is No Spoon

Do you think about the amount of energy it takes to get through the day? What if that energy was gone before noon? What if you only had a small allowance each day and it gets used up before you even leave the house?

This is what it’s like when you suffer from chronic pain.

When you’re healthy and pain-free, each day can be a challenge both mentally and physically. Still, you can get through it. If you suffer from chronic pain, all your mental and physical energy can be exhausted just taking a shower to get ready for work.

Chronic pain is an invisible disease. The person may look fine, but they are likely acting normal out of respect for everyone else. It’s a difficult concept to understand unless you’re the one suffering or a loved one experiences it everyday. Explaining the concept of a finite amount of energy is not easy, but the Spoon Theory is the best metaphor.

The spoon is, in fact, a fairly random metaphor. It’s the brainchild of Christine Miserandino, a blogger who advocates for people with lupus and other conditions, who in 2003 found herself trying to explain to a friend what it was like to live with chronic illness. It was late, and the two were in a diner. Miserandino gathered together all the spoons from their and other tables, explaining that each spoon represented a unit of energy, needed to complete an ordinary task.“Most people start the day with unlimited amount of possibilities, and energy to do whatever they desire, especially young people,” she explains in a blog. “When you are healthy you expect to have a never-ending supply of ‘spoons.‘” But people suffering from chronic illness or pain don’t have an unlimited number. They might know they only have ten “spoons” and that it will take three to shower, eat, and dress in the morning. This necessitates a fundamentally different approach to planning time which, Miserandino says, is hard for the non-sick to grasp.

The story that prompted this bit of writing is about Paris Jackson (Michael’s daughter) and her godfather Macaulay Culkin getting matching spoon tattoos. I have no idea if either of them suffer from chronic pain, but I would guess they do.

If you know someone who suffers from chronic pain as I do, be aware. They are smiling through their day, but they’re likely using tomorrow’s spoons just to get by.