Have you heard of The Spoon Theory? Written by Christine Miserandino (please read it here http:/ /www.butyoudontlooksick.com ), it is a great analogy for how someone with chronic illness feels as they go about their day. It is a great tool for helping healthy people to understand what it is like to live with illness on a day to day basis. Imagine that everyone starts every day with a handful of spoons (the spoons are a concrete example of choices that you make through the day) – visualize holding the spoons. Now, the general idea is that healthy people have an unlimited supply of “spoons” to go about their day. No spoons get used during the day, and they are left with unlimited spoons at the end of the day to restart their next day.
To quote Christine in The Spoon Theory, “…the difference in being sick and being healthy is having to make choices or to consciously think about things when the rest of the world doesn’t have to. The healthy have the luxury of a life without choices, a gift most people take for granted.”
However, chronically ill people start each and every day with a limited number of “spoons.” They have to make choices as they go through their mundane daily tasks – showering, making meals, running errands, chores, etc. Each task will cost a spoon. Just by showering and making breakfast and packing kids’ lunches – you have used three spoons. You only have a few left – and a whole day’s worth of activities and events to get through. The point being, that a chronically ill person will run out of spoons right quickly. And once the spoons are gone for the day, they are gone. And nothing more will get done that day.
When I was diagnosed a few years ago with Multiple Sclerosis (brought on by a combination of bacterial infection from Lyme and a mix of bad genes), I went through a long year or so of illness and recovery. I discovered The Spoon Theory and it became an important tool for explaining how I felt each and every day while balancing recovery and homeschooling three kids. However, fast forward four years and I have developed a Revised Spoon Theory for my own life. This is absolutely not to discredit the original Spoon Theory, which will always remain an important tool in understanding and hopefully compassion for the chronically ill.
My Revised Spoon Theory works like this. I make choices every single day that ADD to my collection of available spoons, so that I have more spoons to begin with! I have to. Or I won’t have enough spoons to get through the day! Here are some of the things that I do to ADD to my spoon collection daily:
- I eat differently than most people. I listen carefully to my body and how it responds to food. I generally avoid gluten, regular dairy, processed/packaged foods, GMO foods, colors, preservatives, etc. And instead, I eat whole foods such as organic vegetables and fruits, clean meats (grass fed, antibiotic and hormone free), some seeds and nuts, filling healthy fats and oils and drink lots of filtered water. This focus on simple clean food as nutrition for healing builds my body for a better future and gives me a handful of extra spoons during the day.
- I avoid chemicals and toxins in my body and household products as much as possible. I use a pure coconut bar soap and pure coconut oil as lotion. I use toxin free face products (I am working on finding better make-up!) and do my best to use green household products, including soy candles with only essential oils. Add a few more spoons.
- I take supplements – and visit a Functional Medicine Doctor – to have certain levels monitored so that I know I am on track. Add some spoons.
- I go to the Acupuncturist a few times a month to manage stress and keep my system in balance. Spoons.
- I walk in nature, stretch, and use the foam roller – not for a buff beach body, but for a healthy body –and to gather spoons.
- I manage stress with deep breathing, positive thinking, and beautiful affirmations of a wonderful life. More spoons.
- I put an emphasis on quality and quantity of sleep so that my body can regenerate and pick up a final few spoons.
I look at it this way – I need and use more spoons a day than most people. I need two handfuls of spoons to get through every day and I am willing to do what it takes to get them. It doesn’t feel like deprivation. I may indeed miss out on a few Twinkies (do they still make those?). But I know that for every choice I make, I am gaining the ability to store up spoons to be traded out later for the things that I really want in life. I want to go to my son’s baseball games. I want to drop off and pick up my daughter at every dance rehearsal. I want to shop for Prom with my oldest boy, even though he only gave me one day’s notice! I want to make their dinners and pack their lunches and help with homework. I want to take walks with my husband and go out on the rare date night, even if only to dinner and a movie. I want to travel, explore, enjoy and live life to the fullest. And I want to keep doing it all for a long, long time. And that requires a Revised Spoon Theory!