Chronic Pain Spoons

The Spoon Theory was written by someone much more creative than I am – her name is Christine Miserandino ( and she has lupus.  Even though I have Spina Bifida and not Lupus, this is the best description of what it is like to have a chronic illness and chronic pain.  Every day I wake up and before I move, I  have to determine how many ‘spoons’ I have for the day – whether or not it is going to be a productive day or a rest day.  People with chronic pain have to think about their every move throughout the day from the moment they wake up until the moment they fall asleep after another day of some sort of pain.  The Spoon Theory uses spoons as a tangible way to explain how each movement takes energy and could possibly cause more pain.  People with chronic pain are not able to get their spoons back and have to determine how much they can get done in a day before they run out of spoons.

I struggle with chronic pain and wanting to get more done than my ‘spoons’ will allow. It is impossible for me to write daily to-do lists, if I do and I can’t get everything done, it really frustrates me. It’s hard for me to slow down and realize that it’s OK if something doesn’t get done because I am in pain or do not have a lot of energy (I usually lack energy the day after taking extra pain medicine).  Like the video says, a healthy person (especially a young healthy person) has an endless amount of spoons but a person with a chronic pain needs to know how many ‘spoons’ they have each day which determines what he or she can do throughout the day.  It’s a constant reminder of the chronic illness.

Everyone, sick or healthy, has ‘spoons’ but healthy people do not have to constantly think about what to do with the spoons.  This ends up causing some people to waste their time and energy on things that are not important.  Since I have a limited amount of spoons each day, I see the time that I get to do something fun as something to remember when I am having a bad day.  Depending on the day that ‘something fun’ might be as small as going to the post office.  It’s hard to reserve spoons for a special occasion, so when I have to cancel last minute it breaks my heart and makes me wish these ‘spoons’ were real so that I could throw them across the room.  Of course, if I did that I’d have to find the energy to pick up and wash the spoons.  The days when I am able to go out or see friends are the days when I have lots of spoons.  Sometimes I am able to forget about my spoons for a couple precious hours.

Today, I have less spoons than I would like to have – I have the gross ‘post pain meds’ feeling.  I’ve been able to get up and eat earlier today but as I write this, I am laying in bed, trying to reserve as many spoons as possible so that I can wash the dishes and be somewhat social when my mom comes home tonight.  I think the most frustrating part of having chronic pain is that I never know when it will be bad – it seems like everything has the potential to cause pain and the things that caused it yesterday don’t cause pain today.  I try to make the best of living with a chronic illness and chronic pain – when I wake up and feel like I have a bunch of spoons to work with in a day, you better believe I want to do a million things in that 24 hour period.  This usually causes me to have less spoons the next day, but it’s sometimes really worth it.

Spoon Theory


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