Chronic Illness: What’s A Spoonie Anyway?

Do you have a chronic illness or know someone who does? What's a spoonie anyway? Learn how The Spoon Theory can help you!

Last Updated on January 28, 2023 by Lori Geurin

What’s a spoonie? Is it a person who loves spoons….like a foodie who loves food? If you have a chronic illness or know someone who does, you may have heard this term before. But if you’re like me, I had no knowledge of the term before my illness with Lyme disease began.

So, What’s A Spoonie?

A spoonie refers to anyone who has a chronic illness. This can include:

  • lupus, like Selena Gomez
  • Lyme disease
  • heart disease
  • cancer
  • stroke
  • fibromyalgia
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Sjogren’s syndrome, like Venus Williams
  • HIV
  • epilepsy
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease, like Michael J. Fox
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Chronic migraine
  • Mixed Connective Tissue Disease

There are others too, but this covers some of the most well-known chronic illnesses.

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Here are 24 photos that show what being a spoonie *really* looks like.

The Spoon Theory

Christine Miserandino developed The Spoon Theory to help explain to her friend what it’s like to live with a chronic illness like lupus. Even though her friend had been beside her throughout her illness, she struggled to understand what it was really like.

To explain the theory to her friend, Christine handed her a bunch of spoons and said, “Here you go, you have Lupus.”

Next, she “explained that the difference between 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. “

She then asked her friend to count how many spoons she had. Christine explained for each activity or daily task her friend did (such as washing her hair, shaving her legs, getting dressed, typing on a computer, and standing on a train), she would have to give up a spoon.

She told her friend that if she didn’t choose her spoons wisely, she would be out of spoons before the day had barely started.

At the end of the hypothetical day, her friend only had one spoon left and was starving. If she cooked dinner, that would cost her the final spoon. But then she wouldn’t have any left to wash the dishes. On the other hand, if she went out for dinner, she might lack the energy to drive herself home.

Although my battle with Lyme disease has been going on for close to 4 years, I had wondered until recently what a Spoonie was, that is, until I came across The Spoon Theory. I shared it with my Mom, and she thought it was a great way to explain what I’ve been through and what others go through every day.

Related: Overcoming The Shame Of Chronic Illness

No Sob Stories Here

So, my purpose is not to tell a sob story about myself or anyone else. I intend to share this insightful concept, The Spoon Theory, with you so it might help you and those you love.

If you have a chronic illness, you may want to consider sharing the theory with loved ones to help them better understand your daily life. As much as they love you and care about what you’re going through, chances are they don’t fully get it because it’s truly hard to understand if you haven’t lived it yourself.

I didn’t know what chronic illness was until I became ill with Lyme disease and four other chronic illnesses (Sjogren’s, Mixed Connective Tissue Disease, fibromyalgia, and chronic migraine).

It wasn’t that I didn’t care about people going through health crises because I did. But I see it very differently now, and I’m thankful for the Spoon Theory to help others better understand what it’s like.

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It’s so not fun having to cancel plans with family and friends at the last minute because you’re “all out of spoons,” but now I’m thankful to have The Spoon Theory in my back pocket to help when I need it most!

Do you have a chronic illness or know someone who does? Do you think you might use the Spoon Theory to help your loved ones better understand what you’re going through?

Please share in the comment section below. I’d love to know what you think about this!

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5 thoughts on “Chronic Illness: What’s A Spoonie Anyway?”

  1. I’ve been dealing with multiple chronic conditions for thirteen years now. A dear friend of mine has been dealing with several chronic conditions for over twenty-five years! She had shared with me this theory several years ago & I unfortunately had forgotten about it. Thank you for the reminder of an excellent way to help healthy people understand what we “Spoonies” deal with, sometimes on a moment-by-moment basis.
    Thank you also for your clear testimony of what God has done, and continues to do, in your life. I have been through much the same journey as you described. It’s always such a blessing to see what He is doing in the lives of others.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear about your chronic health conditions, Marissa. And for your friend too. I truly hope this helps you as it has me.

      Your kind words have blessed me so. I’m learning so much through this crazy journey and meeting some pretty awesome people, including yourself! God is using this to grow me and show me so much through this experience. He is so good!

      Please stay in touch and let me know how you’re doing. You’re welcome here anytime! Gentle hugs and prayers!

  2. My daughter has suffered with Cronic migraines for 5 years now. Thank you for letting me know about the Spoon Theory. I’m going to buy the book right now.

  3. I reread the spoon theory. I still think it’s an easy way to describe how your illness effects your daily life. I also want to say I like coffee with a little coconut oil added, because you treated me to some one day. Hopefully you can see my reply will get to you!

    1. Hi Mom,

      Thanks for your comments. I’m glad you found the spoon theory to be helpful! I totally agree.

      I love that you enjoyed the coffee with coconut oil! Coffee just isn’t the same without it. 🙂


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