How Do You Explain Chronic Illness With Spoons?

How Do You Explain Chronic Illness With Spoons

Feature Photo credit to Pottery Barn

I come from a family of chronic pain sufferers. My aunt died from an intolerably painful autoimmune disorder; my mother has suffered neuropathy and arthritis for decades, and my sisters and other family members have not been left out. Their story is not mine to tell, but I can share a little about mine.

In the early nineties, I started having bouts of pain. Joint pain mostly, but also digestive problems, headaches, and other symptoms. At some point in the late nineties, the pain became daily and debilitating. My days were deeply affected. The pain affected every corner of my mind and my life. There were several years where I wasn’t sure I could keep practicing chiropractic because my pain was so significant.

How Do You Explain Chronic Pain Or Illness With Spoons?


I can remember one afternoon, arriving at my sister’s house after a long drive. I knew I should have stopped and stretched more on the way up, but I was in a hurry to get there. When I opened the car door, I knew things were bad. I had stiffened to the point of hardly being able to move. It was awkward. I had driven up with a new love interest, and I did not want to make a big deal about my state. In the end, I had to crawl on my hands and knees to her front door. My poor boyfriend (now husband) stared down at me, completely helpless.

I have been diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis, Sjogren’s, Raynaud’s, Osteoarthritis, IBS and Thyroid Disease. I don’t believe I have all of these but those are the labels that have been attached to my discomfort. In the following years since the “crawling incident,” I have worked very hard to radically change my eating habits, my fitness level, and my stress. All of these efforts have paid off, and my pain and discomfort are drastically reduced. However, there are many people, in daily pain, who do everything they should and are still debilitated. I am sure the many family and friends around them wonder what it must be like to live with such disability.

The American Autoimmune, Rheumatoid And Related Disorders Association (AARDA) tells us 50 Million American’s suffer from Autoimmune disorders. Many more suffer issues like fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue, and Myofascial Pain Disorder. That does not even take into consideration those living in daily pain from things like cancer or failed back surgeries. That means that probably every single person reading this is in chronic pain or knows someone in chronic pain.  This story becomes even more powerful when every one of us can use a little perspective on what life must be like with chronic pain.

I don’t make a habit of dedicating a post, but this post does go out to those who are suffering from daily pain, whatever the cause.

Christine Miserandino wrote this moving post based on an experience she had with a close friend who asked her what it felt like to live with Lupus. From her friend’s question came an answer in the form of  “The Spoon Theory.” Christine does not allow reprinting of her article so here is the link. You can read her powerful Spoon Theory story yourself. It is well worth the extra click!



[Tweet “50 Million Suffer Autoimmune Disorders”]


If you would prefer to hear the story told live, click here. 




This week I want you to think of that person who you know suffers chronic pain. Is there a way you could reach out to let them know you are there? Have you been planning to connect but just haven’t taken the time? Let this be a motivator. Throw some kindness their way.


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4 Responses

  1. Yes! This story has been so helpful for me. For 7 years, I suffered from swollen knees which was misdiagnosed as Rheumatoid Arthritis. However, I just found out last year that it’s gluten-induced arthritis. During those 7 years, I used the spoon theory to explain why I couldn’t go out or play sports like I used to. I even used it to explain to my husband why I got stressed out when the house was such a mess. This is a great theory and helped so many people understand what I was going through.

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Dr. Denniston is a wellness strategist for elite leaders and their teams, bridging the connection between personal well-being and professional success. She provides custom solutions for burnout and stress and facilitates cohesive habit-training strategies that maximize vitality, productivity, and resilience.

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