It’s hard enough to have a disability when others can’t see it. If your mobility, your speech, or other things are visibly impaired, they’re more sympathetic. But an invisible disability can devastate you emotionally, since people often treat you like you should be fully functional. People often don’t understand how conditions like fibromyalgia, PTSD, or a herniated disc limits your ability to work. Your pain has no outward signs — but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Explaining how a disability like that limits your ability to do simple, everyday tasks is often a struggle. But you must try so your loved ones, friends, and even doctors can truly understand what you’re going through. That’s where the Spoon Theory comes in.
How the Spoon Theory Was Born
First, let’s look into how the Spoon Theory came to life. We know everyone’s circumstances are different, but it’s already helped one woman. And maybe it can help you, too. Christine Miserandino was at a diner with her best friend when she pulled out her Lupus medicine. Her friend grew still looking at the pills, then asked Christine what the illness felt like. Christine writes, “I glanced around the table for help or guidance… I was trying to find the right words. How do I answer a question I never was able to answer for myself? How do I explain every detail of every day being affected, and give the emotions a sick person goes through with clarity?” Christine then handed a bouquet of spoons to her friend. “I explained that 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,” she continues.
Then, Christine had her friend detail all the tasks she had planned that day. And every time she mentioned one, it cost one spoon. Getting up, getting dressed, showering, and eating breakfast were all tasks that her condition made difficult or impossible to do. Eventually, she ran out of spoons. She later named this method for visually explaining her limitations to others the Spoon Theory. Christine emotionally concludes, “When other people can simply do things, I have to attack it and make a plan, like I am strategizing a war. It is in that lifestyle, the difference between being sick and healthy. It is the beautiful ability to not think and just do. I miss that freedom. I miss never having to count “spoons.”’
Using the Spoon Theory to Describe How Your Own Invisible Disability Limits Daily Activities
Christine’s object lesson now known as the Spoon Theory took off and spread like wildfire through the disabled community. Here’s how it works: With chronic pain (or any invisible illness), you have to learn to manage your spoons. You have to plan ahead, since you probably can’t cook and clean up on the same day. You may need to take your medication before you can get out of bed. Planning ahead means keeping food, water and medication next to your bed before going to sleep each night. Those without limiting conditions like yours may not understand the effort you make to get through each day. They may not understand why you can’t stay out late, or care for a child or pet without help. The Spoon Theory helps explain your daily limitations in a visual way, showing them exactly when you run out. And if you over-exert yourself one day, you have fewer spoons to get you through the next one.
“Invisible” Conditions Easily Explained Using the Spoon Theory
The Spoon Theory is especially useful if you have any conditions listed below:
- Lyme disease
- Herniated disc (or any back injury-related issues)
What’s great about the Spoon Theory is that it doesn’t just help regular people understand your limitations. In fact, you don’t even have to specifically use spoons for the Spoon Theory to help you! Popsicle sticks, pens, even lollipops… they all work equally well to help illustrate your limits. Once the set number you get to complete each day’s tasks run out, that’s it. You’re done.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
Every disability claim is unique, and a Social Security attorney can help file your claim free of charge. Even better, having a lawyer take this step for you nearly triples your benefit approval chances! All disability lawyers work on contingency, so you’ll never pay anything unless you win benefits. And if your claim does get approved, you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee afterwards.
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Mandy Voisin is a freelance writer, blogger, and author of Girls of the Ocean and Star of Deliverance. As an accomplished content marketing consultant, mom of four and doctor's wife, Mandy has written hundreds of articles about dangerous drugs and medical devices, medical issues that impact disabled Americans, veterans' healthcare and workers' compensation issues since 2016.