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April 14, 2015

No, "The Spoon Theory" Does Not Apply to Your Headache

This is something I've encountered recently that has upset me enough that I can't seem to let it go. So I'm saying something.

If you've read anything about chronic illness, you've probably encountered "The Spoon Theory" at some point. If you haven't, please take a look at it--it's so simple yet has become a pretty priceless analogy for likely thousands of people like me.

The whole “Spoon Theory” is intended for those with life-altering, debilitating chronic illnesses to attempt to begin to get across to their healthy peers what their lives are like. It only scratches the surface of the helplessness we face in how few “spoons” we possess each day but uses a simple analogy anyone can understand in a powerful way. We are not really in charge of our bodies and, try as we might, cannot control its whims--we are not in charge of how many "spoons" we are allotted every day and must use them wisely. We can't just push through every day like nothing's wrong and pull from an endless--or even large--resource of spoons.

It's a great analogy. However, my issue is with people misusing it, which I recently encountered. The theory is not intended to be used by healthy or even relatively healthy people dealing with tiredness at the end of a long, full day of work or a random headache or other sporadic pain they experience--by this I mean things that are normal, explainable, and can be recovered from with a good night's sleep.

Please do not be so thoughtless and selfish as to refer to yourself as a “spoonie” or “running out of spoons” if you don’t suffer from debilitating chronic illness(es) that completely envelop your life. It’s demeaning to those of us who actually are “spoonies.”

It belittles the pain and suffering we deal with every minute of every day.

It puts your sporadic, healthy discomfort on the same level as our inescapable misery.

It implies that you think you, in your normal, passing tiredness or mild headache, are dealing with just as much misery as a real "spoonie" and therefore that the suffering of real "spoonies" is as temporary and normal as yours.

And it undermines the power of an incredibly simple yet profound analogy. There's little we can do to get across life with chronic illness(es), but this theory was a rare kind of victory for us. Please don't ruin it.

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