This article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily the views of the paper. 

"Spoon theory" is a concept used within the chronic illness and disability community to describe the limited energy those living with chronic illnesses or disabilities have. The concept was coined by Christine Miserandino, a woman living with Lupus, and she described the units of energy she had as spoons when explaining her limited energy to a close friend. Those who relate to spoon theory or are a part of the chronic illness community often refer to themselves as “spoonies.”

Though we all have limited energy, those of us with chronic illnesses or a disability have to be aware of our energy every second of every day because, once we are out of spoons, we are done with the day’s activities — even if there is more that needs to be done.



Realistically, our health issues impact every facet of our lives, even the places where one would think illness could not reach. Simple tasks such as getting dressed, going to the store or meeting a friend for coffee require spoons. Starting the day with a set amount of spoons means we have to be conscious and purposeful about the way we spend our time and energy.

Recently, I have found myself explaining my illness more than normal and detailing the ways in which it influences my day to day activities, relationships and energy. The spoon theory remains the best way for me to help those who are illness free understand my life.

Spoon theory is also a good way to make invisible illnesses more concrete and understand that just because someone might not “look” sick (what does a sick person even look like, anyway?), it doesn’t mean they aren’t fighting a hard, invisible battle.

Being a spoonie means considering activities and choices that healthy people don’t have to think about. It means carefully budgeting your spoons for the day so that you don’t have to take any from tomorrow — if you overdo it today, tomorrow will be even harder.

Some days I have more spoons, and some days I have less. Budgeting spoons can be emotionally exhausting because as a college student, I would like to feel like I am on top of the world, able to conquer anything and everything. I have learned that I sometimes have to slow down and save the next big challenge for tomorrow, to turn away and say, You know what? I’ve done enough for today, and my worth is not dependent on how much I can get done in a day.

The conscious choices of the chronically ill are luxuries that the healthy take for granted. It helps to know that when a sick friend says no to going out for coffee or stays home to rest, it isn’t because they are rude or lazy. It’s because they face a challenge that the healthy do not.

The possibilities at the beginning of the day for healthy people are nearly endless, while the possibilities for spoonies are limited. This is one of the biggest parts of being sick: It's not just about bad days or flare ups, but the way in which we move through our good days and normal days too.

I think the spoon theory is a great tool for healthy people to understand what it might be like to walk a mile in a spoonie’s shoes. It is also a good time to check biases and assumptions that people have about those that are chronically ill.  I hope that reading about spoon theory and the way in which day-to-day life differs for those in the chronic illness community helps others understand why spoonies sometimes simply cannot complete an activity that day or have to set boundaries and say no.

Megan Holmen is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter at  @megan_holmen