Explaining Chronic Illness: An Alternative to the Spoon Theory


If you are active on social media and have a chronic illness, you’ve probably come across the term “spoonie.” The word comes from a woman’s explanation of how she has to manage her energy levels each day.  As she was in a cafe at the time, she grabbed a bunch of spoons to demonstrate how much energy even seemingly small tasks take, such as getting dressed or showering. She then wrote about the conversation with her friend on her blog.

MORE: What is a “spoonie”?

The unpredictability of fatigue and energy levels is one of the main symptoms people with chronic illnesses face. Rationing their energy becomes something that most people need to do to get through each day.

But sometimes the spoon theory isn’t quite so easy to demonstrate, particularly if you don’t have a bunch of spoons handy (or other props). Michelle has another way of explaining her energy levels, as she writes on The Mighty. Instead of using spoons to illustrate her point, Michelle uses batteries, in particular, a cellphone battery. She explains that often with older cellphones, the battery isn’t as good as it used to be. It can often be unpredictable, even when left charging overnight.

Sometimes your cellphone will have a lot of charge and you can be on Facebook and Instagram for hours, whereas other times your cellphone will barely have enough juice to make a quick call to your mom. This is when you have to put your phone into battery-saving mode to conserve energy, just as a person with a chronic illness needs to stop, take a break and conserve what little energy they have until they too can recharge their battery.

MORE: 15 signs that confirm you’re definitely a spoonie

Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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  1. Jill says:

    I just got diagnosed a little more than a year ago. Still trying to learn as much as possible. Please send me all the information on Symantec Scleroderma. Also I’m in the Ventura,California if you know of any doctors I would appreciate it

  2. Lori says:

    I also live in ventura. There is a great support group that meets every other month on a Saturday. I’d like to get you the info.

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