The Spoon Theory: A Visual to Explain Your Disability

“You don’t understand what I am going through.” How often do we think or say this to people who, with good intentions, try to sympathize with us in our pain? Or how easy is it for the phrase, “I totally understand” to roll off the tongue after someone shares their pain with us? We want to understand but can’t because we cannot physically feel other people’s pain. It can be difficult to describe any pain or disability to other people because they are not living with the reality that it presents you.

Blogger Christine Miserandino shared her story of what it is like to live with a disability. From her simple demonstration to a friend, The Spoon Theory was created for people to better sympathize with and explain pain and disabilities. She gave her friend a visual by grabbing twelve spoons. The spoons represented the amount of energy she has to complete various tasks in a day. Once her spoons were gone, so was her energy; there was no option of receiving more. For example, getting ready to go to work cost her half of her spoons because of all the energy it took to open her eyes, eat breakfast, take her medicine, and shower. By the end of the demonstration, her friend had a new respect for Christine and the battle she faced every day.

With her disability, Christine has to make choices of what she can and will do throughout the day. Christine puts it into perspective, telling her friend, “Don’t worry. I see this as a blessing. I have been forced to think about everything I do. Do you know how many spoons people waste everyday? I don’t have room for wasted time, or wasted ‘spoons’ and I chose to spend this time with you.” Choose to take the time to listen and understand those who are choosing to spend their time with you.

Magee offers peer mentors and support groups for patients and families. To learn more, click here.

Share This Article!