Living well with pain and illness: part one
Updated: Apr 2, 2021
Hello and welcome back to my blog. As many of you may know my name is Mary and I am a qualified person centred counsellor with a particular interest in working with clients who have chronic pain and other long-term health conditions.
This blog post follows on from my introduction blog about living well with pain and illness. Something that I know from personal and professional experience is entirely possible. Learning to live well with pain and illness won't be an overnight, immediate fix. However, if you can approach this work with a curious mindset and be willing to try out a variety of different ideas and creative approaches to pain management - it can help to support a healthy balance in your pain and energy levels. You can develop a toolbox of pain management skills and strategies that work for you.
An idea that I would like to introduce today in my blog series is that of the Spoon Theory. This was a theory written by a lady called Christine Miserandino. Her original post about the theory is available here: https://butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/.
I am not sure what your experience is of being understood by your friends and family when you try to explain to them about your condition and why you might have to cancel plans at the minute if you are not feeling well. The Spoon Theory may help you in understanding why you feel as exhausted and sick during a stressful, busy period. By learning about and using the Spoon Theory you will learn how to manage your condition in a different way. The Spoon Theory is also a valuable and very clear way of explaining to other people what it is like to be chronically sick. Something that 'normal' healthy people may have no idea what that might feel like.
As shown in the diagram below, you start of with a set number of spoons, in this diagram it is 12 spoons. These spoons represent your energy supply for that day.
As you will see in the diagram below every activity in your day costs a certain number of spoons, including some of the following:
> Getting up
> Getting dressed
> Making and eating meals
> Attending work, or school
> Exercising. Etc...
Once you have used your spoons, that is it, you may end up like this little guy:
You can borrow spoons from your next days supply, however you run the risk of burning-out and crashing. If you have no spoons left it is likely that you won't have the energy left to anything in your daily schedule. Similar to the boom-and-bust cycle that I will go into more detail in another blog. Where you over-do everything on one day (boom) and then go into (bust) and have a pain flare up, or flare up of your other symptoms.
Let me know what you think of spoons theory. For me once I learnt about it it helped me on the way to living well with pain and illness. I understood for the first time that I had a limited energy supply because of my chronic pain condition and I had to learn how to spend that energy wisely. Spending it wisely so that I could get all my day to day activities and commitments done without being in a deficit with a lack of spoons. I don't always get it right, but my life and condition are 100% better now, compared to the start of my pain journey. I hope that your life and pain management can start to be transformed with these ideas.
Someone put it as you have a surfboard and you are learning how to navigate the waves of the chronic illness, whilst still remaining upright.
To finish here is one of the most helpful and straight forward videos explaining spoon theory that I have ever come across. I hope that you enjoy :)
I hope that this theory helps you on your chronic pain journey as much as it has helped me.
Until next time.