Hives and Spoons
Last updated: June 2022
A few months ago, we posted an article about The Spoon Theory and how it applies to chronic illness. But I thought I’d expand on the article and relate it specifically to chronic hives.
The spoon theory
The story goes that Christine and her friend had gone out for dinner one night. During their conversation, Christine's friend asked her to explain what it was like to have a chronic illness. She desperately wanted to understand what her friend, who had Crohn's disease, went through on a daily basis. Christine looked around the diner and gathered all the spoons she could get her hands on and laid them out on the table between her and her friend. She explained that each spoon represents a unit of energy.
A healthy person may have an unlimited number of spoons at their disposal to accomplish everything they need to in a given day. However, someone with chronic illness has a limited number of spoons, and in fact can function in a spoon deficit. The amount of spoons varies each day, influenced by multiple factors, including sleep, symptoms, and how much energy was spent the day before.
Spoons is an easy analogy that can help people who don’t have chronic illness to understand some of the physical limitations we are faced with on a daily basis. When I worked full time, I functioned on a constant spoon deficit. I never had energy to do anything besides work and sleep. It was a bonus if I could feed myself.
Spoons and hives
Chronic hives is only one of the many chronic illnesses I struggle with on a daily basis, but lately it has been using up a lot of spoons. My particular kind of chronic hives is caused by an auto-immune condition that attacks my own mast cells, causing hives, itching, facial swelling, and often pure misery.
People with chronic illness have to learn how to use their spoons wisely. Unlike a healthy person, we cannot go about our day expecting to accomplish every task we set our minds to. Instead we must take inventory of the spoons we have each day and plan our activities accordingly. A healthy person may expend 1 spoon to take a shower, but for someone with chronic illness it might take 2, 3, or more spoons.
Let’s say a healthy person wakes up with 60 spoons. They start their day with a shower, fix breakfast and lunch to go, work an 8+ hr work day, go to the gym, shower again, head out to dinner with friends, and grab drinks on the way home. Goodness! That makes me tired just typing out that kind of sentence! This healthy person probably started out their day with 60 spoons, used about 30, and have plenty left to spare at the end of the night.
I’ve been in a bad flare this week. My symptoms are out of control at the moment, and it’s definitely taking a toll on my spoon bank. I’ve spent the last two nights in the ER. I’m on high doses of steroids. I’m not sleeping much.
Let’s say that today I woke up with 6 spoons. My responsibilities are to feed myself and take care of my service dog. Each meal is a spoon, a walk around the block is a spoon. If I eat three meals today and walk my dog around the block twice, that leaves me with 1 spoon to do whatever else I need to do. Forget the to-do list. Lucky you, I’m using my last spoon to write this article for you. I feel like I’m struggling to make it make sense and be relevant. But that’s the point, isn’t it?
It’s not just today has been a hard day. I’ve spent most of it in bed. My house is a disaster, my dog isn’t getting the attention she needs. This is real stuff, folks. Life with chronic illness is messy sometimes. But I hope that, if you are reading this, you won’t feel so alone.
It’s hard to juggle being human and being chronically ill. So, give yourself some grace today, I know I need some.
How well do you feel you manage your chronic hives?