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30 Unique Skills of People Who Live with Chronic Health Conditions

By Emmie Arnold

People often think of disabled people in terms of what they lack, but here are a few remarkable gifts that we have. A list of spoonie skills for those of us who live with chronic illnesses every day.

  1. Sleeping a lot (or not sleeping at all).
  2. Finding ways to make literally any space more comfortable. Pillows on pillows on pillows.
  3. Taking more pills in one mouthful than the average person takes over a 3 week period.
  4. Reciting our entire medical histories from beginning to end without mistakes or hesitation.
  5. Making appointment after appointment after appointment.
  6. Knowing more about our illnesses than some professionals seem to.
  7. Avoiding going out late like the plague.
  8. Fighting with insurance companies for more coverage because good grief, is it expensive to be unhealthy. (Here’s how to help fight the AHCA, which would inflict unspeakable damage on people with pre-existing conditions.)
  9. Recommending treatments and physical therapy exercises to anybody in our lives who seem to be having even a smidgen of physical discomfort.
  10. Educating people about the Spoon Theory because how else will an able-bodied person understand how you live? How did we ourselves not know this theory at some point? It’s our vernacular now.
  11. Laughing about our bodies’ quirks, once the grieving period after getting a diagnosis is over.
  12. Encouraging people in our lives who have symptoms of illness to go get help.
  13. Sitting patiently and silently as people say things like “I had a sprained pinky once, so I understand your chronic pain”, “My mom’s second cousin’s hairdresser’s daughter tried this supplement and her condition totally went away”, or “I’m always tired too! You sleep so much compared to me!”
  14. Letting people know why the “only disability in life is a bad attitude!” thought is actually really harmful.
  15. Having our illnesses be part of our identity, but not the only part.
  16. Getting through days where our pain levels, felt in someone else’s body, would be reason for them to go seek care in an emergency room. Our strength is not to be messed with, and oftentimes, our face doesn’t even remotely reflect the kind of pain we’re dealing with.
  17. Giving everybody in the room a laugh when our brain fog game is super strong. And forgetting where we parked our cars. And put our keys. And who we were supposed to call today. And if we already ate lunch. Sometimes, we’re just too out of it to function much. Oops.
  18. Getting excited over really small things, like being able to stand up and do the dishes or being able to make all of the calls that we needed to make today.
  19. Sensing good and loyal friends from a mile away when we meet them.
  20. Making a wheelchair or another assistive device stylish.
  21. Knowing a lot about many other chronic conditions other than your own because the spoonie community is tight-knit and supportive.
  22. Wearing the world’s most comfortable clothes because no spoons means no buttons, high pain means soft, and fatigued means the closest things to pajamas that are socially acceptable.
  23. Looking clean, even without having had the energy to shower.
  24. Setting our limits and saying “no” to things that we cannot do.
  25. Having many vials of blood taken at once and not even blinking an eye. Oh, and pointing out which vein tends to be the best to draw from.
  26. Knowing what hospitals are better to go to than others.
  27. Being patient when all tests come back normal, even though we know something is not right.
  28. Laughing out loud when being told that we must be healthy because we are young, but also fiercely standing up for ourselves when someone thinks that we’re trying to cheat the system by having accommodations like handicap placards.
  29. Practicing self-carelike a boss.
  30. Surviving and being super bad-ass as we do it.

Emmie holding up a framed drawing of 7 gray spoons of varying sizes, shapes, and orientations. Her friend’s little sister drew it for her as a gift upon hearing about how much she related with Christine Miserandino’s “Spoon Theory”, a way of explaining chronic illness and the energy limitations it can impose.

Emmie Arnold

Emmie Arnold is a follower of Jesus, survivor and thriver, graduate student of divinity at Princeton Theological Seminary, blogger at Illness to Wellness, musician, photographer, traveler, goofball, and optimist.

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