I have had multiple people ask me, “am I a spoonie?” In short, a spoonie is a nickname for people with chronic illnesses that comes from an article about “the Spoon Theory” (find out more here). So, if you have a chronic illness, no matter the severity of it, you are a spoonie. That’s the quick and easy way to know if you’re a spoonie.
But where’s the fun in that?? In the once popular style of a well known “Redneck” comedian from the 90’s, I’ve compiled a list here of signs that you may be a spoonie. This list includes different experiences and feelings that seem to be common among a good portion of spoonies. Now, understand that I am not a doctor and this list is in no way meant to be a diagnostic tool. It’s just a fun way to recognize that there are others going through the same things you may be going through and to help you find a sense of community with your fellow spoonies.
Without further ado, 10 Signs That You Might Just be a Spoonie:
1. You’re frequently the youngest person in the waiting room
I actually got the idea to write this article while I was sitting in the lobby of a diagnostic center, waiting for my third and final x-ray of the week. I looked around and the majority of the people in the room with me were at least 20 years older than me. I noticed that many of them were looking at me as well, trying to figure out if I was there as a patient or a driver.
This isn’t always a bad thing. I also tend to relate the most with older patients because we often have the same symptoms. The other day I was making a long trek into the radiology wing of the hospital. I had my rollator and passed about three different senior citizens using walkers, all of whom joked with me about the difficulty of the trek and how much it sucks. Having the joints and gastro system of a 60 year old means I relate better to them than most people my age. It also means we go to a lot of the same doctors.
If you ever, at any point in your life, have experienced frequently being the youngest patient at your doctor’s office, then you might just be a spoonie.
2. You request medical devices & accessories as gifts
Birthday coming up? Get a new wheelchair padded seat. Christmas? A brand new blood pressure cuff. Hanukkah? Eight pairs of compression socks. Arbor Day? Some new kinesio tape will do the trick. My family is really big into Amazon wishlists (if you haven’t used them, it makes shopping uber easy!) and my current wishlist is filled with medical devices, device accessories, and clothing that helps to raise awareness.
Whether it’s clothing that raises awareness or medical supplies to ease your symptoms, if you ask for spoonie gear for gifts, then you just might be a spoonie.
3. You have favorite doctors & nurses in the ER
I try so hard to stay out of the Emergency Room (ER), I really do. Yet, due to the nature of my chronic illnesses, I still end up going there at least once every few months. In fact, during one of my recent ER visits at the beginning of May a nurse said that they hadn’t seen me in awhile. I hadn’t been in the ER since January. That’s awhile in my world.
I’ve had doctors choose to treat me, instead of letting another doctor take me on, when I’m in the ER because they remember me and remember my conditions. I’ve had nurses that recognize me when they see me rolling in. I certainly don’t know them all, and they don’t all know me, but you know you’re a frequent flyer in the ER when there is any amount of recognition at all.
Therefore, if you spend enough time in the ER that you have favorite staff members, you might just be a spoonie.
4. Your medical records could fill their own file cabinet
As of the end of April, my disability file was at 998 pages in length. That was before my two latest ER trips, about six more doctors appointments, and two different medical tests. My disability file only includes medical records from the past year and a half, since that was when I became disabled by my conditions. If you added in all the various medical records from my countless number of doctor’s visits, ER trips, hospital stays, medical tests, procedures, injuries, and illnesses. I feel pretty confident that all of those records put together would easily fill an entire file cabinet of their own.
Being chronically ill tends to come along with lots and lots of medical records, so, if your records could fill their own cabinet, you might just be a spoonie.
5. You know more about your condition than most doctors
Once I found out that I had Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS), I realized that most of the doctors, that I had sought answers from for years, were taking shots in the dark and that none of the answers I had been given ever came close to explaining what was going on with my body. This taught me that I had to learn to be my own advocate and work as hard as a I could to understand my conditions better. This has led to me often knowing way more about my condition than most medical professionals I talk to. I spend a ridiculous amount of time researching my conditions as well as any possible treatments for them. You can read more about that in my article Dear Doctors, No It’s Not All In My Head.
If you know more about your condition than most medical professionals that you meet, and do enough research to be a second year medical student, then you might just be a spoonie.
6. You have enough supplies to start your own pharmacy
Between the medications, supplements, OTC remedies, medical devices, and other random products, our house somewhat resembles a messy Walgreens. Our supply seems to be growing daily as I encounter new symptoms and need new remedies to help with them. If I were to suddenly be cured, I’m pretty sure we could survive for at least a few months by functioning as a small pharmacy or convenience store.
If your home resembles any type of pharmacy, you might just be a spoonie.
7. Medical bracelets are your idea of expensive jewelry
These particular medical bracelets cost me around $2,ooo. That’s more than I have ever spent on any piece of jewelry in my entire life. While I wouldn’t mind having a beautiful gemstone ring instead of these plastic bracelets, they are unfortunately a necessary part of having chronic illnesses. I get them often. They come with slight variations, which is always fun, but they are mostly the same. And they are definitely the most expensive pieces of jewelry that I will probably ever own.
If these plastic bracelets are the most expensive jewelry you own, you just might be a spoonie.
8. You have a “good” vein
I have one good vein, just one. If my blood pooling is bad, then the veins in my hands also stick out, however, they tend to roll or the IV will pull since my skin is so stretchy. Therefore, I always direct nurses to the one good prominent vein in my right arm. That means that this vein is often abused. If I have multiple visits in one week requiring IVs and/or blood draws, I end up with a very tender and bruised arm. At least knowing which vein is my good vein typically saves me from the pain of multiple sticks, unless I get too dehydrated, that is.
If you tend to point out your good vein to nurses, you just might be a spoonie.
9. You constantly get unsolicited medical advice
You can read more about my thoughts on this subject here, in an article I wrote all about unsolicited medical advice. But this is such a universal spoonie experience that I feel I have to at least mention it.
Common unsolicited medical advice statements include, but are not limited to: “You’re too young to have those issues,” “but you don’t look sick,” “it’s all in your head, you just need to relax more,” “my friend’s sister’s cousin took a semester of chiropractor school and says your illness is completely curable with vitamins,” “essential oils will fix it all,” “if you just <insert random advice on diet, supplements, shamans, prayer, positive thinking, and/or exercise here> then you’ll be cured.” There are many many more, but these tend to be among the most popular.
If everyone seems to have an opinion on your illness and how to cure it, you just might be a spoonie.
10. You see your doctor and/or pharmacist more than your friends
I am at the pharmacy at least once a week, thanks to different medicines expiring at different times. The longest period of time I go between visits with a specialist is 6 months. If I’m having a particular issue then I may end up seeing them every week to every two weeks. I also often end up with a month or two where I have at least one doctor’s appointment a week with various different doctors. Even at the maximum amount of time, I end up seeing any one particular doctor at least twice a year. I have good friends that I haven’t seen in well over a year or more just because it is so difficult for me to get out.
Yes, if you see your doctors more often than you see your friends, you just might be a spoonie.
This is in no way a complete list of signs that you might be a spoonie. I’d love to hear what you think some good signs of being a spoonie are! Leave me a comment and let me know!
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