My Story: Chronic Pain and the Spoon Theory

It was a great idea. And I would be saving $1700 to boot! I would climb on a ladder and put gutter caps on all of our gutters in order to do two things: keep the leaves out and keep the roof rats out. See we have a problem and it is not just with our leaves. We have roof rats around and the way they get into most houses is that they will crawl up the gutters and into the gaps between the roof eaves and overhang on the edges of a home.

Kerry Smith

You can pay someone to do this by the way. Accept if you are suffering with chronic pain, it is probably doubtful that you have that kind of money just lying around to be used on gutter caps.

My solution?

Do it myself!

Yep, that’s right, get my ladder, buy the caps at the local hardware store, and put them on. Pretty simple idea and the only thing you have to do is to simply put a screw or two here and there, cut the angles for some of the turns of the gutter, stand on the ladder for the better part of a couple of days, crawl up and down the ladder, lift up the roofing to slide the cap under the edge of the roofing, clean out the gutter of the existing leaves, cut a portion of metal to go in the back where there is a gap, and that is all. And after about 2 hours of doing this, I was completely done for the next two days.




And wondering, what in God’s tarnation was I thinking about? I definitely was NOT thinking about my spoons.

A few years ago, Karen and I were leading a conference on chronic pain and someone mentioned to us that they had learned of a great concept when trying to explain how very little energy we have and the need to try and balance every day out so that we can do what we need to do. What I did was totally unbalanced which if you knew me you would say was par for the course. The concept comes from a website titled  It is written by Christine Miserandino and it is known as the Spoon Theory.

In summation, the Spoon Theory was developed when Christine was attempting to explain to a friend that, even though we don’t look sick, the reality is that there is only so much energy and effort that we have each day. In explaining this to her friend, she went over to the kitchen drawer that contained utensils, grabbed a bunch of spoons, and explained this is me and my day. I only have so many spoons. So in the morning, I need to bathe and get ready. That is one spoon. I need to fix breakfast and meals. That is a couple of spoons. She went on to describe her day and suddenly she was out of spoons but there was still work to be done and light left in the day and she had nothing left to give.

She was out of spoons.

If there is ever something that describes my energy level it is right here. I am doing a lot of caretaking right now as Karen goes through her own set of circumstances and I am using up my spoons. So when I decided to take up the project of putting on gutter caps, on top of everything else I was doing, I quickly ran out of spoons for that day and some for the next.

Friends, this is the cruelty of our disease, isn’t it? Do you know how badly I would like to be able to do the projects around the home, to be in the outdoors, to run, to walk, and to play and work?

The new reality is that I do not have enough spoons now. It’s a cruel mental game having to settle with what I can do with the spoons I have rather than wishing I had more.

How about you?

Editor’s Note: Kerry Smith is a former minister, a professional artist, and has suffered with chronic pain for 14 years. He has lectured and written on the topic of chronic pain for several years. Here’s a link to his art studio website.

Leave a Comment