Coping with Disabilities

Learn about how to cope with different disabilities and how to support loved ones who have such disabilities.

March 2015

4 Ways To Support Those with Invisible Illnesses

2021-07-27T22:18:56-04:00March 11th, 2015|Coping with Disabilities, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|

4 Ways To Support Those with Invisible Illnesses

I recently wrote a blog post about the “Spoon Theory”.  That is a way for people with disabilities to explain how they allocate their energy during each day. I got a lot of positive feedback on that post and wanted to further expand it to ways to support people with invisible disabilities.

1. Never say “But you look fine.”. You may mean it as a compliment but to a person struggling in pain in can be instead construed as invalidating. Looking okay to the world and feeling okay in side are two very different things.

2. Offer advice judiciously. Everyone has access to Google. That means whatever diet or exercise plan that, you have read about that cures these illnesses the person with it has read also. Healthy living is good for everyone, but most of these illnesses do not have a cure. Hearing about such things can again come across as a judgment. The person hears that if they had only done this thing they would be okay. This is something they have thought about and they are trying to live the best they can so be careful with the advice.

3. Be flexible. When you are living in chronic pain or with fatigue you don’t know how you will feel day to day and sometimes minute to minute. It is hard to make plans that way and many people just stop doing it because they don’t want to cancel at the last minute. Let people know that you are okay with being flexible in regards to the plans. If they can’t go out offer to come over to their house. It can feel very isolating to live with an invisible disability so any way you can connect with people is great.

4. Ask them. What you can do for them or what they need. Many people can be prideful about asking for help but if they know you mean it maybe then they can ask for things. Ask them what is hard in particular and see if there is something you can do to help.


December 2014

The Spoon Theory-How to Understand Those With Invisible Illnesses

2015-04-08T18:38:33-04:00December 11th, 2014|Coping with Disabilities, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|

Christine Miserandino who has Lupus came up with the Spoon Theory” to explain what it is like living with a chronic illness. This explanation is now used by people who have so called “invisible illnesses” to explain to others what their days are like. Many people with depression, autoimmune disorders, and other chronic illnesses may not look sick to an outsider. That is generally because they don’t want you to know they are sick, they are trying to live their lives as normally as possible, or they may not want to hear or respond to comments that can make them feel bad.

Then comes a time when they can’t do something because they just don’t have the spoons left. Sometimes they experience others thinking they are exaggerating their symptoms and they feel unseen and misunderstood. The spoon theory is a way of trying to explain to someone kindly what it is like to have to think about every action they take in a day in order to make sure that they can get through their day. Or to be planning things well and just find out that today for some random reason you have less spoons than normal.

I think it is a good way of trying to put yourself in someone’s shoes so you can understand. No one who hasn’t experienced chronic fatigue and/or pain can understand that experience fully.  That is actually a good thing. No one who counts spoons wants others to have to do the same. But if you know someone with one of these illnesses the spoon theory can give you some perspective so that perhaps you can look at them a little differently and in a more understanding way.











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