In the chronic illness world, a spoon or spoonie, is a person with a chronic illness. The term comes from a story written by Christine Miserandino. Click here to read the story on her blog, But You Don’t Look Sick. The spoon theory is a great visual aide story to help people understand the daily life of someone in chronic pain.
The Shattered Dish Theory
The spouse or loved ones of the spoon are often referred to as a dish or dishes. I think of them as Shattered Dishes. This is not a derogatory term at all. It is more of a descriptive term. Let me explain….When your husband, wife or child is diagnosed with a chronic illness their life and yours changes forever. The life you all knew has now been shattered. Often the dreams, goals and plans for the future have been shattered too.
The illness is not always diagnosed, sometimes the person is very ill but no diagnosis comes. The dish is still shattered. The shattered dish must pick themselves up, glue themselves back together and support their spoon while caring for the rest of the family. Life must be adjusted for the spoon and this in turn changes life for the dishes.
Imagine a dish that has been broken. You love that dish and you really want to keep it. I have my great grandmother’s teacup. It has been broken and painstakingly put back together. It is whole, but the evidence of it being shattered is still there.
Now imagine that this shattered dish is you. You have just learned your spouse or child has a chronic illness. So, you start to gather all the little pieces of the dish together and begin to glue them. Piece by piece you slowly put the dish back together again. After the diagnosis, you gather yourself together and start working through everything: what doctors need to be seen, the medications that will need to be taken, what procedures need to be scheduled, evaluating if there are any accommodations that must be made in the home, etc.
Eventually the dish is glued together and is whole again. This takes time but it is worth it to the make the dish whole again. You have had time to work through the “new normal” that is the life for your spouse, you and your family. Working through everything takes time as well. Like the dish, you have been able to gather yourself together to take care of your loved one.
The dish may be whole but there are still fracture lines. There may even be little pieces missing. You have worked through the changes and are moving forward with life but you are different. Like the dish, you have changed. Your world has changed and there are fracture lines in your spirit or your positive outlook on life.
You may have even lost a part of yourself, like the dish has chips or little pieces that are missing. Perhaps your confidence that everyone will always be healthy is gone like the chips in the dish. Maybe the certainty that everything your family had planned for the future will happen is also gone. This is like the pieces of the dish that are now missing.
Like the dish, you have been altered; you are strong but different. You can support your spoon as you are whole, but there are fracture lines that could break again with too much force. As you and your loved one work through the illness there will be stresses that make fracture you again. But remember, the shattered dish was made whole again and you will be too. You will be strong again after every change. Strong enough to love and care for your spoon! You will be whole and be beautiful with all your fracture lines.
This shattered dish theory is not to downplay what your loved one is going through or will go through. It is an example of how the spoon is not alone. Their loved one’s life changes too. The dish is there to support the spoon. A shattered dish cannot support their spoon until they are put back together. Although the dish is scarred they are made whole again and tough enough to support their spoon.
Shattered Dishes are Strong and Beautiful
Imagine my great grandmother’s teacup, scarred with fracture lines, chips out of it, still beautiful and strong and fully capable of supporting a spoon. I am the shattered dish, the teacup. My biggest purpose is to fully support, advocate for, care for and love my spoonie husband. We will journey through his illness together. He will not be alone! I have put myself back together and I will be strong for him!
Are you a shattered dish or do you know a shattered dish? Have you been put back together so that you can support your spoon? I want you to know that you have been changed, but you should know that you have come out stronger for it!