Let’s be honest, Christmas isn’t always the funnest time for chronically ill people. The colder months often bring symptom flare-ups; looking back over the past year can be a downer if you’ve spent most of it in bed; social media is full of pictures of missed parties, and family gatherings may be exhausting. But bearing that in mind, a genuinely thoughtful gift could help transform ‘Christ-meh’ into ‘holi-yay’! So here are some suggestions for a range of budgets, all to arrive in time for Christmas.
1) For the creative-but-knackered spoonie
Esme Weijun Wang is an award-winning writer who lives with chronic illness and produces online courses to help other ill creatives make the most of their spoons (her e-book ‘Productivity Journaling With Limitations’ offers a free taster of what she does). Her five-day email course ‘Ass-Kicking With Limitations’ costs about £25, while ‘Rawness Of Remembering’ costs about £110 and is a self-paced multimedia course that offers a method of using the ‘power of restorative journaling to survive, heal and grow through difficult times.’ A good one for the creative spoonie who refuses to give up on their dreams. To buy either course as a gift, you can email Esme (firstname.lastname@example.org) and she will send your loved one an e-card providing access to the course on your chosen date.
2) For the SAD spoonie
SAD lamps aren’t just useful for people with Seasonal Affective Disorder – they may be helpful for a range of health conditions, including ME/CFS, fibromyalgia, sleep problems and mood disorders. Chronically ill friends recommend the SAD Solutions lamp (£59.95, Amazon) and the Lumie Vitamin L lamp (£75, Lumie.com).
3) For the sexy spoonie
Sexy Little Pages was set up by Anna Sky, an erotica writer with CFS who wanted to read smut that reflected a wide range of body types, sexualities and abilities, couldn’t find it anywhere, so decided to publish it herself. The erotica anthology Silence Is Golden (£7.99, Amazon) features stories in which many of the characters are disabled or dealing with illness, showing a wide range of kinky desires being fulfilled and demonstrating that sexiness isn’t just the preserve of the able-bodied. Might give you and your spoonie partner a few ideas.
Sex can boost mental and physical wellbeing, but mojo can be affected by issues such as pain, fatigue, mobility problems and the general stress of being chronically ill. Barbara Carrellas’ book Urban Tantra (£16.99, Amazon) sprang from Barbara’s desire to reclaim sex as a source of healing and joy for AIDS sufferers in the 80s, and offers techniques for exploring sexual energy and connection that don’t rely on being able-bodied, on having a partner, or on penetration and orgasm.
4) For the animal lover
The sloth is inspiration to chronically ill people everywhere, living proof that so-slow-moving-you’ve-got-moss-growing-on-you is a legitimate and desirable look. The Happy Sloth Co give a percentage of their profits to sloth conservation, and these joggers (about £45 inc. shipping) are perfect for resting in comfort and style on no-spoons-for-dressing days. Email email@example.com to discuss delivery to the UK in time for Christmas.
5) For your loved one with ME/CFS
Unrest is an award-winning film released this autumn that has brought mainstream media attention to the issue of ME/CFS, and hope to many that it will result in increased investment in the search for a cure. The film is not yet available on DVD, but is on iTunes, Amazon Video and other platforms (£12.99 HD) – so why not buy your spoonie a gift card that can be used to rent the film? It’s a harrowing watch, though, so might be best to stress they can rent something more light-hearted instead if they prefer.
And if you want to go the extra mile? Pledge to buy copies of the DVD for everyone else in the family, since gaslighting by loved ones is one of the obstacles people with ME/CFS face.
6) For chronic illness activists
You can buy amazing slogan gifts created by spoonies for spoonies, not only supporting your loved ones, but chronically ill makers too. I’d recommend the ‘Angry Spoonie’ mug for the shouty spoonie in your life, the ‘The Future Is Accessible’ T-shirt for the campaigner, and the Chronically Chill T-shirt for the one who’s a bit more mellow about it all (all Teepublic, about £26 with guaranteed Christmas delivery if ordered by 8 Dec).
7) For chronic pain warriors
My friend with chronic pain swears by an acupressure mat to help with pain-related insomnia. She believes that the little spikes on the mat help her muscles to relax and her body to release endorphins. The Belmalia mat is currently £14.95 from Amazon.
Other friends – some with chronic pain, others who just need a bit of help staying warm – say they get comfort from heated pads and throws. One friend likes the retro look and portability of the Beurer HK35 electronic heat pad (£28.79, Amazon) and another recommends this snuggly fluffy fleece heated throw (£34.99, Amazon).
8) Stocking fillers
Fluffy socks (£22, Oliver Bonas) – for some reason every spoonie I asked wanted these/
Posh teabags (£15.50, Teapigs), especially if they claim to have some special healing properties (a spoonie can dream).
Funky thermos (£16, John Lewis) – so the spoonie can have hot tea by their bedside all day, without having to use precious energy on getting up to make it.
This lightbox (£12, Paperchase) – prepped with the text ‘You’re Awesome’ because every chronically ill person needs their own personal light-up reminder of this fact.
This necklace (£7.25 plus P+P, Etsy) – so the person always has a spare spoon
9) To show you care all year round
The Spoonie Essentials Box is a year-round care package delivered monthly to spoonies worldwide. Each box contains five to eight themed items carefully selected and ‘centred around the culture of being a spoonie’. It costs about £30 for a one-off box or about £230 for eight months of boxes. And the company is run by spoonies.
10) Costs nothing, means everything
If your chronically ill loved one doesn’t have a carer, they may need practical support more than a gift – and they probably struggle to ask for help. A book of ‘Spoonie Support Coupons’, easy and free to make yourself, could make it easier for them to reach out when they need assistance such as a food shop, help cleaning the house, assistance with benefits forms or a lift somewhere. In the same vein, you could gift them a written pledge to speak up on their behalf next time someone gaslights them about their illness; to spread the word about disability issues on your Facebook or Twitter account; or to educate family and friends about chronic illness so the spoonie doesn’t have to spend all their energy doing it. Many chronically ill people might find that the best gift of all*.
11) Bonus idea
And finally, cash. If your spoonie is too ill to work and trying to survive on benefits, ignore all of the above. Give them cash. And don’t vote Tory. Done.
*Not me, though. I want the sloth stuff.