Full disclosure: I was given this box free of charge in exchange for a review, but all thoughts and opinions are mine and I was not swayed by the company in any way.
As some of you may know, I’ve been dealing with a variety of chronic illnesses since getting very sick on a backpacking trip through Europe a few years back. I have spent my fair share of time at dozens of doctors offices, emergency rooms, and med centers. I’ve been bedridden and weak and unable to even stand long enough to make a meal for myself.
During those times, I felt like I had nothing to look forward to. My body was constantly in fight-or-flight mode, awaiting the next big crash, while I tried to decide if I needed to beg my neighbor to drive me to the hospital again. AND as you know, I am all about self-care, so I jumped at the chance to check out this Spoonie Essentials Box. It’s basically like Birchbox for the chronically ill – it’s a monthly subscription service ($40/month) that contains a themed box full of gifts that are both functional for “spoonies” and gifts that are encouraging and more of a treat.
What is a Spoonie?
The term “spoonie” has been used for anyone with a chronic illness, but the Spoon Theory originally came from Christina Miserandino of But You Don’t Look Sick. You can read it in full here. She was trying to explain to her friend was life was like living with Lupus. To do so, she handed her a dozen spoons as a visual aid. She had her “healthy” friend describe her typical day, and with each task that someone “healthy” might take for granted, she took away a spoon. Christine explained that when you’re healthy, you have an endless supply of spoons, and you can choose to do what you what, and however much of it you want. But if you’re dealing with chronic illness, you wake up not knowing how many spoons (or how much energy and life) you would start with that day. Each small task takes away a spoon – waking up, making a meal, walking to the mailbox, showering. When you’re living with chronic illness, you really have to be very conscious about budgeting your energy and your “spoons.”
Rereading what Christine wrote actually made me cry, because I know that feeling so deeply and intimately. I was incredibly healthy before my Europe trip. I was active, successful, outgoing, and had endless energy. Afterward, I felt like a shell of a person. My entire day revolved around what I felt “up to.” I could not just get in my car and go to the grocery store – that would wipe me out for the entire day. It was something I never had to consider before.
So the idea of this Spoonie Essentials Box, to me, is incredible. People dealing with chronic and invisible illnesses are true warriors. It’s a very lonely and isolating thing to deal with, because no matter how much you explain to your friends and family how you feel, no one is experiencing it but you. You see your friends growing up, buying houses, going to music festivals and on vacations, and you think you’ll never be able to live a full life like that. Spoonies definitely need and deserve some extra love, and that’s why this box is an excellent idea for a care package.
What’s in the Box?
As I said before, each month has a different theme. This March box’s theme was Netflix and Ill, which is a really cute play on a popular saying. I’ll walk you through each item in the box, give you my unbiased thoughts on them, and give you some overall feedback at the very end.
1. Spoonie Planner Medical Diary: $35 by Our New Healthy
This is a hardcover medical planner which would be great to take to medical appointments. When I first opened it, I read and re-read the quote on the inside cover: “Be your own greatest advocate, and never take no for an answer.” Sometimes, when dealing with doctors, it’s very hard to feel like your voice is being heard. Many doctors are trained to just check for certain issues, and if those issues do not show up in your blood work or on your EKG, then you are dismissed and sent home. This happened to me recently. I felt incredibly sick on antibiotics this past year, like I was getting worse instead of better. I ended up at the hospital knowing something was seriously wrong – I was dizzy, lightheaded, and nauseous. My heart was racing, I couldn’t keep food down, and I had stabbing pains in my stomach. I was having trouble even staying conscious. I went to the ER, and they ran a few tests and tried sending me away, saying it was a virus. I continued telling them my medical history and what I felt like, and they relented and allowed me to do a few more tests, then sent me home again. At 3 am, a doctor called me and told me the tests were positive for Clostridium Dificile, and that I needed to come back immediately to be put on MORE (and stronger) antibiotics because it could be deadly. No one could have pushed for those extra tests but me. I knew how I was feeling, and I knew that something was very wrong in my body. As a chronic illness sufferer, even when you’re exhausted, you have to be the one to advocate for yourself. So right away, I loved this quote. The first section of the planner has allergy information, which is actually my favorite section. I became very reactive to MANY foods (actually, after this bout with C Diff that I just described) and developed extreme histamine intolerance, so this would be a perfect way to record my reactions and new allergies to foods. There is also a section for medications and supplements, additional treatments, medical team information, insurance plans, and labwork.
While I think this is really nice to take to appointments, I think it’s also great to have all of this information typed (I just have mine on Google Drive), because you’re constantly needing to forward blood results back and forth to all kinds of doctors. I also would have liked maybe some pretty designs and health-related motivational quotes in here. When I was at my sickest, quotes and photos like that really helped encourage me. This planner is very business-oriented, with plain pages, so if you’re just looking for a place to record the information I listed above, then this would work well for you.
2. PSI Bands: $14.99 by PSI Bands
I absolutely loved these, because I get nauseous quite frequently with histamine intolerance. These are acupressure bands for your inner wrist, which are supposed to help with nausea, motion sickness, morning sickness, and more. I am a huge advocate for acupuncture and acupressure, so I was really happy to see these. You put them on a bit like a watch, and there’s a small knob that makes contact with your “nei-kuan” pressure point. You wear one on each wrist, which is just a bit of a hassle to put them both on by yourself and adjust them.
I tried these tonight when I was feeling a little bit nauseous. I did NOT like how it felt with just one of them on. It made my body feel kind of weirdly stimulated and off-balance. I am hyper-sensitive, so I doubt this would be a problem for most people. Once I put the second one on, that feeling went away, and my nausea felt somewhat better within twenty minutes. By the way, I don’t recommend typing with these on… it’s uncomfortable.
I really believe in the power of acupressure, so besides some minor discomforts, I really loved this product. I can’t wait to continue testing it out. This was one of my favorite items in the box, and the one I think I would use the most.
3. Syringe Highlighters: 3 for $9.99 by Fabulous by Kat
These are fun to use with the medical planner. I tested out the colors, and I actually like them a bit better than the highlighters I’m used to. The tips are hard and stiff (instead of the softer, more flexible brands I’ve used before) which made highlighting super easy and precise. I also liked the bright pink bag they came in.
4. Charm Bracelet: $11.50 by Chronically Jewelled
This is a cute charm bracelet that exactly matches the Netflix and Ill theme. There are two spoon charms, a TV, a stethoscope, and a little yellow bead. I can tell the creator put a lot of though and care into finding charms that worked well for this box. It’s personally not my style of jewelry (I prefer big, chunky statement pieces), but I’m sure others will love this. It’s also great if you’re someone who needs a physical reminder of happiness. If you looked at this on your wrist, you’d remember this great care package you got and the wonderful community behind it, and you would instantly be a bit happier.
5: Caramel Popcorn: $3 by Popcornopolis
Again, another item that matched the theme of “Netflix.” It’s such a cute idea to include a little bag of popcorn as a treat in this box. Who doesn’t love a nice bag of caramel corn? And it’s two servings, so it’s not like you can go completely overboard eating it and make yourself feel even worse than you already do. I liked that the popcorn had relatively clean ingredients (pure cane sugar, coconut oil), but there were also some ingredients I generally try to avoid, like corn syrup. This wouldn’t be the best choice for someone with gut issues or someone trying to eat mainly whole foods, but it’s a wonderful treat for everyone else!
6. Custom Medical Mask: $16.99 by Blanket Hugs
The pattern on this mask is SO cute! I absolutely love feathers. I like that this isn’t a bunch of rainbow colors like I often see on masks like this that can almost appear a bit cheesy – this is understated and a bit more neutral. As someone who had a terrible immune system post-antibiotics and was in and out of the hospital pretty often last year, I can appreciate having a mask that’s cute and functional. It might have given a bit more peace of mind that I wouldn’t pick up every cough or cold in those waiting room. It’s made of flannel, and I’m not entirely sure how that fabric’s properties stand up scientifically to a protective, germ-free claim. They don’t really have a filtering system like other masks I’ve used, like VogMasks, but at least it would protect against the transfer of larger particles.
7: Gin Gin Candy: $11.99 by Vitamin Grocer
I am addicted to all things ginger. I juice it often in my green juice or beet juice, since it has SO many health benefits. It’s also great for the digestive system and a well-known natural remedy for nausea. Gin Gins are some of my favorite ginger candies, and I always have them in my purse. By the way – don’t try the crystalized ginger from them. I didn’t like that much. These candies were AMAZING! The yellow package candies are double-strength hard candies that you can eat after a meal or use as a throat lozenge. The blue package candies are softer, chewy Super Strength candies that contain 30% fresh ginger! I love how these are still kind of a “treat,” but they have a functional purpose, too!
8: Ouchless Hair Ties: $2.99 by The Craft Corner Shop
These are always good to have on hand. I wear the same brown elastic hair tie on my wrist at all times, even though it’s covered in hair and stretched out. I have seen these as a really cute bridesmaid gift before, and have always wanted some of my own. They were a little tight on my wrist at first, but I noticed that the knot wasn’t tight, so I could stretch them out a bit. I worry about using hair ties like this, since I have really thick and unruly hair. Unfortunately, they couldn’t wrap twice around my top knot (which is my UNIFORM) and were too loose just wrapped around once. I think the only way I could use these would be if I did a braid or plain ponytail, which in that case, they worked great. But I do love the idea of being able to wear these around my wrist without feeling suffocated.
I am in love with the concept of this box. I think all spoonies deserve something like this in the mail each month, just to make them feel completely loved and to have something to look forward to. Opening the box brought me such joy and excitement, and I’ve had a wonderful time testing out the products. I love how there’s a great variety of items, ranging from practical (like the mask and notebook) to treats (like the popcorn and Gin Gins) to just cute and fun items (like the hair ties and highlighters and bracelet). At $40 a box, it’s a little pricey for me – even though the products in here are TOTALLY worth that money. There are a few other options. Spoonie Essentials offers a Swag Bag, which is only $20 and has a few less items. There is also a month-to-month option.
I honestly think the BEST use of this box is for a loved one to subscribe for their chronically ill spouse, parent, child, or friend. If I had a spoonie friend I knew was going through a particularly tough month with a surgery, doctors visits, or something like that, I think it would be SO amazing to subscribe them just for that month. I also like that the themes are announced ahead of time, so if the theme idea is something that really does or doesn’t interest you, you can plan your subscription accordingly. I could tell that a lot of thought and effort is put into curating these boxes, and each recipient is taken into careful consideration with dietary restrictions and sizing, if needed.
Overall, I would highly recommend loved ones of spoonies to consider sending a box or Swag Bag as a thoughtful token of their support and love.
Let me know which item in this box you would most like to receive, and what you think about the concept!