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Holigay Gift Guide: Sick Gifts for the Spoonies in Your Life

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Holigays 2022 // Header by Viv Le

A Spoonie is an affectionate name for a chronically ill person who has limited energy (spoons!) to use on any given day. It’s a rad community of resilient people whose physical, emotional, and cognitive struggles are mostly invisible to their friends, colleagues, and even family members. Yet, despite appearances, most of us are usually dealing with pain and fatigue on a daily basis. Below are gift ideas from me and the other Spoonies in my life, little things that make our daily lifts just a bit easier and happier.


From advice to memoir to essay collection to graphic novel, this little list of books covers so many topics chronically ill and disabled folks will be able to relate to. These titles will make Spoonies laugh, make them cry, make them feel seen, and maybe even help them learn to navigate the world in safer and more fulfilling ways.

Pain Relief

1. A hot and cold pain pack. 2. A heated eye pillow. 3. A cooling pain pad. 4. A heating pad. 5. Pain relieving patches. 6. Compression socks.

1. Hot & Cold pack ($16) // 2. Heated eye pillow ($30) // 3. Buzzy shot pain reducer ($130) // 4. XXL Heating Pad ($45) // 5. Salonpas patches ($10) // 6. Compression socks ($30)

For most Spoonies, our pains are never actually going to go away — but there are things that help us manage the constant aches and stings and cramps and zaps. Mostly, cold and heat! Compression socks might seem out of place here, but they provide relief to people with so many different conditions, from Dysautonomia to Diabetes. Most compression socks are not cute! But ProCompression has the best looking ones in the game. Plus, they’ve always got a discount going.

Helpful Gadgets

1. Noise canceling headphones. 2. A tablet gripper. 3. A foldable camping chair. 4. A jar opener. 5. A vacuum. 6. A roomba.

1. Noise-canceling headphones ($60) // 2. Tablet/phone grip/holder/stand ($100) // 3. Kelty Essential Chair ($75) // 4. Jar opener ($17) // 5. Electric mop ($120) // 6. Roomba ($300)

One of the first books I read about having chronic illness advised me to take up the mantra “Every little bit helps!” No, having a fold-out chair to sit on when I’m at outdoor events isn’t going to cure me, but it sure is going to make my time outside a whole lot more comfortable and less faint-y. Same with cleaning tools that take less energy and time than normal tools. A jar opener can be the difference between a tasty dinner or not for someone with arthritis or Ehlers-Danlos.

Subscription Boxes

1. A pair of socks with breakfast foods on them. 2. A tea kit. 3. A snack crate full of assorted snacks. 4. A "hug in the box" subscription care box for friends. 5. Nonalcoholic beer. 6. a bouquet of orange and yellow flowers.

1. Awesome Socks Club ($14 per month) // 2. Sip by tea ($16 per month) // 3. SnackCrate ($22 per month) // 4. BuddyBox Hug in a Box $21 per month) // 5. Athletic Brewing non-alcoholic beer box ($27 per month) // 6. Urban Stems ($55-$105 per month)

Most Spoonies spend more time isolated inside than their pals, especially as the Covid pandemic rages on. Also most Spoonies get bombarded with medical bills in the mail all the time. A subscription box will remind your Spoonie, monthly, that you’re thinking about them and sending them your love (along with, perhaps, a tasty pack of snacks). Everyone loves getting treats delivered, especially when you can’t always go out looking for treats for yourself.

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Heather Hogan

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her wife, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Heather has written 1718 articles for us.


  1. This list is great! Also, I’ve had that non-alcoholic beer before (the TJ’s near me has the IPA of it at a solid price!) and can vouch for it as someone who normally drinks standard IPAs as well. I’m always on the hunt for options that friends don’t drink or want to just drink less in the moment can have (me included!). Thanks Heather :)

    • I’m so happy to know other people are enjoying these non-alcoholic beers! I haven’t been able to have alcohol in years now, and I was shocked to find these IPAs that taste for real like an IPA. Now I can finally fully enjoy pizza again!

    • I was so excited to see Athletic on here! It’s a local brewery for me as a New Englander but even when I’m not living close by, they ship super fast. I would recommend some of their pilot batches/seasonal brews too; they had a cranberry pale ale I’m hoping comes back this holiday season, and they’ve done a Pride citrus IPA the last two summers that is great and comes in v v cute rainbow cans. Great for when I want to be included but don’t want to end up the sad girl at the party :)

  2. This guide is fantastic! Because I’m limited in my mobility, a friend sent me a world traveler subscription with treats from various countries and regions. It was one of those most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received.

  3. A few other suggestions from a fellow spoonie, who worked in the disabled community for awhile until it wasn’t feasible for my body anymore. I’m a long time autostraddle reader and I’m really glad to see we’re getting more disability coverage lately.

    1) Ask your friend if there’s any adaptive equipment they would love to have but is slightly out of their budget. Whether that’s a fancy cane or an ice pack headband, this is the kind of gift that they will use constantly and your consideration in buying it will mean the world.

    2) Distractions. Most people dealing with pain need something that takes them out of their body. Set up a book club where you send them books you love. Buy a game pass or offer to pay for netflix for the month and curate a list of things you can watch together virtually.

    3) Be aware of your friend’s restrictions. For people with medically necessary diets, food can be an inappropriate gift, but experiences can be more exciting. Give them a virtual museum tour or create a discord voice hangout to help ease the loneliness of isolation. For your Deaf friends, look up concerts with good interpreters. For visually impaired friends, find some good audiobooks for them to enjoy. Taking the time to tailor your gift to your friends specific needs goes a long way.

    4) Time. One of the biggest gifts you can give any disabled person is your time. If they aren’t immunocompromised, offering to come over and help them with tasks or just sit around and watch something is a huge gift. If they are immunocompromised, there are so many virtual events you can do together. We’re less likely to be able to spend time with people we care about, so you doing the work to set something up that can be flexible depending on spoons is a huge gift. And if you want to go even farther, use some of your own time to educate yourself about your friends condition. Save them the spoons of having to explain the nuances of their condition, so the two of you can spend more time hanging out in a way that takes the pressure off of both of you.

  4. I never knew the term Spoonies before and I love it! Coincidentally, I have a song called “You Are My Spoon” in which spoons are the most emotionally healthy people, forks are mixed, and knives are the ppl o need to avoid because they are hurtful. It’s a sweet song that ppl have used in their LBGTQ weddings, the highest honor! I can’t figure out how to link it but you can put Amy Fix Spoon in Apple Music and find it. Trigger warning: some of the songs on the Spoon album are about surviving abuse, so if ppl want to avoid that, just listen to the titles with women’s names or just stick to the spoon song.
    I have severe PTSD but am able bodied for now. This inspires me to read more from people living with disabilities. Thanks for the list!
    Thanks, Heather and thanks, Autostraddle, for being amazing and my favorite place to hang out!

  5. So glad to see so much more disability coverage here recently. I want to echo others and say that one of the very best gifts for us with disabilities/chronic illnesses is your time/energy. And this goes beyond just hanging out (though we love that too!). Offer to do a grocery shopping trip or come fold their laundry or make a few meals or take their dog for a walk. It’s really really hard to ask for help and extra hard to think of specifics, especially when not feeling well. And it can be hard for us to be this vulnerable. But if it’s a gift, then that’s so much easier! You can even make cute coupon books with things like movie night (virtual or not); a home cooked meal (or if not near them, a grubhub gift card); two loads of laundry; some dishes; a game night; a car ride to the library/post office/grocery store; a hang out buddy the day after you take your meds and they’re kicking your ass. And if you want to spend money and you’re not nearby things like…a cleaning service, a few visits from a dog walker, some takeout sent over. We love items but honestly what I need at times is help. And I’d be so so overjoyed if this was offered as a gift and I didn’t have to swallow my shame/guilt/vulnerability and ask for it.

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