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30 Gorgeous Spoonie Tattoos

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Many in the chronic illness community may identify as “spoonies” – a term referring to the spoon theory, written by Christine Miserandino to describe the limited energy many chronic warriors have each day. Battling chronic illness and keeping track of how you spend your energy, or “spoons,” can be exhausting both physically and emotionally. During these difficult times, it can be helpful to have a visual reminder to keep going – something meaningful to you and representative of all the battles you’ve already conquered. For many, this can come in the form of a tattoo.

We wanted to see some of the creative tattoo designs those with chronic illness have chosen to commemorate their journeys, so we asked our Mighty community to share photos of tattoos they got in honor of being a spoonie. These tattoos are not only beautiful, but they are reminders of the strength these warriors have in fighting the chronic illness battle every day. (Check with your doctor about any potential side effects of getting tattooed.)

Here’s what the community shared with us:

1. “The spoon is from the ‘spoon theory,’ the blue and green are for idiopathic intracranial hypertension and the zipper is for Chiari. The text ‘I have, I can, I will’ is a reminder I’ve made it through and will continue to make it through this battle.” – Sabrina M.

spoonie tattoo

2. “I have postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), and turquoise is the awareness color! Since part of POTS is your heart rate spiking when you stand up, I got a heart. It reminds me I have the strength to fight!” – Linnea F.

tattoo of an anatomical green heart

3. “Reminding myself I am a fighter against rheumatoid arthritis.” – Eileen D.

tattoo that says 'fighter'

4. “I have ‘never give up,’ as a constant reminder of what I have overcome and continue to overcome every day. I also have a sunflower, because just like the sunflower I continue to grow stronger and overcome hardships by searching for the light in my life. It reminds me how tough I am and to seek out the things that make me happy and make me stronger.” – Lauren C.

black and white tattoo of sunflower and words saying 'never give up'

5. “This is my lupus tattoo. Purple for lupus awareness. Butterflies for lupus awareness. The big butterfly at the bottom outlined in black is my representation of a flare – big and angry.” – Sarah H.

tattoo of a purple butterfly

6. “It helps me remember that even on days where I feel like I can’t possibly go on that I can and I have before.” – Jacqueline E.

tattoo that says 'still i rise' with a semicolon

7. “I got this tattoo to remind me that what I believe is what I’ll achieve, and to keep me positive at times when I felt I was failing. It has taken years to realize I am still me and am still capable (at times) despite my conditions.” – Carole-Anne R.

tattoo that says 'imagine' and 'believe'

8. “I had my friend – an artist and tattooist, Sarah Scott – design this for me for the days I fight my way through despite the cost because fibromyalgia and chronic migraines and headaches are not all I am.” – Jennifer W.

tattoo that says 'no spoons left, only knives' with two knives

9. “Pretty self-explanatory. I had this quote on a magnet on my fridge for a really long time, so when the opportunity came around to get it tattooed, I did just that. It reminds me to always try to look for the good in the bad. I had an abusive childhood, and have depression and anxiety, and have had chronic daily migraines for six years. So sh*t gets tough.” – Michelle M.

tattoo that says 'just when the caterpillar thought the world was over he became a butterfly'

10. “Since becoming sick with autoimmune diseases, it’s been a challenge to not let health management take up all of my very limited number of spoons. Attending doctor appointments, filling scripts, researching potential treatments, planning meals that don’t make me sick, taking planned rest breaks, keeping a health journal, etc. is a full-time job. This tattoo (based on 1960s wallpaper) is a reminder to keep some spoons spare for doing the things I love – one of which is retro/vintage shopping – because it’s vital to maintaining my mental health and connection to who I am.” – Carlie P.

tattoo of orange and purple flowers

11. “About eight months ago I got my first ever tattoo, called a Ta Moko. Being from New Zealand I wanted to get something to symbolize my Maori culture. My Ta Moko has four main symbols in it that tell a story about my life and my future. There is a Manaia which I choose to have put on as a tribute to a family member who I was close to that passed away. A Manaia symbolizes a spiritual guardian and acts as a provider or protector. There are also three Koru that symbolize my spiritual, mental and physical health. There’s​ also shark teeth that symbolize strength through adversity (Crohn’s disease) and lastly stars, which are in threes, and they symbolize the journey I have to go in my life and guiding me down the right paths.” – Dominique S.

tattoo of maori symbols

12. “Me and a spoonie I became friends with online got so close we ended up meeting. We decided to get matching tattoos in honor of our battle with gastroparesis. I absolutely love it. Gives me hope every time and reminds me I’m not alone.” – Nikki A.

two women with matching 'hope' tattoos

13. “This is my spoon tattoo. The blue ribbon is for RA, my primary diagnosis. The three spoons are a reminder to keep a spoon for my husband and two daughters. I get asked all the time about it and it allows me to share my story and educate others. Because I’ve shared my story I have met others with chronic illnesses that didn’t even know about the communities we have online.” – Melanie W. B.

bouquet of spoons tattoo

14. “A windmill and a lemon. The windmill is a Chinese proverb – ‘When the winds of change blow, some build walls while others build windmills.’ The lemon is ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’ The wind/lemon in question is fibromyalgia – my tattoos serve as a reminder to keep building windmills and making lemonade, even on the worst days.” – Becca M.

tattoo of a windmill and a lemon

15. “This one I got for my POTS. Helps me to remember to be strong. Right over my heart.” – Tera S.

tattoo of a heartbeat

16. “Got this a couple of days ago. No color yet but the butterflies will be purple and there will be a rainbow as well. I was really inspired in the last tattoo post here and sent the fibro tattoo post to my artist. It’s my first tattoo, signifying everything I’ve been through and my hope for the future.” – Nairmi R.

tattoo with music note and butterfly

17. “In honor of being a Zebra who wears her heart on her sleeve… ‘Just breathe’ and the infinity sign to remind me that the only constant is change and the splash of colors because I will never dull my shine no matter what my illnesses throw my way.” – Tara M.

infinity sign tattoo with the words 'just breathe' and a heart filled with zebra print

18. “For the chronic pain of fibromyalgia. Because while I don’t believe ‘whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,’ I do believe we draw the greatest strength from the most painful moments in life.” – Kathleen H. C.

tattoo on a woman's shoulder

19. “Colors for intracranial hypertension (IH) or psudotumor cerebri (PTC) are blue and green. Was my very subtle nod toward acknowledging in ink without worrying about too many questions in public.” – Kate C.

a moth with blue and green wings

20. “A spoon blended with the chemical compound of dopamine. To always have an extra spoon up my sleeve and to try to create my own happiness from the pain. Non-spoonies don’t get the concept, but it honestly gives me strength on the really bad days.” – Leha H.

spoon tattoo with chemical compound for dopamine

21. “This reminds me to keep my last spoon for myself…” – Ambyr T. M.

tattoo of a spoon with the words 'my last one'

22. “(‘Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyways.’ – John Wayne) This is a quote that helps get me through some of my toughest days.” – Sabrina H.

white ink tattoo that says 'courage'

23. “The tree of life. A lotus. Taoism moon and sun balance. Sacred geometry flower of Life. Unaalome spiritual path. All to remind me balance in life. It is on my foot to stay grounded. To do what I can when I can, dream, try and be when I need to be, whether that’s to be still, sleep or push past my boundaries when I feel it’s worth it. The moon and the sun to show even in the darkest times the sun will come out again and it will get better. But ultimately to live life how I can and as well as I can on my own terms.” – Tara R. B.

tattoo of tree of life and lotus flower

24. “My best friend and I both have had scoliosis surgery. We got matching tattoos to show that we are survivors and as a reminder to always keep fighting!” – Mandy D.

two women with matching tattoos that say 'survivor'

25. “Warrior with paint colors around it. No matter what may be thrown at me I will fight because I am a warrior.” – Jessica U.

warrior with colorful paint splashed around it

26. “Believe in your dreams. Because anything is possible and you shouldn’t give up hope on achieving your dreams.” – Christy P.

tattoo that says 'believe in your dreams' with a disney castle

27. “This is my spoonerfly. I got it for my multiple sclerosis (MS) given that one of the symbols is the monarch butterfly and the color for it is orange.” – Kerie P.

tattoo of a butterfly with a spoon

28. “‘Family is my strength’ says it all. My family are what keep me going.” – Laura-Jane S.

tattoo that says 'family is my strength' under an IV

29. “I’m a dandelion! And despite all odds I’m going to grow and grow. I refuse to wither and die! I know I will wilt from time to time, but I will always bloom again another day!” – Allyce O.

bouquet of dandelions tattoo

30. “I got my spoon on my arm.” – Clair V.

tattoo of a spoon

Originally published: September 1, 2017
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