Why The Cane is Our Friend

By Maureen DeGarmo

My parents grew up in the Great Depression. For them, self-reliance was very important, and they avoided anything that might diminish their sense of independence. Using a cane was one symbol of declining independence.

I feel just the opposite. For me, a cane is a great communicator. It is a silent, tangible signal that changes the way others react to me in public, and therefore I do not have to actually warn people of my tenuous balance.

It says:

  • “Don’t knock me over.”
  • “Don’t expect me to move quickly.”
  • “Something is not working properly.”
  • “I might not react as you would expect others to react.”

A while back, I was in a store with my cane. Continue reading

Self-Sufficiency: Is it a Myth?

By Maureen DeGarmo

Fellow professional organizer Seana Turner of The Seana Method recently wrote a blog post that struck a chord with me, entitled The Myth of Self Sufficiency. She shares why she does not ascribe to a belief in self-sufficiency, and reminds us that “at one point or another, most of us endure periods when our insufficiency is palpable… when our inability to ‘do it all’ smacks us in the face.”

I agree with Seana’s words of wisdom. As a person with a chronic illness, I realize that I cannot do everything that I would like to do. Indeed, sometimes our bodies simply refuse. Read Seana’s entire post, here.

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Getting Help When Your Family Isn’t Available

By Maureen DeGarmo and Lisa Mark, C.P.O.

Traumatic Illness can cause symptoms ranging from mild to severe, with varying consequences. Symptoms such as pain, fatigue, loss of cognitive functioning or lack of mobility require different types of support. But, what do you do when your family cannot provide that support?

Perhaps you live far from family, or they’re unable to assist. Perhaps you live alone. Where, then, do you reach out for support? Continue reading

Top 5 Effects of Chronic Illness

By Maureen DeGarmo

Those of us who battle a chronic illness think differently than others. We filter everything through the difficult lens of “how does this affect my illness?” This is a necessity, not a luxury. Here are the top five ways that illness affects my life.

  1. Direct Side-Effects: When our bodies don’t function well, many parts of our life change. Digestive illnesses make going out to eat awkward or impossible. Someone with chronic back pain may not be able to sit through an entire movie at a theater. A person with a traumatic brain injury may forget a conversation you just had yesterday. These are the direct effects.
  1. Family: Every decision that I make affects my family. For example, a 20-minute drive causes increased vertigo for 1-2 days afterward, but if someone drives me, my symptoms are less severe. Also, for each choice – whether it is fun or productive – another activity must be reduced or eliminated. Therefore, each choice requires careful consideration before making any commitments.

Continue reading

Minimalism and Illness

By Maureen DeGarmo

I just finished watching Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.

In this film, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus tell the story of how they simplified their lives and how that process affected them. Sharing the film around the country brings their message to a great number of people who want to reduce their footprint and live more simply.

Living with a Traumatic Illness causes widespread changes: working, relationships, family dynamics, home upkeep, and how we eat. The longer an illness persists, the more extensive the effects will be. What if simplifying our lives could help us manage our illness?

Here are some ideas for simplifying life, straight from the Minimalism documentary: Continue reading

How to Talk About Your Pain Without Whining

2016-sept-talk-of-pain-without-whining

By Maureen DeGarmo

You’re in pain all the time. Many of your friends are not, and they don’t understand. How do you open up to them without sounding like you’re complaining?

This is a difficult question and one that I have personally struggled to answer. I want to be sure that I don’t alienate my friends by monopolizing their time discussing nothing but my illness. Asking about their life certainly helps balance the conversation, but that does not help me decide what to share about myself.

A recent column by Carolyn Hax, a columnist with the Washington Post, provides some very clear guidelines. She recommends: Continue reading

The 5-D To Do List

By Maureen DeGarmo and Lisa Mark, C.P.O.

You don’t feel well. You look around and see things that need to be put away, projects that need work, and reminders that your body has betrayed you. Pain, fatigue, brain fog, lack of stamina, learning to live in your new normal…whatever your symptoms are, they prevent you from accomplishing daily tasks.

Let’s try an exercise.

  • Write (or record) a list of things that you need to do. Include everything that is on your mind: taking your medications, resting, doctor’s appointments, picking up clutter, paying bills, driving the kids, laundry, dishes, cleaning the bathroom, etc.
  • Now, rate your energy level for the day, on a scale of 0-10. Zero would be you cannot even get out of bed that day. A level ten would be how you felt prior to your illness.
  • Next, I want you to prioritize your list, and sort it by these categories:

Continue reading

Chronic Illness or Traumatic Illness?

By Maureen DeGarmo

A Chronic Illness is one that persists for three months or more, or for a lifetime. It cannot be prevented by a vaccine or cured by medication, nor will it just disappear. A person with a chronic illness needs to constantly manage this condition (sources: MedicineNet.com and The Free Dictionary).

A Traumatic Illness is any type of illness that impacts the person’s life in a way that changes how they live. Continue reading

How Making Tea Changed My Life

By Lisa Mark, C.P.O.

I want to empower you, even if it just means making a cup of tea.

If you are experiencing a Traumatic Illness, then you might be thinking, “I can’t do anything more than be in this one comfort spot on the couch.” But maybe with the guidance of friends, there may be a way for you to participate in life a little bit more than you otherwise could.

When I was sick, an acquaintance told me how she’d coped with the death of her spouse from brain cancer. Continue reading