GETTING IT TOGETHER!! I want to elaborate on our discussion about the depression that is so common among those of us with chronic diseases and our caregivers. I recently posted an article called “DEPRESSION IS A TOUGH ROAD TO WALK…FOR EVERYONE!” In that writing, I discussed the causes and effects of depression. As a follow-up, I want to talk about a few of the solutions, some of the actions that you can take to hopefully relieve some of the feelings. Today, the subject is organization!
One of the major causes of depression is stress. One of the stressors, especially among the chronically ill, is a feeling of lack of control. The inability to perform activities that were formerly easy, the newfound difficulties involved in leaving the house, especially with supplemental oxygen, can both result in the feelings of loss. It is all too easy to fall into the black feelings of helplessness, of uselessness.
Disorganization can destroy the attitudes of the best of us. Some people seem to thrive on disarray, on performing tasks at the last possible moment. I am not one of them. Mary and I pride ourselves on keeping up-to-date on our articles, on the blogs, on preparing for our presentations. We answer emails immediately, or just as soon as we have the proper information. We check email, Facebook, COPD360, EFFORTS, and other online support groups and medical sites on a daily basis. If someone has a question that we feel we can answer, we do so. We are list-makers. Once we have written something down, we no longer have to remember it. Appointments, dinner or a theater performance with friends, birthdays, the dates of conferences all go on our calendar, which we can check from my laptop, our tablets, or our phones. It makes things SO EASY!!
So we are the king and queen of organization…(or possibly control freaks)…how does that help your feelings of depression? Well, by developing your own sense of organization, of control. Control equals less stress, which equals (hopefully) less depression.
Look around you. Is your dwelling clean, uncluttered? If so, you are well on your way, whether the orderliness is the result of your efforts or that of others. If not, what can you cause to be moved, stored, sold, or discarded? Look at each item and ask yourself, “Does this bring me joy? Have I used it, showed it to anyone, taken pride in its ownership in the past 6 months?” If you answer “No” to those questions, you might consider getting rid of it. Store it if you must, but getting it out of your life can be very freeing!
As a chronic disease advances, the patient tends to “nest”. The favorite couch, the faithful recliner becomes the normal spot for repose. If this is the case, build your nest properly! By that I mean equipping your immediate area with the necessities of life. This will make your life easier and keep your caregiver from running his or her legs off fetching stuff for you. By “necessities”, I mean the laptop or tablet, the phone, the TV remote, water, eyeglasses, books, magazines, and a small trash receptacle. A blanket might come in handy, along with any medications that you should be taking on a periodic basis. Maybe a thermos of coffee? Your nebulizer, if you use it regularly.
Okay. You get the idea. Save your energy for things that you really want to do…save your caregiver, because their job is hard enough without constantly running errands for you. Now that you have your nest all set up, try not to grow roots there! We all know that languishing in your comfy nest like a lump is not good for you. The idea is to be organized, not lazy!
Did I mention a notepad and a pen or pencil? Get those. On your laptop or your tablet, there is a calendar. If you simply hate the Internet, you probably aren’t reading this, but just in case you are, seek out a paper calendar. It may have bunnies and kitties or insurance salesmen all over it, but it will serve the purpose. If you want to brave the online version, you might find that you like it. Once you are settled in with the tablet and calendar, USE them! List required groceries, things that need doing, people who need calling. On the calendar, list birthdays, anniversaries, appointments, other stuff that has a date and a time involved. As I said before, once you record it, you don’t have to remember it any longer. You just have to remember to check the list or the calendar, which is so much easier.
We all have our own set of capabilities. For a long time, I mowed the lawn every week. I will admit that I hid my shortness of breath from Mary, through stubbornness and ignorance of the dangers of sustained desaturation. Finally, I had to give it up, in favor of hiring it done. As our diseases advance, we lose some of our strength. As a good friend is fond of saying, “Work smarter, not harder!” If an activity is going to hurt you, if you simply cannot do it anymore, hire someone to do it. If possible, get a friend or family member to volunteer to handle the tasks that loom over you. If someone asks if they can help, don’t let them get away! Grab your list and ask them what they would be willing to do. When I got too sick to shovel the sidewalks in western Colorado, Mary called a good friend who used a pickup-mounted snow plow at his business and told him that she didn’t know what to do. From then on, every time it snowed, Dan would be there early in the morning, plowing and shoveling. It was one of the nicest things that anyone has ever done for us.
Things have to be done. The bank statement needs to be reconciled. The bills need to be paid. Taxes need to be done on time. Again, someone is going to have to do them. They cannot be put off. If you are capable, good! If your caretaker can handle them, great! If neither of you feel that you are up to it, then find someone else who can and will take care of all of those little details of life.
If you are on supplemental oxygen, you know what a hassle it is to leave the house. I compare it to having a baby. If you want to go out, you have to have the baby, the stroller, the car seat, the diaper bag, the toys, the formula. It is the same if you are on oxygen. You must have an extra supply of O2, the hoses, an extra cannula, the little wrench thing that turns on the bottles, batteries and cords for your portable concentrator, and on and on… It is no wonder that there is such resistance to going out. So, the answer is to have all of your O2 stuff in the same place, have the car stocked with supplies, and you will find that getting your little body up and out into the world will be so very much easier.
Just think how much better you will feel, how much more relaxed you will be after you get your life all organized! It should take away a big piece of your stress and give you a feeling of control, which should relieve some of your depression. At the very least, there will be less stuff to trip over.