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Do you suffer from a chronic illness/disability?

Brendan catching me having one of my many favourite nana naps #creep

Since I came out about my disability to the legal fraternity (here) I've had the privilege to catch up and chat with a whole range of people that also have a chronic illness/disability (I have MS and Hashimotos).

As we've been shooting the breeze we've also been sharing our survival stories for getting through each day. It actually made me realise that I've implemented quite a few tricks that I now just do as a matter of course, but may actually be useful to others, too.

I'm sure many of you have even better recommendations so please please please share so that we can all learn from each other. Here we go. 

The problem: Making the bed. What a drama! The doona feels like it weighs a ton and my wrists hurt by the time it's done. Who would have thought...

Solution: Don't do it alone, if possible. If you have to do it alone, do it piece by piece, not all at once (sheets one day, doona the next). Any other suggestions out there for this one? 

 

The problem: Blow-drying my hair. It requires standing, hand and arm strength and can just be plain old tiring after a shower in the morning!

Solution: I sit down on the closed toilet lid to dry my hair and then sometimes I take breaks (I do one half, my make up, then the other half). Since I've cut my hair short it's so much easier. Another option - get your partner to do it for you or budget in twice-weekly washes at the local salon (ask for a good deal with a friendly hairdresser as you'll be a regular). 

 

The problem: Brushing my teeth. It requires way too much effort. Especially at the end of the day when you're tired.  

Solution: Electric toothbrush all the way! Twice as effective in half the time. No need to waste my spoonfuls of energy. #spoonie

 

The problem: High heels. They require balance, which I often don't have, and you've got further to fall if you trip. 

Solution: My heels are getting shorter and shorter for work / during the week and I really don't care much anymore. There are plenty of hot flats and wedges now available. You can even get gorgeous flat / wedge heel boots now for winter. Occasionally I'll bust a ridiculously high pair out on the weekend but they need to have an ankle strap and I can only last for short periods. 

 

The problem: Cooking risotto and anything that requires me to stand and stir a pot for ages. 

Solution: Since I purchased my Fast Slow Cooker by Breville this has fixed the problem. It makes a risotto (and most things!) in 10 minutes using the fast cooker setting, or you can use the slow cooker setting and leave things bubbling away for 6-8 hours. #gamechanger

I'm also obsessed with Dineamic. The only pre-prepared meals that I've been able to find that are 100% preservative free and contain only meat and veggies (they also have vegetarian options). You can get single, double or family-sized packages and they're just so good to have in the fridge or freezer for when you really can't be bothered making something nutritious from scratch. 

 

The problem: Lengthy periods of typing / emailing. 

Solution: Free apps that allow me to dictate into my phone and it spits out a word document. Genius. 

 

The problem: Fatigue (or a major case of the afternoon slump).

Solution: Get to know where the first aid room is in your workplace. When I was trying to survive my grad year, which involved lots of hard work and cocktail parties, I used to sneak off to the first aid room every lunch time to have a nana nap which seriously helped get me through the afternoon. 

 

The problem: Early morning seminars. If they start at 7:15am most of us are looking at a 6am wake-up call. This can cause havoc on your energy levels if your body is already under sufferance. 

Solution: If I can, I try and schedule in to leave work at 3 or 4pm and work from home in bed. Even though I'm still working, I find that if I've removed myself from an environment that requires a lot of interaction and communication then I can still perform my full day of duties, just from the quiet of my bedroom! 

 

The problem: Swollen ankles/legs. Particularly if I've been standing for periods or sitting somewhere other than my ergonomic desk. 

Solution: Try and discreetly find a chair to put your fit up on under the table. When you can finally lie down place a few pillows under your ankles to elevate your feet and get the blood flow going again. 

 

The problem: Temperature sensitivity. Whether the aircon is blowing arctic winds or the sun is shining through and causing you pain, I feel you. People that don't suffer this particular quirk might think you're crazy but I totally get - it actually hurts. 

Solution: Layers is key for me. I have to be able to add or remove clothing pretty quickly to adapt to each room at the office. I also love bamboo wraps (mine are from Country Road). They breathe when it's hot and protect the skin but they're also warming in areas like the cinema. Heat packs in winter are also a major must. 

 

The problem: Queues and lines (eg. waiting for the toilet, getting through security at the airport, purchasing cinema tickets, entering a gallery). 

Solution: You must be your own advocate here and communicate what you need. Each and every time I've done this someone has helped me skip the cue. Hey there has to be some upsides to have a disability right? If you have trouble standing for long periods then don't. Go up to the front of the cue and seek the assistance of a staff member working - tell them that you have trouble standing for long periods because of a disability and ask them if they can help you. If there aren't any staff members then just let the person know at the front of the cue. At airports, you can borrow a wheelchair (it's actually a long walk from check-in to the gates) and pre-purchase all your tickets to help speed up the process. 

 

The problem: Shaving in the shower. It requires a lot of standing and balance and coordination. 

Solution: Sit down on a chair or on the floor in the shower/bath. Make sure you have the appropriate hand rails in your bathroom too, they can quite literally be a lifesaver.

 

The problem: Hand-washing. Takes way too much energy and finesse.

Solution: Most washing machines now have a gentle or hand wash function. No more wringing out water and paying for it with sore wrists for days later. Awesome.

 

The problem: Sleeplessness. It's often at night that my muscles start twitching or maybe it's just that I start noticing my aches and pains a bit more. Regardless, sleep can sometimes be hard to come by.

Solution: Audio books and podcasts. I am currently loving Witness by the BBC World Service (because they're in 9 minute chunks and I'm normally asleep by the third one), but there are literally a gazillion options.

 

The problem: Boredom, vertigo or sore eyes.

Solution. As above, audio books and podcasts. Have you listened to Serial yet? It's free and super addictive.   

 

The problem: Pain that can't be fixed with drugs. 

Solution: Heat packs (when it's cold) or a fan (when it's warm). Hot or cool face washer. A distraction: have I mentioned audio books!? Or my new boyfriend Stan (www.play.stan.com.au). Sleep. Laughter. Reading blogs about people also suffering. 

 

Do you have any other solutions to common problems that people with a disability face? I'd love to hear them! 

 

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