Meet Connie Pich
Dakota about CFIDS and Fibromyalgia
On a morning in January 1995, the local newspaper had a full-page article on two women stricken with an illness called chronic fatigue syndrome. The article descried how these two dynamic women were struggling with every aspect of their lives because of their health problems. It then announced the beginning of a support group for people diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS). Connie Pich took a deep breath and said, "I'm not alone."
At the age of 37, Connie had moved back to her parent's home in South Dakota
from Milwaukee, Wis., because she could no longer care for herself. She
was single, with neither friends nor career there, and she was far too sick to
start a new life. Dressing, exercising and being with family was her whole
The support group looked like a possible outlet to find understanding people
and to socialize in an atmosphere where there were few expectations to be
mentally alert. She was dumbfounded to find 60 people at the first meeting
of the Black Hills CFS/FMS Support Group in Rapid City, S.D.
Since that day, "the support group has become so much more to me than I
could have ever guessed," Connie said. "Besides wonderful
friendships, it has given me an outlet for my talents and a chance to make a
difference in other people's lives. Before I got sick, I was a
psychotherapist who loved motivational speaking. I found great joy in
assisting others to make changes and lead happier lives. Feeling
unproductive was a devastating ramification of this illness, so I volunteered to
be the group's public relations chairwoman."
The task of that committee is to provide the public, the health-care
community and the support group with accurate information on these illnesses.
Connie has spoken about CFS/FMS and related issues to community groups, been
featured in newspaper articles and been the guest on radio talk shows more than
a dozen times. She's talked about diagnosis and treatment of CFS/FMS,
believability from others who don't have CFS/FMS, relaxation techniques,
applying for Social Security benefits, having fun and challenging oneself despite
being ill the importance of hope, learning to conserve energy and dealing with
disrespectful treatment from the medical community.
Support group leader Alice M. James says, " Connie is one of the most
knowledgeable people she knows on the subject of CFIDS."
"When Connie speaks before a group, she holds her audience spellbound.
She has a way of mixing humor into her presentations. She has a positive
attitude and is willing to take the time and energy to encourage or help someone
with CFS/FMS. She is one of my favorite people."
Group member Gloria J. Zeitler said Connie is a real "people
"The minute you meet Connie, she makes you know that she cares about
you. She is able to say what all of us feel and think, and she does it
eloquently. Her talks are not only informative, but also moving. She
touches you with her words and her manner."
Member Elaine Dodson said simply, "Connie gives people hope."
Connie said she learned from group members that persons with CFIDS (PWCs)
needed support to take themselves seriously first, before the public and family
members would treat them with respect.
"When stricken with an illness where we don't look sick, symptoms change
hourly and the medical community sees it as controversial, it is easy to
minimize how very ill we are. When I lapse into denial of the severity of
CFS/FMS, I find that I don't take care of myself well, which sets up relapses.
The support group is the place I can go when the reality of CFS/FMS blind-sides
me. I can openly grieve the reality of this illness and learn new
strategies of self-care. Both are so important to me.
"Because of the support group, I am no longer alone, no longer feeling
useless, no longer feeling helpless. I encourage PWCs to find the support
that they need to make their lives meaningful, whatever that might be."
Connie fills her life outside the group with dancing, movies, personal growth
activities, motorcycle riding, dining and unusual foods, mediation, travel and
adventure, and time spent with family and friends. She is active in a
singles organization that promotes spirituality, personal growth, relationship
skills and fun.