Hey. I’m Kaitlyn (Kate). I’m a singer, writer, daydreamer, guitar player, southerner, chef, dancer, adventurer, reader, crocheter, napper, and lover of nature. I also happen to have this thing called POTS.
For most of my life I have been a pretty active person. Don’t get me wrong, I’m laid back—I would much rather curl up and read a book than run a marathon—but I have always enjoyed my share of physical activity. Cheerleading, dance team, gymnastics, showchoir, track, soccer…I did it all. The only thing I struggled with was standing still. Or standing at all. See POTS is an acronym for Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. That’s just a fancy way of explaining this disfunction of the autonomic nervous system in which the heart races at unusually high rates when the body is in an upright position. But that’s not the only role that the autonomic nervous system plays in our bodies.
The autonomic nervous system has 3 parts: 1.) the sympathetic system (the part that controls our “fight or flight” responses), 2.) the parasympathetic system (the part that helps us rest and also regulates heart rate and body temperature), and 3.) enteric system (the part that controls the workings of our tummies).
So basically, people with POTS experience problems with 1.) coping with stress, 2.) circulation throughout the entire body, and 3.) digestion. That’s a vague way of saying that POTS patients live pretty uncomfortable lives. Seemingly menial tasks like standing in the grocery line, holding a job, going to school, maintaining emotional stability, taking a shower, staying out late, or even using the bathroom are often monstrous struggles for POTS patients. Life can be pretty overwhelming. Trust me, I’ve lived with it.
Though I’ve been uncomfortable with standing throughout most of my life, the real struggle came in the spring semester of my freshmen year of college: the year when stress became a lot more than wondering whether or not a boy on the soccer team liked me back. I was at home visiting my parents on a Sunday afternoon when I walked into the kitchen and dropped to the floor. And that was the beginning of many years of passing out, years of feeling chronically tired and depressed, and years of a lot of unanswered questions. Doctors prescribed diets where I was supposed to eat tons of salt and drink tons of water. They prescribed me pills ranging from antidepressants to beta blockers to things that raised my blood pressure and lowered my heart rate.
And eventually, I figured out a way to get by.
I switched to online college classes, ate lots of salt, went to bed early (even on weekends), avoided stressful activities and people, spent lots of time in bed, cried a lot, lost a lot of jobs, quit choir and sports, and got through life.
Over time, I watched as my arms and legs turned into noodles, my face became a wreck of acne, I became more tired and depressed than ever, I learned to hate going outside, and I said no to almost everything people asked me to do. I earned a reputation for being a “grandma” and I didn’t correct people for thinking of me that way. I even made jokes about it. It seemed like my choice and I wanted it to seem that way. I told almost no one about what I was dealing with. Over time, I learned to accept my life the way it was as permanent. I smiled and acted positive. I made the most of what I had been handed. I mastered the art of survival.
But two summers ago in the middle of July, a miracle came my way in the form of this thing called Whole30 which introduced people to the paleo way of eating. My sister had heard that it was a great way to lose weight and feel great and she wanted me to do it with her. I, being at the end of a out-of-shape/miserable/bored-to-death rope, agreed. No processed foods, no grains, no legumes, no sugar, no dairy, no alcohol for 30 days. It would be hard, but I would try it. And after a few miserable, sugar withdrawing, lethargic days, something amazing happened. For the first time in years, I wasn’t just surviving.
I was thriving.
My skin cleared up, my arms and legs got stronger, I found myself standing for long periods of time without even thinking about it. I could run up stairs and not feel like I was going to die. I woke up in the morning without feeling like I had been hit by a truck. It was like I had just stepped out of a bad foggy nightmare. I was a normal human being!
And that’s where this whole thing started for me…with this hope that maybe life didn’t have to be the way I thought it was destined to. Maybe I could do all these things that I never thought I could. And if I could, maybe others could too. Maybe there was a lot more to us unfortunate underdogs than simply succumbing to the hands we’d been dealt. My hope is that whether you’re chronically ill, overweight, healthy and active, slow, fast, or just feeling kind of hopeless that this blog inspires you to reach into the impossible, to say no to accepting no for an answer. Join this journey with me. Let’s see how long we can stay standing. 🙂