My Anniversary With POTS

Yesterday was my three year anniversary of being diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. I actually went back to the scene of the crime — the beach — this weekend, and although it felt bittersweet being somewhere amazing and having to take frequent breaks to rest, it got me thinking about just how far I’ve come.

I decided to take a little time to list a few things I’ve learned the past couple of years. This has easily been the most I have grown in my entire life, as new challenges seem to arise every step of the way fighting for recovery. Having something life-changing pop up so quickly drastically changes every aspect of your life, but I do believe there is a reason this happened and that there are several positive things I have learned from this experience.


Things You Learn From Having A Chronic Illness

1. You learn how to ask for help. I have always prided myself on being incredibly independent, so one of the most difficult things with getting sick has been learning how to tell people I need help with really simple tasks. When I first got POTS I couldn’t even climb up a flight of stairs, so was constantly asking people to grab things from my room for me or running errands to get the salty snacks I needed so often.

It can still be frustrating, embarrassing, and uncomfortable, especially since I look so normal and sometimes have to enlist complete strangers to give me a hand. Although I am still working on asking for help when I need it, this has taught me just how beautifully kind people can be to one another. I have collected so many wonderful stories that I don’t even know which one I should choose for this post.

I suppose I’ll tell a very simple story that this person probably doesn’t even remember, but that left an impact on me. Last year in one of my PWR (Professional Writing and Rhetoric) classes, we had to gather a small collection of textbooks from the library and carry them back to our classroom. It was the first day of the semester and I didn’t know anyone in my class, but had to swallow my pride and ask a guy in the class to help me carry my backpack full of books back to our room, as I am not supposed to carry more than five pounds. He smiled, told me it wasn’t a problem at all, and asked me about other things in my life, rather than focusing on the illness that I had tried to quickly explain to him. I felt so much more thankful than this gentleman could ever know, and to this day remember this little act of kindness when I see him in class.

2. You lose friends, but also get to learn who will be a part of your life forever. I was shocked to see some relationships I thought would be lasting friendships crumble when I got sick. Towards the beginning of my illness I couldn’t do very much other than lie on my couch and chat. Sometimes I felt well enough to sit up and play N64, but that was only on a good day. Some of my friends decided they didn’t have anything in common with me anymore since I couldn’t really go out, and others just gradually drifted away. The most wonderful thing about this, though, was that I also learned that I have fiercely loyal friends who have kept in touch and loved me so selflessly since I got sick. Most of these people haven’t suffered from an illness themselves, but try their hardest to and realize I still have the same heart (Even if it does beat much faster than it used to sometimes) and am still the same person, despite not being able to do many of the same activities anymore.

Overall I have actually gained even more friends than I used to have in my life. Some people who have read my story on social media have reached out and formed friendships with me, and I have been able to empathize with so many other people I would not have originally realized I had things in common with. It’s great being able to empathize with people who are struggling with big life changes, as we can lean on each other for understanding and support.

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3. Meeting new people is a little strange. I’m different in so many ways since I got sick. I can’t control that I have to be high maintenance sometimes now, so even though my mindset is the same and I don’t like to inconvenience anyone, I have a little laundry list of things I must do to keep from fainting or feeling sick every day. I’ve had to be vocal about changing around plans a little when they don’t work for me or I sometimes miss out on activities I normally would have loved to partake in. A big part of my personality used to be that I loved playing sports and doing anything and everything outdoors. Now I have a hard time being out in the heat too long and I can’t really play a lot of my favorite games because of the chronic pain I deal with. The bright side of everything, though? I have actually found new activities that I really enjoy. I now love playing a few different video games, baking, listening to podcasts, strategic board games, and I still have room for my favorite activity of all — writing!

My new friends may not know the Krista that was carefree and crazily spontaneous, but they do still get to see my thoughtfulness and kindness towards others in our relationship. I have struggled a lot the past few years, but I like to think of the positive qualities I have gained, rather than the physical limitations that are now a part of my life.

4. People want to help. I’ve learned that so many people have such beautiful hearts and actually go out of their way to make things easier on me. I have a few friends in particular who consistently drive several hours to come and hang out with me since I can’t drive more than about fifteen minutes at a time without really feeling it the next day. My girl friends have gotten so used to helping that I don’t even need to ask them to carry my Smart Water around anymore — they just grab it from my hand without missing a beat.

5. God is good. I felt devastated when I first got sick, but I somehow have had an overwhelming peace with everything the majority of the time I have dealt with the loss of a normal body. I never in a million years would have thought I could deal with something like this, but I have been given a strength that absolutely blows my mind when I think about it. I am not someone who is just naturally great at dealing with curveballs life throws at me, (I’m actually notoriously bad at dealing with change) and the only logical thing I can attribute this to is Jesus and all of the people who have been praying for me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.


Having POTS has changed my life in so many ways. If I could heal myself now I would in an instant, but I also would not trade everything that I’ve learned for the world. I have found the value of compassion and empathy. Dealing with a chronic illness has taught me to cherish the relationships I have and it has taught me just how important it is to choose people to be with who can handle hardships in a relationship.

I still don’t feel like some parts of this are real. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to wake up one day and this whole ordeal was just a bad dream and that I’ll have my old body back. I daydream about playing volleyball or running again. I sit by the ocean and remember the days that I used to skip around and play in the water and what it was like learning how to surf. Waking up one day and being completely better is pretty unlikely, but I’m going to work as hard as I can to have a normal life again, and if nothing else I realize how lucky I am for getting so much better. Even if I can’t play sports right now, I have so many things to be joyful for, and I thank God for these blessings each and every day.

Thriving During Your Breakup

We all hear tips about “surviving your breakup,” which is sometimes necessary in the very beginning when wounds are fresh and still open. After you take a little time to mourn the loss of your relationship, though, it’s time to get back on your feet and realize you are not only going to still make it in this world, but you are going to kick ass.

Hopefully you have a good squad to help you get through this rough time, but I decided to make this small list in case you need someone to remind you that everything isn’t just going to be okay — it’s going to be great.

1. Realize that although it hurts and you might miss your ex, this was the right decision. Something wasn’t working in your relationship, whether it was on your end, on his, or both.

2. Which leads to the realization that this was not the person you were supposed to spend the rest of your life with. Do you know what this means? You just made room for someone even more amazing and incredible! It may take time to find them, but I definitely believe there are several people who would work with each person. That was certainly not your one and only chance to find love.

3. There are so many other people in your life who love and care for you. Share your time and experiences with them awhile before looking for another relationship. Always remember to keep these people in your life whether you are or are not dating someone. Friends can be forever, while boyfriends aren’t necessarily always going to be around.

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4. You get to spend your entire life with yourself! When my ex and I broke up I went to my room, looked in my mirror through my tears and smiled because I realized that although he didn’t get to have me around anymore, I still get to be with myself — for forever! Learning to love yourself while you’re single is so important so you can feel okay even if things end with a SO.

5. You. Will. Be. Okay. Take a deep breath and realize that although you feel all kinds of broken that time does help you heal. I seriously thought my broken heart would never be fixed, but here I am almost a year later feeling so much better than I did in a messy relationship. The time I used to spend feeling sick thinking about my ex when we were together I now fill with experiences, friends, and love.

I tell every single one of my friends that if I of all people can get through heartbreak, anyone can. I have very strong feelings, whether they’re up or down, and I used to think dealing with a breakup would just about kill me. But it didn’t even come close. That breakup was one of the toughest things I ever had to do, but I have come out the other side stronger, wiser, and more compassionate than I was before. Now I’m enjoying my life, and open to meeting my real Mr. Right.

Men Are Not Dogs

Well this is a strange headline, huh?

What I mean by “men are not dogs” is that men, unlike dogs, do not need to be trained. Yes, they should be raised to be respectful and kind, but when you are looking for a grown man to date you should absolutely not go into it with a mindset that you need to teach him how to treat you.

“I can train him to buy me flowers,” or open doors, or hold my hand, or [insert task you want your dream boyfriend to do]. It isn’t your job to mother a man, and one really surefire reality of life is that you can rarely change another person. Sure you can tell someone what you like and watch their actions closely after a conversation, but you should never go into a relationship expecting someone to change a laundry list of things for you.

I’m going to share a personal anecdote to show how I learned this lesson the hard way.

I used to date someone I really liked, but our relationship just didn’t feel  very romantic. I am someone who absolutely loves the little things in life. I adore little gestures that say “I love you” like leaving each other notes, cooking for one another, and yes — I love chivalry.

Boy #1

This first person that I dated wasn’t into showing me he loved me in any of the ways my heart wanted. I remember even telling him at one point that I thought it was nice when he opened the car door for me and I really appreciated when guys did that; this struck a pretty strong nerve for him. #1 told me he didn’t know why in the world I wanted him to do something like that and that it wasn’t worth fighting about.  I didn’t realize something like this was fight-worthy, I thought to myself. I wasn’t trying to argue, I just thought it would be nice for him to know that I appreciated the gesture so there might be a repeat. Later I realized “the door” wasn’t really even about the door at all. It was about the pile of things I felt I wasn’t getting out of this relationship. That was the most one-sided relationship I have ever been in, and although I gave up so many of my dreams for this gentleman (huge mistake; I will write about this another day!), bought him presents and little gift baskets to show that I cared, and even abided to his wishes of talking to him less,* I never felt fulfilled in our relationship, even when he did.

This wasn’t because he was doing anything wrong, though. He just didn’t show love in the ways I need to feel loved. Back then I thought I was being kind by giving him “tips” on simple ways to love me in ways I understood better, but now I realize we just weren’t the right fit.

I want someone who will remember our anniversaries and enjoy celebrating them together, someone who gives me his time, and someone who is as kind and caring to me as I am to him.

*In hindsight it is hilarious that I once “showed someone I loved them” by agreeing to cut off most of our communication.

Gentleman #2

This second person is the complete opposite of #1. He is someone I’ve often wondered how I had the pleasure of meeting, as he is one of the kindest and most thoughtful people I have ever met.

On our first date he was chivalrous, but this behavior continued seamlessly into our 30th date. He opened my car door any time we went out, always wanted to be the one to pick me up and take me out, and goes above and beyond to show me that he cares. He has written me letters, cooked complicated five course Italian dinners, and often called me during his lunch breaks just to say “hello.” This is someone I think is so incredibly special that I don’t know how I got lucky enough to meet him and see that many of the sweet little joys in life aren’t just “Krista things” that are unrealistic traits to want in a boyfriend. There are men out there who are a million times better than the ones you see in the movies. They’re real, raw, and far from perfect, but they love you so fiercely there isn’t any room for you to question where you stand in their life.

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Today’s lesson: Dogs are smart, loyal, and loving companions. You really can’t expect any human to measure up to this amazing animal, but wait for the person who does make you feel loved in the same way your dog loves you. This is a kind and selfless love with so much joy that your heart feels like it might explode.

Actions Speak Louder

Once upon a time I dated someone who meant the world to me. We often talked about the excitement of conquering our dreams together, hand in hand. We were young, in love, and unsure of a lot in life — but we were certain that we wanted each other around.

After we had been together for some time he told me that he realized he wanted me to be his forever and always. He said that he wanted to hurry up and put a ring on my finger so he could snatch me up before anyone else had the chance. It was romantic thinking about how badly this gentleman wanted to be with me, especially since I felt the same way about him.

We were both at transitional points in our lives, and we had lived with a looming uncertainty as to where we would end up and when we could be together again. His solution was that he would find a job near me. There were so many options thrown out, and we excitedly talked about how he could even bartend for a few months until we had made a decision about school or a career move. Nothing mattered as long as we were together. Until he left. Or rather, never came back. Nothing happened. None of the words that were used in our conversations ever materialized, and instead of creating our love story together, he had a new one with someone else as the lead — himself. We were no longer partners in crime, but instead I became a sidekick in his story.

I held on to his words when I felt confused by a pile of broken promises and I begged for more when I was heartbroken about our stagnant relationship. Words were what kept me around even when his actions didn’t match up. I felt like the promises being made were all I had left of him; I was fine with taking any of the scraps he was willing to give me since I had been hungry for more for so long. The very words that I would swoon at had they been written from a stranger to his love became my source of torture. It was a constant roller coaster of “he loves me, he loves me not,” and I didn’t know how to get off because every time I tried he reeled me back in with sweet nothings about our wonderful future together. I just needed to wait around a little longer to see them materialize. Everything he was doing appeared to be selfish, but he reasoned that it was all for us. He was doing everything “for me.”

Some people tell you they love you. If you’re lucky, though, you’ll meet someone who shows you that they love you and don’t stop once they have you. They’ll keep showing you that they care through their actions, words, and by demonstrating forgiveness in every day life. Love isn’t always easy, but it is absolutely always worth it.

Today’s lesson: Words are beautiful, powerful things. They are what I use to express myself and part of the way I show people I love them. When actions don’t match up to the words that are used, however, the characters become meaningless. Someone could have the best intentions in the world, but if they don’t have the hustle and determination to back them up the beauty is taken away and they just become bland poetry from a stranger.

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My Blessing In Disguise

Awhile back I remember praying several times every single day the exact same thing,

Dear God, please, please, please save this relationship. I’ll do anything in the world to keep him; just please help us to find our love again and help us to actually be happy together. Please…”

I would trail off and start to cry. I wanted nothing more than for my boyfriend to love me again the way he once did. I even remember thinking if I could have one thing in the entire world it wouldn’t be for my chronic illness to be fixed. I wouldn’t ask God to help me with any of my dreams or goals, but instead I just wanted us back.

One day I told my ex this thought and that I missed the way we once were. I said I wanted him to work with me to get back to the beautiful partnership we once had together. I tried everything to fix our relationship — including compromising several of the core things that make me the person I am. I began giving away small pieces of myself until they piled up to make a mountain. I didn’t even recognize myself anymore and found I was never the best version of myself when I was with him. I became short-tempered, wildly insecure, and lost sight of what I wanted in life in order to attempt to please him.

As you know, we broke up.

I have told this story to countless people who find their own relationships crumbling. I use it when I hear people are in despair about a job, school, or anything else that doesn’t seem to be going their way. Why?

Because what I feared most not only happened, but it ended up being the greatest blessing in my life. Really.

We broke up and although that was literally the most terrifying thought I could come up with at the time, not only did I make it out alive, but I found myself again. I am no longer the miserable, frustrated, depressed shell of a girl I was when I was with him. I no longer mimic those impatient and pessimistic behaviors I was used to seeing with my family and friends, but I am able to be the joyful optimist I have always been at heart again.

The dreaded breakup was the greatest blessing God has ever given me, and it made me completely redefine the way I look at things that happen to me in life. I’m lucky to have a very solid example of a way God was protecting me in the long-term by letting me go through short-term pain; not everyone has such a concrete example of this. Moving forward, though, I remember and share this story, as I see how redirecting my path away from what I thought I wanted ended up allowing me to dodge a really big and painful bullet in the end.

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Today’s lesson: You don’t always know what’s best for yourself. Sometimes you just have to take what life gives to you and trust that God has a better plan for you than you do for yourself. I pray for my future husband often, and even though I may not know who he is yet, I know God is protecting his heart for me.

Love Is Blind

… And sometimes it can be deaf too.

As I’ve mentioned in many posts before this, I was in a very serious relationship with someone for almost five years. In my mind he was the one for me. I think he believed the same about me, but I won’t speak on his behalf.

Our plan after graduation was for us to somehow end up in the same city together. At this point we had dated for about three years and were on the road to engagement. Life doesn’t always go the way you think it will, though. He decided on his own to move 2,000 miles away. I was reluctant to move to him at first — after all, we met going to school in the DC area and for a few years we both dreamed of settling down here. It got to the point where the only way we were going to be together would be if I moved to him.

At first I resisted. I had no desire to be in the midwest; I loved the east coast and would have been happy going to New York City or even Nashville. I have a lot of ties in the DMV and wanted to be able to visit home easily. My chronic illness made it hard for me to travel, and I was scared of being somewhere I didn’t have a big support system. When I realized I was fighting a losing battle I finally started preparing myself to move there. I loved him more than I loved anything else in the world.

When he finally told me I wasn’t his top priority anymore I cried. It was the first time he broke my heart.

I didn’t listen to him, though. I should have broken up with him then — or in the many months before when his actions showed that I was no longer a priority, but I was blinded by my love for him. Instead of breaking up, I desperately tried to change his mind. He couldn’t possibly mean that he cared more about finishing school and making a big chunk of change than living life together, could he? I didn’t even know how it was possible for someone to care more about a thing than a person. He meant it, though. And I held on another 8 months.

Actually, I had our relationship in a death grip. He showed me time and time again his priorities weren’t with me, but happily continued to keep a girl who was okay with this wrapped around his finger. None of this was his fault — it was my own. I didn’t listen closely enough to the words he said to me or pay attention to his actions and what he put his time into to make a smart decision.

I was blinded and deafened by the love I had for him. A better word than love might be anxiety, though. I did love him once — I was in love with him once, which I think is a step past love. Circumstances change, though, and so do people. I learned an amazing lesson in that relationship, and won’t lose any of my senses moving forward.

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Today’s lesson: Make sure you do pay attention to what your significant other does and says to you, as that is where his heart is. If you aren’t happy with his priorities, find someone who holds the same values as you.

Guarded

My last relationship left me with dust and rubbish. It was as if a storm came in and demolished everything beautiful I had taken so long to build. How could someone else completely ruin me like that? When did I give him that kind of power?

I spent months sitting in the middle of the wreckage. I was paralyzed from the shock of it all and couldn’t move — until I saw a little flower peeking out from the middle of the place my comfortable home used to be. I cautiously walked over to it and took note of the beauty that was before me in such a gray space.

Finally after gaining my strength and seeking help from others, we rebuilt a new, stronger foundation. I had been naive last time, failing to build walls on my home and trusting the man I loved not to destroy it. This time I put up giant concrete walls. No one would even think about trying to break them down; they were my fortress and protection. Nobody could come in, but I couldn’t get out.

Then I met someone new. He tore down my hard, concrete walls and rebuilt a home with windows so the sun could shine through.

Now there’s a garden with flowers and I can come and go as I please. He can come inside and sit with me. I notice the clouds when they’re looming outside, but more days are sunny than not. I go outside and dance in the rain, and I have realized that a life filled with love is completely worth risking another storm. I now know that I can make it through any kind of weather that comes my way and that there is always going to be beauty in my life — even if it’s just a single flower in the middle of a bunch of ruins.

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This picture was taken by my beautiful friend Audrey, who also did my hair and makeup for our shoot. Check her out if you need a photographer in the DMV!

Our Sad Spot Was Macy’s.

I think everyone has places you associate with an ex.

Mine were my alma matter, — particularly where we carved our initials in the sidewalk and our running route — Dunkin Donuts, Georgetown, and he would never know this, but our saddest spot is Macy’s.

Macy’s was the place I was when we had our first big argument over the phone. It was the first place it began to sink in that he may not care about me as much as he did his work, and the place I realized it was the beginning of the end.

Macy’s was the place he casually shopped for new clothes right after we talked about potentially breaking up for the first time. I held back tears as he felt the blue leather jacket on the sale rack. I didn’t like the jacket, but I didn’t care about it — I just cared about him. I wanted to keep him, even if he did have a new off-putting jacket.

During the several months we took to break up I drove the long way to get to classes. I stayed on the highway a little longer just to avoid the spot with our names. I wished they weren’t carved in the pavement.

Later, I found out that although our names were set in stone, our relationship wasn’t.

We broke up.

It took time to go back to all of “our” places, but it slowly didn’t bother me as much. Time went by and suddenly I was more shocked when I actually did think of him, since those thoughts were scarce.

I began thinking of Elizabeth and Megan when I saw Dunkin Donuts (It’s always been their place as well), and then met another special man who happens to be from Boston and obsessed with the place. I think of my time in New York City when a group of my girl friends came to visit and Thanh spilled her Dunkin hot chocolate all over the subway. I think of donuts — I don’t just think of him.

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Georgetown became a place I traveled to with friends to go shopping or grab a cupcake, and my school became just that — my school — including so many memories with and without him. I am able to look back on our time there fondly and separate that part of him from the part he became when he grew up.

Macy’s was a hard place to tackle — until it wasn’t. The heart has a way of healing itself, and you learn to let go. I’m so glad I did, too, because one of my fondest memories now lies there — picking out my new guy’s dress suits together for his trips to the embassy while he is overseas.

So Casually Cruel

“All Too Well” is one of my favorite Taylor songs. When I was preparing for a bad breakup I listened to this song on repeat. There are so many lines I could dissect that reminded me of my relationship with my ex. We had been through so much together and I felt like he was getting ready to throw all of that away.

“Back before you lost the one real thing you’ve ever known” is a line that spoke to me. A guy I dated once told me all of his secrets and said I was the closest person in his life. I played the role of a lover and a best friend for him, as he did for me. He told me I was his forever and always and that I was his rock.

Then he broke up with me.

He hadn’t found someone else or fallen out of love with me. He just realized I was no longer a priority in his life. Love was no longer a priority. He now lived for a career and a newfound dream for status.

My heart broke. First for myself, but when the dust finally cleared I realized it was broken for him. What kind of life is it to have your heart beat only for yourself? To not have relationships that move you to your core?

I realized I would have those — I already had them with my close friends and family — and prayed for his sake that he would realize what would truly make him happy in life. I still hope he’s happy, it’s just not my job to help him along that journey anymore.

Today’s lesson: Everyone has different priorities in life. One thing isn’t necessarily better than another, but you should find someone who is on the same page as you in that regard.

 

New Music Monday

In my adventures with Audrey* yesterday she introduced me to a new song that she said seemed like perfect lyrics for me — and they sure were! I’ve looked at more of her music and am kind of obsessed with Alessia Cara now. This music video is kind of goofy, but just listen to the lyrics. So. Darn. Catchy!

This is what loving someone after your heart has been broken feels like.

*I have two best friends named Audrey! This time my post is all about my beautiful photographer/blogger/ex pageant queen, but current badass friend.