Quarantine Life Before Corona

It’s weird seeing some of the parallels from my life when I suddenly got sick with a chronic, debilitating illness and the pandemic. People are describing emotions that the COVID-19 quarantine is bringing out that I felt when I suddenly got sick six years ago. I’ve been handling each step of the way a little better than you would expect from someone who does deal with anxiety, but after thinking about it a little, I attribute a lot of that to having experienced something that was, emotionally, kind of similar. Chronically ill people were prepared for this in a way that the regular population maybe wasn’t as much. Here are some thoughts I’ve had, both in isolating at home now, and back when I first got sick.


What would my life look like if it wasn’t for health concerns?

Back in the day I thought about this a lot because I was forced to give up my dream of continuing to work at my dream job. I had just completed the greatest internship of all time at Seventeen magazine in New York City, and was so excited to find a cozy (some might call it cramped) apartment to move to permanently. Instead of continuing on a normal path, though, I began fighting to have any taste of normalcy I could get. I got incredibly sick overnight and suddenly went from being a healthy 22-year-old to not being able to sit or stand without feeling dizzy or passing out. I was couch bound with the exception of going to the cardiologist or physical therapy to figure out how to begin my road to recovery.

Now I sometimes think about what the world would be like without all the corona craziness that’s going on. I would be able to see all of my friends and family, I would be able to go on normal date nights, and I would be able to continue to explore the world. I try to feel content being at home and remind myself how blessed I am to have my health and a few loved ones here with me. This time around, I’m just home bound — not tethered to the couch because of a lack of health. I’m trying to appreciate the fact that I am healthy during the pandemic, push myself to do yoga in the basement, and realize that things could be a whole lot worse. Not having a working body makes you feel so much more trapped than a comfortable home filled with food and an Internet connection.

This isn’t fair. 

No, it’s not. I’ve learned a lot of things in life aren’t fair. It wasn’t fair that I had secured my dream job, only to be hit over the head with an illness that knocked me on my butt. I was angry because I had always taken good care of myself. I ran several days a week, played intramural sports throughout college, and ate well despite having a good enough metabolism not to. I never drank excessively and wasn’t really risky with anything that had to do with my health. I didn’t pay a crazy amount of attention to it because I didn’t have to, but I actually did a good job maintaining a very healthy lifestyle. I felt so frustrated that I had done everything right and ended up being the one person I knew who had a crazy, weird health problem happen to them. It didn’t feel real, but being sick was my new reality.

We need to have a new normal with the reality of the coronavirus pandemic. It sucks not being able to do our favorite activities or see friends and family, but taking up new hobbies and finding the bright side of things is so important for our mental health.

Having a chronic illness made me realize that even though there may be unfair things that happen to you that suck, there is always something to be joyful for. Back then I got to spend quality time with friends and family. I learned that I am a lot tougher than I ever thought, and I learned that I need to be thankful for every single thing I am able to do, because some people aren’t as lucky as me. I am also convinced that I would have never met my husband, had I not gotten sick with POTS. The only reason I wasn’t in New York was because I had to stay in the area, and who knows what my life would look like now if I had been there instead. These are all blessings that came from the hardest thing that ever happened to me.

When will this end?

When I got sick with POTS I was told so many different things. “This is your life now, you’re not getting better” was the first thing a nurse told me. Later I was reassured that a majority of people who get POTS when they are young get a whole lot better in time. Since POTS hasn’t been studied as long as other illnesses, there weren’t always answers to my questions, but luckily through lots of physical therapy, lifestyle changes, and time, I’ve made leaps and bounds and know how to manage my health. I have far, far less bad days than good ones now.

It’s absolutely devastating having your life turn upside down and your routine completely trashed. Anyone with a chronic illness will tell you this. We’ll also be there to reassure you, though, that just because things change drastically doesn’t mean they’re forever — but perhaps more important, it doesn’t mean you won’t have joy in your life or that you’re doomed to feeling the way you do today. People are adaptable and learn to adjust to their circumstances. If you had told me everything I was about to go through right before I got sick, I would have had an absolute meltdown. I wouldn’t have been able to deal with knowing I wouldn’t be able to merely stand up without passing out, but you know what? I got through it. I somehow managed being genuinely happy the years I couldn’t even stand up or have a single normal day. Did I mention during this time I couldn’t go to restaurants, I couldn’t shop for my own groceries, and I even had to be taken home from the movie theater because the room was violently spinning around me, just from sitting upright? Do you see a few parallels between being chronically ill and being stuck at home because of COVID-19? The biggest difference for me is the fact that this time around I can actually move around and be more active, and don’t feel sick all the freaking time.

Take it one day at a time.

The easiest way to do anything difficult is take it one day at a time. When I got sick, I didn’t let myself think about what it would be like in one, five, or ten years if I still couldn’t get out of the house and do anything. Instead, I found things to look forward to every day, even if it was just a little TV show or eating one of my favorite foods. Now, under the stay-at-home order, I don’t think about how long it will be until I can see family and friends or go out to a restaurant again. I look for other things to occupy my mind, rather than spiraling about things I have no control over. This is so much easier said than done and if you slip up you need to be gentle with yourself, but there’s no shame in asking for help if you need it. Therapy can be an amazing way to help control anxiety, and even in these strange times people are doing sessions online or over the phone. Learning to be present and appreciate what you do have can be really hard in the face of adversity, but it’s the most rewarding thing you can learn how to do.

It’s okay to miss your old life.

Just don’t make it out to be something it wasn’t. I had to remind myself that even though I lost a working body, life hadn’t been all sunshine and rainbows before I got sick. I loved to run, but going for ten miles at a time was not a walk in the park. My lungs hurt, my legs burned, and I have always gotten bad shin splints from running. Now that I can’t, I often think about how much I loved it, but running isn’t always easy. Our lives in this weird little quarantine bubble have some bright spots we’ll miss. Whether it’s having your family at home with you, being able to binge on all the reality TV you didn’t have time to watch before, or being able to work in your pajamas, there are things that are good about the present time. We miss so much that we used to do on a regular basis or took for granted, but one day we’ll be back to our normal lives and look back at this as a little blip in our lives.

It’s also okay to be scared.

Losing every sense of normalcy is freaking hard. Find things to look forward to in your new life, and remember that so much of this is temporary. The pandemic isn’t going to last forever, and one day we will be out doing our own grocery shopping and going into work again. It’s so weird that we are all facing this uncertainty at once, but none of us are truly alone, and I think just about everyone has had a pit in their stomach at one point or another about how this is affecting each and every one of us. It’s normal to feel uncomfortable about something as big as this, but doing your best to focus on what you can control — and letting go of the things you can’t — does make the weight feel a little less of a burden.

And finally, circumstances change.

I am so thankful to have the health I do today. I get frustrated and angry when I try to go for a run and my heart can’t handle it, but I am so lucky to be able to go for walks without feeling dizzy, type on my computer without having terrible muscle pain, and I can cook now without worrying about my elbows or arms hurting — even if there is a lot of stirring involved. Things are constantly changing, and it is no different for the pandemic. Incredible minds are working to find solutions to this every single day, and I am confident that people are going to find ways for our lives to slowly gain a sense of normalcy.

I honestly don’t remember a lot of what life before chronic illness was like, in the sense that it’s difficult for me to feel like POTS was ever not here. I have to do a lot to manage my symptoms now, but everything has become such habit at this point that it doesn’t feel weird putting little electrolyte and sodium tablets in my water every time I go out to eat and I’m used to doing nerve glides and mobility work at the first sign of stiffness. This all feels so normal to me, so even if we do have some things that become a new normal, we’ll adjust. People are much more resilient and adaptable than we give ourselves credit for. I am not particularly strong or tough, and I really don’t like change. If I can go through years of being sick and dealing with a million changes, absolutely anyone can. We may not all be in the same boat, but we are all in this together, and don’t ever hesitate to reach out to others if you need help. Many people are looking for ways to help others, but just don’t know how.

mountain
I stumbled upon the Bible verse Isaiah 41:13 at the beginning of the pandemic, and keep it in the back of my mind when I have my moments of panic. I also think about how beautiful the world is, and how perfectly everything was made. Peaks and valleys in nature remind me of what life can be like, and we just happen to all be in a valley right now. I know one day we’ll turn a corner, though, and things will be much brighter than they seem right now.

Chronically Positive

Who all remembers when I had my “Chronically POTSitive” blog?

I initially created it for a class I was taking for my Master’s, but it was also a really fun way to start blogging and connecting to others with chronic illnesses. I have long given up writing on that — this blog is where my heart lies — but I have kept the mindset of being chronically positive. I’m not going to link any of that content because I wrote much of it lying dizzily on our living room couch so I’m a bit afraid of the errors that are surely scattered throughout my posts, but that is what initially made my heart feel open to the world and to share so much of my journey with others.

There are a few reasons I choose to be an optimist, and always try to look at the glass as being half full, rather than half empty. First, I’ve found that it’s actually a lot easier living as an optimist. Knowing that life is going to get better, even if it’s not necessarily there yet is such a powerful thing. I strongly believe in the power of positive thinking, and I think dreamers often get some of their wildest desires by putting them out into the world and fighting for what they want. Second, it is far less exhausting to be excited about the future than dreading it. Whether it’s with a job, dating, health, or anything that affects your quality of life, it’s always a lot easier getting through a bad day knowing that things will eventually take a turn for the better — even if it’s not that same week or year.

pots.png

I got sick with POTS almost 5 years ago now, and I still remember my parents telling me every single day that I was going to get better and I would be able to walk around without fainting again, spend time out with friends, and live a beautifully joyful life. My dad told me that things would get better every single day when he drove me to the gym to do my 20 minutes on the recumbent bike after his long work day in the city. My mom hugged me while I cried on the bedroom floor because I was tired of not being able to stand on my own or go to the bathroom in the middle of the night without calling to wake someone up because I might pass out on my way there. We played “Would You Rather” late into the night when I couldn’t sleep because of my heart palpitations and chest pain. I looked forward to our little games despite the circumstances, and we always made it a point to laugh every day, even when I felt like the world was crashing and burning around me. I got sick with POTS overnight with no warning, but despite being bedridden and feeling sick 24/7, we still managed to find joy in my life.


Glasses are used to be filled and emptied. You end some days with a completely dry glass, but remembering that you can still fill it with something even better is so important to continue moving forward. Let’s say you have a full glass of lukewarm water that gets knocked over and empties completely on the floor. It sucks that you don’t have a drink anymore, but now you have room to fill it with something better — like chocolate milk or iced tea. Getting rid of the water made room for an upgrade. Sometimes life isn’t fair and doesn’t go the way you hope it will. Your heart gets broken by the wrong guy and it feels like the end of the world until you learn you’re better off without him. Then you meet the love of your life, and you realize that getting dumped was actually the best thing that ever happened to you, even though your heart hurt terribly at the time, because it allowed you to find the one person you never want to live without.

POTS was heartbreaking, scary, and life-changing. My arms hurt while I am writing this, and I wish I could sit at my computer and pour out my heart on paper all day long. I want to travel without feeling like I’m high-maintenance, I want to run again, and I want to chase the dreams I had in college still without having to change them because of my illness. If I hadn’t gotten sick with POTS, though, there’s no way I would have really met Robert. I would have moved to New York City and continued to write for a magazine, and I wouldn’t have been in the area before he went on his deployment. I would have missed out on so many great memories with my family, and I would never have seen just how many people love and care about me. My heart may not work like a normal one anymore, but it’s grown several sizes larger to hold all the love that is in my life. People are absolutely the most important thing to me, and getting to hold so many hearts close to mine means infinitely more to me than any job or amount of money ever could.

LOVE.png

God works in mysterious ways, and although I am not sure why He hasn’t decided to give me back the body I used to have, I still have faith that I will have a joyful and fulfilling life. As my sweet friend Sophia often said, “The best is yet to come.”


After I wrote this post I happened to stumble upon this article by Forbes. Optimism is a life changer. Create it one step at a time and I promise you won’t be sorry.

All That Glitters

I haven’t done a ton of updates on wedding planning, mainly because I’ve just been so busy actually doing it. You know how fun and amazing the movies make everything seem? Parts of planning one of the most special days is just like that. Sharing the experience of finding the perfect dress with my mom and best friend was magical. I didn’t cry when I first found my dress — until I stepped onto the pedestal in front of the mirror and my mom started to. It was the only one that made both of us tear up, and that was the moment I knew I had found my dress. Going back to get the final seals of approval and choosing a few accessories was just as much fun. I’ve loved going to wedding expos, touring venues, and being silly and saying, “I wonder what has happened to my fiancée? Oh, I have lost my fiancée!” while I still can. I’ve loved looking at bridesmaid dresses, figuring out what colors will go with my shade of white (Who else knew there are like, ten different words for “White” when planning a wedding?), and daydreaming about what Robert will look like in a tux.

The hardest part of wedding planning isn’t the actual idea of planning, though. I love researching and chatting with people, I love thinking about little details, and I love getting to hear how passionate the vendors are about their craft. The hardest part about wedding planning is all the freaking chronic pain that’s been getting in the way. I hate to complain, but I do want to keep everything as real as I can for all of you as I go through the ups and downs of life. This is, after all, a lifestyle blog. I have so many things to check off of my list every day and mentally I can fly through them, but when I sit down to send emails and scroll through pages of ideas on my Pinterest boards and wedding message threads, my arms fatigue a lot faster than anything else. Ever since I’ve gotten in gear my arms have been bad again. I have knots and tender trigger points, and I have had the burning sensations I haven’t experienced in over a year now. I don’t know if the crunchy stuff in my elbows is still leftover scar tissue or something else, but my lacrosse ball doesn’t ever fully relieve the pain anymore.

I’ve had to take a step back and ask for more help. My mom has been incredible throughout this entire thing, and she’s gotten several of the big things checked off our list. I’m kind of in awe at how wonderfully she puts things together and has researched to figure out what vendors we can use to make our day a little easier and more carefree when it gets here. My mom is a cross between an angel and a superhero; I’ve always known this, but getting sick with a chronic illness at 22 confirmed it for me. She’s taken care of me throughout the entire time of being sick, and always puts my needs above her own. I couldn’t imagine doing any of this without her, and am so thankful that she’s doing this alongside me. If it weren’t for her, I know we couldn’t have pulled off a fall wedding.

I think the frustrating part of planning is that I so badly want to be able to craft and write down every single thing I do and learn. I want to blog about it all, I want to have a really snazzy wedding website to share all the details with all of you, and more than anything I want to be able to create so many special moments for everyone who is coming to our wedding. I wrote a little draft about my dream wedding when we first got engaged, and the most important thing is that I want everyone there to feel really special and joyful too. This is all such a Krista-y thing, and I want every moment that day to be filled with a new surprise and something that will make everyone really happy. There are about seven million things I want to do, but I have to be choosy because of my energy level and pain. Surprises and events take a whole lot of planning to just get the basics done, and I never would have anticipated so much work is put into one day!

Screen Shot 2018-04-13 at 10.13.41 AM.png

So, now that I’ve shared the hard part about wedding planning, I’ll be excited to share all the things that have brought me so much joy. At the end of the day, this date is so much more than just a wedding. It’s the start of the rest of my life with Robert, and it’s just a really great way to celebrate with people we love and care about. I already know that there will be hiccups, I will be nervous to be the center of attention for a short bit, and that not everything will go according to plan. I know everyone says that a wedding is something a girl dreams about her whole life, but my dreams go so far beyond this beautiful fall day. Once September has come and gone, I know the real adventure has just begun. 

Full

First, I would like to start this blog post by saying “Hoppy Easter.” Macy is sitting in my lap right now and wanted me to include a cute animal pun.

macy.png

The change in weather in the DC area has been crazy lately. This is a huge annoyance because it’s made me more symptomatic. Fall has become my favorite season since the temperatures are typically pretty mild, and there doesn’t seem to be as much rain as there is in the springtime.

This summer will be my 5 year anniversary with POTS. Did you know that a 50 year anniversary is called a “golden anniversary?” I guess you’re typically supposed to get your significant other something made out of gold. My brain is a funny thing and works really quickly jumping from one subject to the next, so I somehow got to thinking about that and wondering if a 5 year anniversary had a name. After a quick meeting with Google, I found that silverware is the token gift for 5 years. I couldn’t help but grin since I often feel like I don’t have enough spoons throughout the week. This is a kind of cruel irony.

One of the hardest things about having a chronic illness is just the simple fact that life is more drastically unpredictable than the average human’s. You often hear someone with a chronic condition say that they are having a “good day” or a “bad day,” but either way it will pass and there will be another kind lined up and ready to take its place. POTS has taught me to really enjoy moments, especially when I get to do something out of the ordinary that might cause a lot of joy — and bring with it a lot of pain the next day.

I write about pain a lot more than I ever talk about it because I do want to enjoy my life and have the little moments that make life so beautiful. Regardless of feeling crappy right now, I want to remember that four years ago my life was being lived horizontally. I do feel really blessed that I can walk, sit upright, and enjoy so many amazing things that I do take for granted. A few years ago I couldn’t stand more than a minute at a time without fainting, and the only time I really left home was to go to the doctors office or to the gym for my daily recumbent bike routine.  The thing I find most interesting about this is that I have really fond memories even from way back then. The amazing part of being an optimist and looking at the glass half full is that I do remember how shitty I felt, but it isn’t at the forefront of my mind when I think about being 23 years old. I think about watching Top Chef with my mom and dreaming about being able to cook again one day. I remember making “Dunkaroos” with Goldfish and salt because I couldn’t figure out another way to eat enough, and I remember close friends coming over and sitting on the couch with me and telling me stories about what their life is like post college. I remember sitting with my passenger seat reclined as my dad drove me two miles down the road to do my gym workout, and the stories we would tell each other back and forth. I remember him telling me I would get better one day, and my mom playing “Would You Rather” with me when I couldn’t sleep at night. I still have the memory of lying down in the middle of the movie theater floor so I wouldn’t pass out while waiting in line for popcorn with friends, but I don’t remember the extreme nausea and dizziness from that episode anymore. Now it’s a kind of funny memory, and I wonder how there was a time I didn’t feel embarrassed to be the center of attention for something so out of the ordinary. In fact, I feel lucky that I get embarrassed about POTS things now. This means I am healing and major health complications are not a regular part of my day.

Tonight I am stiff, sore, and ready for sleep. My shoulders hurt from a long week and I am ready for the pain to subside so I can get a good night’s sleep. Instead of remembering this feeling a year from now, though, I know that I am going to remember what it was like going out on a fun double date and reminiscing through old college memories, rather than how badly my shoulders hurt or how tired I am of “working to get better.” I know that one day I will be a lot more normal because I am still making improvements, even if they sometimes feel small.

Screen Shot 2018-03-31 at 11.43.54 PM.png

I don’t know whether looking at the glass half full is something you’re born with, or an outlook you develop, but I am so thankful that I have that ability in my life. I know sometimes it can be easy to feel frustrated or wonder why you got the short end of the stick in one way or another, but the way I see it is if a glass is half empty, it is because you enjoyed something from it, so there is something to be joyful for. Glasses are things that are meant to be filled and emptied, kind of in the same way that life sometimes has its ups and downs. We may not have the ability to control everything that happens in our lives, but we can learn to control our outlook, which is actually one of the most incredible and worthwhile things a person can do. Life isn’t always easy or fun, but there is always something to be joyful for — you just have to learn how to look for it.

Everyday People

You know what’s kind of crazy? We interact with broken people on a daily basis. Whether they are trudging through heartbreak or there’s something else they’re dealing with, these blank faces surround us. They’re shopping in grocery stores, standing in line at Starbucks, walking around the mall, and even sleeping in the homes beside our own.

It makes my heart hurt thinking about others in pain. People reach out to me on a regular basis about recent breakups or tricky situations with their significant other, and I always wish there was more that I could do to help than offer a hug, ear to listen, and a handwritten letter reminding them that they are not alone and things always get better.

alone.png

We all have different ways of dealing with sadness and loneliness. Some people go out into the world and try to distract themselves with a good time, while others struggle to get out of bed. Just because someone is smiling on the outside doesn’t mean they don’t feel broken on the inside. I have had times in my life where I couldn’t hold everything together, so I rushed to the bathroom to cry. A restroom — whether it’s public or in a home — is a private space that absorbs tears well. There are times where you are surrounded by people but couldn’t feel more alone.

My heart has been content and full for awhile now, but I am often reminded of how brokenness feels through friends and my beautiful readers. I can sense when something is off, and it isn’t difficult to spot emptiness in someone’s eyes. A damaged heart is something that everyone can relate to in some way or another, and I think it’s so important for humans to stick together in every way they can in this world. With things that cannot be controlled like sickness and death, there are already so many difficult things to deal with. Why not stand up for one another and choose to love each other every single day?

bright.png

Today’s lesson: Be a light for people in your life. Whether they’re strangers or your very best friends, leave each person better than you found them. Use words to build confidence, companionship, and joy, and realize that you absolutely can make a difference in someone’s life whether or not you’ll ever see them again. Choose to love people each and every day. Love and compassion are absolutely a choice, and they are so easy to freely give to people. Why not try to make the world a better place, one broken heart at a time?

Rose, Bud, & Thorn

Have you ever been in enough pain to make you feel sick?

It’s one of the most annoying things that happens with POTS. Last night I passed out on my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I think it’s because I’ve been having some muscle spasm issues in my back lately. EDS makes it really easy to get injured. Partly because of my hypermobile joints; the other part is due to the fact that my body overreacts when it feels a threat — such as a torn muscle.

I’ve been a bit cranky this week because of that and a migraine. I tend to try to suck it up and not complain too much, but that sometimes makes me a little bit grumpy, so I think I need to be a little more vocal about venting and then trying to ignore my symptoms as best as I can.

I’m not feeling much better, but tonight is going to be a turning point so I can have a nice weekend. From tonight until Monday I am going to try my best to focus on the present, not how long I’ve been hurting or wondering when I’ll feel better.

Tonight while I put some heat on my spine, I decided to play a game with y’all that my roommate and I loved in college. It’s called rose, bud, and thorn. It’s a game we played every single night and would giggle about as we recounted the details of the day to one another. The rose of the day is the best part of the day. The bud is something you’re looking forward to most, and the thorn is a not so great moment. Feel free to sound off yours in the comments; I would love if other people played along with me!

Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 11.54.28 PM.png

I had 2 roses today. The first was when my mom and I took Macy on a walk. She looked so darn happy, and I love watching Macy chase little butterflies when we go out into a field! My second rose was when Robert called me on the phone after work and we had a kind of silly conversation. It made me smile, and I do think lighthearted fun is the best medicine.

My bud is this weekend. Robert and I are having another date night, which should be fun, and I am excited to just kind of relax and have a chill weekend after that. I also got a surprise for him, and hope we can use it this weekend! I will post what it is at a later date, but it’s something kind of nerdy and fun.

My thorn is just not feeling well. I am optimistic that tomorrow is going to be a great day, though, and I’m really going to try to enjoy the little things!

I’m feeling really sleepy now and am hoping I’ll be able to get some rest now. Goodnight world, I will post another little blurb tomorrow. I’m trying to be better about writing because I know people keep coming back to my site, and you deserve to have something new to read. Thank you for being kind and patient with me! ❤