Marks In Time

A lot can change in a year.

Time is a funny thing because as intangible as it is, it sometimes feels very concrete. There are certain things that make time more significant. You know both college and high school are going to last 4 years, your birthday will be around again exactly 365 days from the last one, and the Christmas season is every 48 weeks or so. Having a chronic illness makes time a little fuzzy sometimes, though. I have had POTS since August of 2013 and can pinpoint different phases throughout my journey, but it feels weird that I’m coming up on five years now. I have been fighting for my health longer than the time I spent in college, which is super weird. When I think about going to Mason I have such different memories from each year I was there. When I was a freshman I was timid and shy. I didn’t feel like I had a place I belonged, and I left campus to stay with my family just about every other weekend. I liked my classes and had a couple of really close friends I would keep for the rest of my life, but I was still figuring everything out.

My sophomore year was a blast. I made so many new friends, and I had a group of people who felt like home. I made friends with the girls I would call my roommates the next year, and I was an editor for the school newspaper. I didn’t find as much confidence with writing until later in college, but I looked forward to every day I would spend in the Broadside office with all of the other aspiring writers. Sophomore year was spent finding myself, and learning what I wanted to do the rest of my time in college.

Junior year was probably my favorite. I loved feeling secure with some of the best friends I could ever dream of, and had a great balance of work and play. I turned 21 that year and will never forget that birthday. I waited to drink until I turned 21, so all of my friends crammed into our little apartment living room to celebrate with me. People brought six packs of different things to drink, but I stuck with a cherry Smirnoff Ice. I was surprised it didn’t taste very alcoholic, and took my time sipping on my new favorite drink. That year we spent long nights dancing at the bar down the street every Thursday, and still had the energy to go out and explore restaurants and museums on Friday and Saturday.

Senior year before moving to New York is a blur, but my last semester of college spent in the city was one of the best memories from those four years. I had my fair share of adventures, long hours working overtime in the office, and despite blocking it out most of the time, I had my share of lonely nights in that little shoebox apartment on the eighth floor. New York was definitely an enormous highlight of my college career, and I’m still so thankful for each and every memory I gathered from that time.

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My mom took this picture of me my first month being a New Yorker. I felt so at home rushing around the city in my little dresses and tights, and fit in with all the editors at Seventeen by living on coffee, books, and cupcakes.

Do you see how easy it was for me to create four years of my life?

It hasn’t really been like that again until recently. The first few years of getting sick really blur together. I have a little bit of a timeline I can create, but it isn’t the same concrete, certain one I have from every other year of my life.

I got sick and went to a million different doctors. I had my heart hooked up to echocardiograms, holter monitors, and got tested for diseases I had never heard of. I watched The Food Network, then I watched The Office, then even later I started a new series called Pretty Little Liars. I went to the local shopping center with friends and found myself lying on the lobby floor of the movie theater to keep from fainting. I went home and cried, and wondered why I was the person God allowed to get sick. I remember nights of lying on the couch and having conversations with friends about the outside world I no longer felt a part of, and wondering aloud if I would ever be able to have a normal twenty-something life again. I remember getting my first job while I was home sick, then having chronic, debilitating pain from using my arms too much. I was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, and had to stop doing the one thing that made me feel kind of normal and independent.

I remember moments, but I have no idea when they happened.

I also don’t know when I started getting better, as it’s been super-slow, but there are a few things that offer great markers of healing. One year ago my mom hosted a Bunco party at our home. She always takes the month of February, and I often get invited to come play with her group when it’s held at our house. Bunco is essentially a game of rolling dice and giving an opportunity to catch up with friends. Last year I remember finishing the game and going upstairs and feeling heartbroken at all the pain I was in — just from rolling dice for an hour. My pectoral muscles were sore and ropey, and my shoulders and arms burned with sharp, constant pain. I regretted taxing myself so much for a game, but I also wondered how something so simple could cause so much of an issue. It wasn’t normal, and I hated having to choose between living my life and feeling good. 

She hosted this same party again last night and I got to attend. I am sore and by the end of the night I was glad to be done with the rolling motions, but today isn’t an 8 or 9 on the pain scale like it was last year. My physical therapy sessions are so beneficial for my health, but I will be able to make it until my Friday appointment without trying to hold it together while I’m reeling in pain. I’m more sore than I am on an average day, but I don’t feel like I’m going to have a complete breakdown from being in pain. I can easily handle a little bit of soreness and as long as I take it a little easier today I will make up for everything with my stretching and workouts. This is proof that despite relying heavily on physical therapy and rest, I am making progress.

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Today’s lesson: Even if you feel frustrated because something isn’t changing, taking a look at the really big picture and having little mile markers is so helpful for keeping spirits high. I still may have a long way to go in being normal again (And maybe I’ll never quite get there), but any kind of baby steps I can take is still progress. I’ve already learned so much through my journey, and I trust God to be with me every step of the way. Staying positive and remembering blessings throughout every step helps me have a thankful heart. My path has helped me become more empathetic, kind, and understanding, and it has led me to my new forever family member, which is absolutely priceless.

WE ARE ENGAGED!!!!!

Hi Single in The Suburbs family!

You might have noticed that I’ve been gone for a little over a week now… Well that’s because I’ve just been busy getting engaged! Robert asked me to marry him last week in New York City, and I have been so excited since. I wanted to share the news with some of my close friends before announcing it to the world, but now that everyone knows I can’t wait to share some of the story with y’all.

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Two Christmases ago I would’ve never guessed that I would be spending the end of 2017 engaged. Actually, I kind of take that back, because two years ago was the first time Robert and I said we loved each other. All my friends knew from the start that my relationship with Robert was different than anything I’ve had before. Our hearts combined are a once in a lifetime love, and I’m so excited to have him by my side for forever.

This weekend is a little crazy because it’s my mom’s birthday and then mine, but I’ll be doing a lot of writing next week to give you guys the scoop. ❤

Do You Believe In Magic?

Something about the Christmas season is just so beautiful. It’s a time for love, joy, patience, and family.

The past few years I haven’t been in the Christmas spirit as much. It’s always been tied with Valentine’s Day for my favorite holiday, but I think I just Christmassed myself out after years of starting to listen to the tunes the day after Halloween and jumping into the season a little too early. I always love spending the day with my family, but leading up to it just hasn’t been as thrilling as it usually is for a few years. My family and I have little traditions I’ve looked forward to — like driving around our neighborhood and looking at lights and going to the Japanese steakhouse for hibachi on Christmas Eve — but I haven’t been going nuts about the holiday for more than a month in advance like I usually would.

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This year I’m really excited about all the beauty Christmas has to offer. I’m excited to see all the beautiful lights and decorations, I’ve found some Christmas albums I’m not tired of, and I want to do lots of little acts of kindness this season.

I started my shopping early this year and have already found gifts for several of my friends and family. We are going to New York City soon, and I am just dying to go to Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas tree and ice arena. I haven’t ever been to the Top of the Rock, but I hear the views are spectacular, and arguably the best in Manhattan. I want to go to Macy’s to see the Christmas displays in the windows, and I want to visit the new cafe to see what it’s really like having Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

This season I want to build gingerbread houses, bake cookies for people who have touched my life in one way or another, and drive around looking at lights at least twice a week. I am going to drink lots of peppermint hot chocolate, sit in front of the fire with cozy wool socks and my puppy, and watch as many Hallmark Christmas movies as I can handle. I feel like my list is getting incredibly ambitious, but I think we need to celebrate the things that make us excited in this life. Christmas is a time of the year we can really feel the magic of other people, and despite hating the cold, I always have a warm heart this time of year.


What makes you the most excited about the season? What are more fun things I can add to my list? What should I do to give more this holiday? I would love to hear some ideas in the comments!

Give A Piece Of Your Heart To Someone

I’m always seeing little graphics that say, “tag someone who needs to hear this,” or, “tag a friend to let them know you’re there for them,” on Facebook and Instagram. While the person who created the thread means well, as do the friends who write, “@insert_name_here” in the comments, that just doesn’t cut it for letting your loved ones know you care about them.

November is a month for thankfulness, so the next few weeks I’d love to challenge you to write love letters to friends and family you care about. A letter is one of the most intimate and personal things you can offer someone; you are giving a piece of your heart and spilling out your feelings on a permanent page.

Is letter writing not really your thing? Then I encourage you even more to sit down at your desk and write a few letters. Often some of the most beautiful notes I get are from people who have scribbly handwriting or don’t use the most eloquent adjectives available in the English language. I realize that these letters are truly written from the heart, and that someone was sitting and thinking about me for an uninterrupted amount of time while they put pen to paper.

If you don’t quite know where to start, some of the subjects you can touch on are why you love the person you are writing to, how they have made an impact on your life, and what they do that you happen to think is incredibly amazing about them. You love them for a reason, and all you have to do is write that down so they can see that and cherish it forever. If nothing else, I challenge you to write three letters in the rest of November. Then, see who really appreciates the note, and make a habit of sending one letter every month. It only takes a few minutes, but is a gesture that can mean the world to someone.

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Bonus: Write a letter to sweet little Jacob. You can count this toward your three for the month, and I promise this will be an effort that won’t be in vain. As someone who saves special letters from readers and loved ones, this gesture means more than you could imagine.

“I Can’t Wait Until Tomorrow”

How many times have you heard someone utter the words, “I can’t wait until tomorrow,” “I can’t wait until Friday,” or “I hate Mondays?” I find myself saying this on days I feel sick, lonely, or even just bored.

Somehow the future is always more bright, beautiful, and easier than today. Nobody warned us that there would still be trials, loss, and unplanned twists and turns where you least expect them. That being said, why do we still always hope for tomorrow to come, even when we have so many blessings today? I think a big part of it has to do with boredom. It’s hard to sit still and have a mundane schedule and so much easier to “live for today” when today is exciting and great.

Getting sick with POTS really opened my eyes to the harder parts of life. One of the most difficult lessons I’ve learned is that the future isn’t promised, and some dreams may never come true. You know what else I learned from these lessons, though? That this is all okay! I learned that you have the opportunity to grow and learn from trials, and that you can always handle so much more than you realize. I learned that sometimes the hardest thing you have to go through can turn into the biggest blessing you’ve ever had, and that God’s plan for you is even better than what you have planned for yourself. Finally, I learned that sometimes all you can do is take life one day at a time, and focusing too much on the future can actually be harmful when you are dealing with a particularly difficult trial.

Instead, on the harder days I try my best to list my blessings. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve surely seen my “Five Blessings” posts. This was the most recent one:

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Instead of having the mindset that life is going to be better tomorrow, count the blessings you have today. Don’t get me wrong; it can be really hard sometimes, but if you can find even just one thing to be grateful for, life quickly feels a little bit easier. Sometimes you need to just take baby steps, even if it’s just counting your blessings — one day at a time.


Update: Still trying to change my domain to KristaLauren.com, but it’s taking forever because I need technical help and it hasn’t been the biggest priority on my list. Keep in mind this site will be changing, though!

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.