Trader Joe’s is one of my favorite places on earth. I’ve been going since I was a kid, and I think just about every single one of my friends in college was forced to try one thing or another from this divine grocery store.
I text friends on a pretty regular basis what all of my new Joe’s finds are, so I figured I might as well make a weekly blog post about it. This week we’re in for a real treat too, because they happened to have my favorite fruit in the entire world. You guessed it:
1. Cotton Candy Grapes I tell everyone about CC grapes. They literally taste exactly like what you would get at the circus or the fair, but aren’t unhealthy! The coolest thing is that they are still organic, despite being some sort of weird hybrid grape. I eat them by the pound, and hope they’ll still be around in a week or two so I can get another giant box.
2. Sea Salt & Turbinado Sugar Dark Chocolate Almonds That name is a mouthful, and you’ll definitely want to take one of these dark chocolate almonds once you try them. I got hooked on these when I was in college, and they were a great breakthrough to how amazing dark chocolate can be. Even my husband — who hates dark chocolate — eats these by the fistful. They have a perfect sweet and salty mix, and are wildly addicting.
3. Movie Theater Butter Popcorn Speaking of college, you could always find me studying with a snack, particularly the perfectly buttered bagged popcorn from Trader Joe’s. It’s almost as good as the real thing, and is way too easy to eat an entire bag in a sitting. I still always keep a bag or two in our pantry because my chocolate lab, Jax, and I enjoy splitting it while watching Big Brother or a goofy Hallmark movie.
4. Sparkling Watermelon Juice PLEASE make this a staple, TJ’s!! It breaks my heart that this is a seasonal item because I would like to have these year-round. There came a point where I stocked up on 6 boxes of juice, but sadly I am down to one can now. Hoping they’ll bring it back soon, but if not I’ll be stocking up a lot better next season so they’ll last me at least a few months.
5. Vitamin E Oil This is a very recent discovery, but I’m already obsessed with it. You can get this serum for about $5, and it’s amazing to create hydrated and smooth legs after shaving. It felt really great and I would never use it on my face, but it’s really nice for a little extra body shimmer. Just be careful about how much you put on, because it becomes a little greasy quickly.
Well, that’s all for now, friends. Next week I’ll be posting five new pumpkin things to try at Trader Joe’s, in honor of them bringing out their fall collection. Last year I bought a bunch of pumpkin pancake mix at the end of the season so we could enjoy them year-round. You never know when seasonal items at TJ’s might sell out, so it’s always good to stock up when you can.
One of the hardest parts about having a chronic illness is feeling like I have less value because I am not contributing as much to the community as my peers. Before I got sick I was working toward pursuing a career in journalism. I took internships, worked part time at a newspaper, and was excited to continue my journey working at Seventeen magazine to hopefully impact young women in a positive way. I have always felt that words are one of the most powerful tools we have, and all of us have a wonderful opportunity to lift others up and make them feel less alone in this big world.
I always dread the question, “So, what do you do?” when I meet someone new. I hate explaining right off the bat, “Well, I got sick when I graduated from college, so I’m trying to get back on my feet and am working on getting my health in line.” Over five years later now I have made leaps and bounds in progress, but I still am figuring out how to manage what I’ve begun to accept as my new normal. Not only is my answer incredibly awkward, but I also just feel so lame not having a cool job or anything to show for my life. I worked so freaking hard before I got sick and have absolutely nothing to show for it anymore. The internship I had at a national news company isn’t relevant anymore, and my job at Seventeen wasn’t able to materialize into what it could have because I couldn’t even walk down the driveway to the mailbox when I first got sick. My illness didn’t just take my body away from me; it took away every sense of normalcy I had ever worked to create. I have nothing to be proud of, and feels like I can’t make an adequate contribution to society anymore. I have relied on others to take care of me, when all I have ever wanted to do was be able to take care of others.
If anyone who had a chronic illness told me they felt worthless, my heart would feel completely broken and I would try as hard as I possibly could to show them what an enormous, ugly lie that was. People shouldn’t feel like they don’t have worth in this world just because their body doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. Our value does not reside in what we do — or don’t do — for a living, and people can still change lives when their bodies don’t work properly.
Whether or not you are a Christian, I think the Bible has a really beautiful sentiment about our worth as human beings. Psalm 139: 13-14 says, “For You [God] formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well.” This doesn’t say that we have value because of our job or what we do; it says we were born having value. We are made in God’s image, and He only creates beauty for the world. I think it’s very powerful knowing that even before ever doing anything in the world we have irreplaceable value. Just ask a mother of a newborn baby; she will say that her child means absolutely everything to her, and that is merely for existing, it isn’t anything he has done to make her feel this way.
I am a firm believer that everyone has a purpose in the world and can make a difference in a way that no one else could. Just because you are bedridden or need to be taken care of absolutely does not mean you don’t have value in the world. You have qualities to offer people that make you absolutely irreplaceable in their lives, so we need to stop telling ourselves the lie that we aren’t as valuable because we are different.
On the other hand, I understand the ache that is in your heart for the opportunities you have missed and feeling like some of life has passed you by. I don’t have the resume I would have had if I hadn’t gotten sick, and there are a lot of experiences I missed out on. It’s weird listening to my friends all talk about what they’re doing at work and how comfortable they are there. I still remember working at the magazine’s office like it was yesterday, but I also think that experience was so different because you’re the lowest on the totem pole. Dealing with an illness does teach you what is important in the world, though, and gives amazing perspective people often don’t have until much later on in life. It teaches you to hold on to all the amazing blessings you are given, because sometimes they can be fleeting, and to be thankful for the people closest to you. It teaches lessons of patience, hard work, and resilience. You learn what it’s like to be empathetic with people, rather than just offering sympathy, and you are given an opportunity to be a light for others who go through the exact same things you deal with on an every day basis. Chronic illness builds beautiful warriors who have such important lessons they need to share with the world.
I understand questioning your worth as much as anyone else with a chronic illness, and I am right there with you trying to find my own purpose. The words I wrote on this page make sense to my brain and I know that my life has incredible value, but my heart sometimes has a hard time making the connection. I feel lost in a big world that doesn’t understand me, and I am getting swallowed up in the lies I tell myself at night. Being sick has taught me I’m a fighter, though, and I’m not going to stop searching until I figure out what I’m here for. Deep down I know I have an important role in the world. I just might take a little longer to figure out what it is and that’s okay.
I got a glimpse into one of the most hilarious corners of adult life this week — the Facebook Marketplace.
Being a homeowner has been fun because I love our place, but it’s also a whole lot of work. We are redoing our back yard right now, and dug up about 400 cobblestones that must have been put in as some sort of underground patio by the last owners. These things are easily a pound each, and it would not be fun taking them all to the dump, so I listed them on Facebook Marketplace to get rid of them. Guys. My phone blew up.
“Hi, is this item available?”
“Hello, I’d like to come take a look at the cobblestones.”
“Hey, when can I come pick up the stones?”
“I can come get them today, give me your address.”
I got dozens of messages in the matter of minutes, and they just kept coming. It was amusing, but also stressful enough that I didn’t check my Facebook messages for a few days after creating my listing. When I finally had the patience and courage to sort through everything, I signed on to weed through all the people who wanted our cobblestones. My method was pretty simple. Women got priority because I would rather have a woman come to my house than a man (Why? Check out my last post). Then they got eliminated from the list if their profile picture wasn’t of them. I love dogs more than just about anyone, but I’d like to know whoever is coming over doesn’t mind putting her face out there for me to see. Finally, the easiest part was that I just gave whoever reached out first the priority. This whole week I’ve been bombarded with more messages that I could have ever imagined, been ghosted by people who claimed to want the stones, and finally met up with a really nice couple who is going to use them on their horse farm.
As anxiety-inducing as the Facebook Marketplace is, I’d definitely recommend it to anyone trying to get rid of any sort of home goods. People on there are sharks just waiting for something to chomp down on, and if you don’t feel like hauling something away, your trash could be another person’s treasure.
What do you think one of the most hilarious things about being in your late twenties or early thirties is? Do you have any experience with the crazy world of Facebook Marketplace?
No, this is not going to be a normal recipe post like I had been getting into before. I am linking it to Game of Thrones, once again, because I just crammed so much in to such a short period of time that I’m probably going to be overly-obsessed for a little while.
Anyway, I really wanted to make a fun dinner for the night of the premiere, but I was catching up on season 7 until the very last minute, so that was an unrealistic goal. It was too late to order anything GoT related, and I’ve looked all over for the themed Oreos with no success. On Monday, though, I did make a new steak dish, and it reminded me of something the Lannister’s might have had. I cooked some filet mignon with garlic butter, roasted potatoes, and carrots. It was so easy but tasted even better than filet I’ve had in restaurants, so I figured I would share. As always, I’m not going to give amounts of what I used, but I’ll describe it well enough that you can just make everything accordingly with how much food you’d like to make.
Garlic Butter Filet Mignon with Roasted Carrots and Potatoes
I got all of my ingredients at Trader Joe’s. You will need:
Steak filets – I like organic grassfed beef.
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 415°F. I found a bunch of different temperatures to make your steak at, but settled in the middle at this. Take out the steak and butter from the fridge, and bring it to room temperature for 20-30 minutes.
Step 2: Chop the carrots and red potatoes and put them on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with EVOO, salt, and pepper, then stick them in the oven to begin roasting while you prepare the butter and steak.
Step 3: Chop the rosemary and thyme finely, and mince a few cloves of garlic. Mix it all together with the butter until you’re happy with the proportions, then stick the butter back in the fridge to firm a little.
Step 4: Dry the steak with paper towels, then put a generous amount of salt and pepper on each side. Note: Apparently the smell that hits you when you open a container of raw steak is normal. I was not prepared and thought we might be getting a legit medieval experience. YIKES.
Step 5: Drizzle some EVOO and melt butter in a frying pan, or, preferably on a cast iron skillet. I did the frying pan because we don’t have an iron skillet to use, but plan on investing in one now!
Step 6: Sear the filets for about 3 minutes on each side, until they have browned a bit.
Step 7: Move the iron skillet to the oven, or put the steaks on foil on the cookie sheet with the veggies. I poured the excess juice over top of the steaks so they’d be nice and juicy.
Step 8: Google how long to cook your steak in the oven. I am not a professional, and I know it’s a crime, but I like my steak medium-well. I cooked it for about 6 minutes in the oven, but it will obviously depend on the thickness of your steak and your preference for how red you like it. I think a Lannister would likely just eat it after searing lightly in the pan, but Joffrey might have just gone for the raw meat.
Step 9: Take out your steak and vegetables when you’re happy with the way they look, put them on a plate, and top the steak with the garlic butter. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on it all and enjoy! If you really want to feel like Tyrian, you should help yourself to a glass of red wine — or maybe three.
Oh my gosh. I am on season five of Game of Thrones. This has been quite a wild ride, but I’m powering through and think I’ll make it by Sunday. I don’t think you can catch up in time if you haven’t started already, but if you’re only a few seasons behind — like I am now — I’m kind of an expert on how to get it all done in time for the final season’s premiere on Sunday. I didn’t think I could do it, but based on how fast I’m getting through now I think I’ll be all caught up and able to enjoy season 8 with all the people who have been fans for almost a decade now.
Here are my secrets:
Download HBO Now and learn to multitask. They have a free week trial and that’s all you need, then you can switch to any other HBO source or watch parties for the rest of season 8. I like watching on my phone, and this has been key to catching up efficiently. Here are the places I have watched GoT:
In bed. I watch it when I wake up or when I go to sleep. Basically whenever I can; I’m all for cramming any chance I get.
In the kitchen while I’m making dinner, eating cereal, and when I’m cleaning up.
I watch in the shower. I take my iPhone and turn the volume up full blast, and tilt the screen so I can watch it while I shampoo and condition. This is a crucial step, because it shows just how important it is to watch literally every chance you get. Just because you’re taking a shower does not excuse you from the throne.
At the gym. Thanks for making me feel right at home, Planet Fitness! Your lax attitude towards us working out makes me feel less weird about spending 50 minutes biking and watching people fight with swords.
Any errands you run can be made into a GoT session. For instance, I went to Giant to go grocery shopping and put my phone on the little seat in the cart to watch as I picked out vegetables for dinner. Granted, I came home with onions instead of carrots, but I still consider it a win, because I got through the rest of the episode while I was out.
You can even just listen to some of the slower parts of the show. This is good for activities that require a little more attention, but when you aren’t using too much brainpower.
Recruit someone to watch with you. It’s been nice having a husband who is also invested enough in the show to watch the older seasons with me, but I also have a big group of friends who like chatting about it. Talking all about the show and nothing else has helped me catch up quickly because I have a duty to fulfill. I have to be able to keep up with everyone else in season 8 so we can all talk about it. Life isn’t just all about me anymore. I have people counting on me, and I don’t intend to let them down.
Post about it. A lot. If you follow my Instagram you’ve maybe seen my 30+ posts a day about the show. I’ve asked questions and made goofy observations, and talking to everyone about it helps me absorb more information in a short amount of time. I can’t pay complete attention to the screen while I’m multitasking, so asking things like, “How is someone going to be worse than Joffrey?” (Oh, Krista, you had a lot to learn) or, “What the heck is a stone man?” I still don’t know the significance of stone men, but I have a feeling we’ll barely ever see them again.
Don’t prioritize anything above watching. Sure you’ll be invited to social events and maybe you even have an important appointment. Any free time you have, though, has to be dedicated to Game of Thrones. Have a first date on the books? Cancel it. Or, see if he wants to watch with you — as long as you didn’t meet him online and he could be potentially a major creep. Your excuse is that you have to go to the dentist? Reschedule. They’ll understand; after all, winter is coming, and you have to prepare.
Each period in my life has had something memorable that I can pinpoint and think back to. Except when I got sick with POTS. I remember very vividly how scary the first few days and nights were, but I don’t remember some kind of big details that were during that time period. Other than my family knowing what was going on from being there, I don’t remember telling anyone that I got sick overnight. I don’t recall even sending out one message saying I felt like I was dying and that I had gone into some sort of shock; I don’t think I did. I was so focused on how my body was completely giving up on me that I didn’t think to message anyone about it. Looking back, that was really strange and unlike me, but I think I was just too focused on the problem at hand to think straight. I’ve asked people who were close to me at the time what they remember about me getting sick, but I don’t think there was a monumental moment that anyone could recall. I don’t think the people who were really close to me understood how big of a deal this was until a few months later when I was still somehow sick.
I decided to do some digging and show you a little bit of my life pre-POTS, and then few things after getting diagnosed. So much of this time is so foggy to me because I was just in survival mode and trying to navigate life with a new collection of health problems. I don’t really remember living the first few months, with the exception of some pretty life-changing doctors appointments. Even those are a little bit foggy, though. I couldn’t stand very long when I went to my appointments, and often had to retake my blood pressure several times because I couldn’t stand very long without passing out.
One thing that is absolutely crazy to me is that my husband, Robert, never knew pre-POTS Krista. He’s heard about what I used to be like and the hobbies that I had before getting sick, but he didn’t experience going running with me or seeing my hilariously serious work ethic in school. He never held my hands before they were always hot or cold, and didn’t get to see how vicious I was in even a casual game of volleyball. This is something I wish was different, and that I feel sad about on occasion. It’s a big enough deal that my best friend Audrey included this tidbit in her maid of honor speech at our wedding — though she said the kindest things and that he didn’t need to know what I was like before I got sick to love me for my heart. It’s weird feeling like there are parts of me that are just gone completely now that I can’t be as active as I once was.
That was the Krista I felt proud of, and miss a lot of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I still think there are so many wonderful traits I have after getting sick, but work and sports are not a big part of my life anymore, and these were such a large part of my identity for so long that it’s been hard trying to recreate myself and figure out what I can do with my new restrictions. Since getting sick I lost so many things that brought me joy, and am still trying to find a balance between having experiences and continuing in my journey to getting better.
I got sick with POTS in August of 2013. Up until then, I loved working. In college I always had some sort of job in writing, and made money babysitting a few days a week after school. I worked for the school newspaper almost every semester as a columnist or editor, had several in the journalism field, and was involved in a few different clubs on campus. I loved being busy and whenever I had free time, I tried to find something new to occupy my time with.
2013 started off getting a phone call from my number one internship choice. After several interviews, I had snagged the editorial job at Seventeen magazine in New York City — my favorite place in the entire world. I was on top of the world, and although I wished a little bit that I had been able to enjoy the previous semester at college knowing it was going to be my last, I knew this was the step I wanted to take. I was ready to get out into the real world and start working. It had always been my dream to be a journalist, and I would finally get to do what I loved! Granted, I had a full course load I had to take online, but I knew it would all pay off when I could move to New York and continue working for a magazine with the Hearst corporation after completing my internship there. I was confident in my writing, and I knew someone would want to hire me full-time when I was done working for free. It turns out they would, but I wouldn’t be able to accept an offer to my dream job just two months after completing my time in the city.
Rewind to 2012, right before I got the phone call and moved to New York City. This was my last year without having POTS.
I celebrated my 22nd birthday at a Japanese steakhouse that had the most hilarious birthday ritual. They kicked the night off by bringing a balloon and a flaming shot. Then, all the lights in the restaurant went off and a disco ball came down from the ceiling. Five servers with different instruments began to play, and sing “happy birthday” at the top of their lungs. I cried I was laughing so hard. They spoiled me for the rest of the night and kept bringing little free dishes in between our stay there. I got sorbet, cheesecake, drinks, and little appetizers throughout the meal. Every time someone different came over and said, “happy birthday!” and delivered some sort of new surprise. They ended the night by putting a $3 charge on the bill titled, “Birthday Party.” It just made the night that much more funny, and this experience was what prompted me to take Robert to this exact restaurant after just a few dates with him to “celebrate his birthday” there too (Please read that link; to this day it’s one of my favorite posts on this blog. Thanks, babe!).
A few days after that, I ran my first half marathon. I had been training for it several months prior and was excited to set a new distance record for myself. Running had always been an activity that I loved and was a big part of my routine. I ran at least 4 days a week, usually more, for all of my adult life. I miss feeling my lungs burn from the cold, and running until all my thoughts just evaporated into the wind behind me. Running was one of my favorite stress-relievers, and I wish more than anything I could feel what it was like again.
I got the time I had hoped for and finished the race without having to stop. I was exhausted, but proud of myself. I wanted to run another one to see if I could beat my first time, but I was happy to be done for the day.
A couple of weeks later, I spent the new year out of town, and got an a call from one of the hiring managers at Seventeen saying that I got the internship I had interviewed for. It was a little bit of a shock having to pack my things, find someplace to live, and move to the Big Apple in the span of a week, but I always loved adventure and was so giddy with excitement that I didn’t really have enough time to think about anything else.
I packed up my life into a few suitcases and took the bus with my mom to move me into my new little 9X11 apartment and explore the city that was going to be my new home for the next several months. Lugging my bags up and down the stairs across town and learning how to use the subway is a memory I’ll never forget. It was so much fun moving to a place filled with so many of my dreams and endless possibilities.
The Hearst Building was the home of the Seventeen magazine office. We worked on the seventeenth floor, and I loved every day of work — so much that I often stayed late into the evening to keep working on projects because I enjoyed what I did and wanted to take on as much as my boss would allow. I was an editorial intern, but ended up being able to do some of my own writing for the magazine. My work involved a lot of research, interviewing, editing, and even helping pitch ideas to the executive editor. I got to go to business meetings all around the city, and had a few errands to run on occasion, but it felt a lot more like a real job than it did an internship. The better I did, the more they trusted me with real assignments, and I thrived in the high pressure, short-deadline world of journalism. I loved it so much that I knew I had picked a career where I wouldn’t hate going into work every day.
One of my favorite things about New York was that it truly is the city that never sleeps. Barnes and Noble became one of my favorite places to spend my free time because it was just the right amount of chaos to get work and studying done. My apartment was so tiny it felt like there wasn’t enough room to set up my books and laptop along with the rest of the things I had taken to the city. I took my textbooks and a snack to the store, and read and worked on papers for hours at a time. I enjoyed the classes I was taking, and only had 13 credits to complete that semester since I had packed my schedule the previous year.
New York offered the kind of life I loved. I was independent and worked hard at my job, and exercised regularly. In the past I hadn’t enjoyed being alone a lot, as I was an extreme extrovert, but I felt really comfortable being my own company in the city that felt so alive. I loved going on adventures, exploring, trying new things, and meeting new people. My favorite thing about New York was that every day was so drastically different, even if I began with the same route. I never knew what adventure would happen next, and I loved my life that way. It was exciting and fun learning how to constantly adapt to new things.
Going back and reading through my Tweets, Facebook posts, and journal entries from that time makes me so happy. Living in New York was truly one of the best times of my life, and I feel so thankful that I was able to experience it before I got sick. I used to often feel frustrated that I would never get the taste of working overtime in the big city again, but I am incredibly grateful for all the memories I have from that time. I have a million different things I could post on here, but will just share my favorites.
I found a Trader Joe’s across town and enjoyed “cooking” microwaveable food for lunch and dinner. I would walk if it was nice enough out, despite being almost 2 and a half miles from my apartment each way, and always stocked up on my favorite things. It’s actually kind of shocking looking at how much I could carry back then (and it wasn’t a difficult task for me either!).
Living in New York was so surreal. I always looked at the new world around me and would daydream about what it must be like to get to stay there forever. Valentine’s Day — my favorite holiday — was so much fun because I saw so much joy and happiness around me.
Some of the funniest moments happened in New York and I wish I had documented them better. Friends came to visit and we would go dancing on the weekend, our favorite place being “Turtle Bay,” a dive bar with an impromptu dance floor and crazy bartenders. I loved that I made new friends everywhere I went, and that they all seemed excited to see me too. I talked to anyone and everyone, and to this day I think New Yorkers get a really unfair bad rap.
I loved all the random people I met, but I also made some lifelong friends at my internship and in my apartment building. We still talk on a regular basis, and I feel so blessed to have those memories to share with such great people.
Fast-forward a few months after graduating in May and then leaving the city, this post was made two days before I got extremely ill overnight and began my journey with POTS. We were taking our last family vacation to the beach, and it was one of the final days there. I remember this night vividly, and the meteor shower is still one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.
August 14, 2013 was the day I really started being terribly symptomatic. I’ve described that night in great detail before, but I don’t think I can put to words exactly how I felt. A few weeks later the doctors had an idea of what was going on, but it took several months to really get into a rhythm of realizing what my new life was like — and that it wasn’t just something I was going to get over quickly.
I’m someone who always minimizes things. I am not the best communicator sometimes because I hate inconveniencing others, and I don’t ever want anyone to pity me. When people feel bad for someone I feel like it makes them seem less of a human being, but I want people to understand. This is why I have always been very vocal about what’s going on in my life — even if I do make light of it all.
The tests I had to take since I got sick with POTS were awful because it took all week to recover afterward. I still have to prioritize things on my to-do list, and decide whether or not something is worth the energy and recovery time, but luckily I am able to do a lot more and a doctors appointment won’t keep me down for the rest of the week.
I’ve always loved writing, and blogging was a really nice way to get to express my frustration about the lack of knowledge people have about POTS — including doctors. I am so lucky to have a wonderful cardiologist who specializes in Dysautonmia close by, and have coping tools to enhance my quality of life. It’s amazing what a difference lifestyle changes make, but there is still so much for people to learn about this not-so-rare, but rarely diagnosed condition.
During the first couple years when my POTS was a lot worse, I consistently posted about my adventures on the recumbent bike, dogs, and television shows I enjoyed watching. Other than having friends come over, there was a time where I remember not being able to go anywhere I couldn’t elevate my feet. I went out to a movie night with a big group of my girl friends, and had to get driven home because I couldn’t sit upright without blacking out. I had to raise my feet above my head at the grocery store sometimes because standing upright to shop was often impossible for my autonomic nervous system to handle. Basically, it was really hard to even just get out of the house at one point.
Dogs were a huge part of world — and let’s be honest, they still are. Gracie and Macy were some of the most healing little creatures, and brought me joy every day, even when I felt my worst. I really do think dogs are little angels God sends to the world to bring us comfort, joy, and much more love than we even deserve.
I tried to make the most of everything I had to deal with. Some of the best advice I’ve been given is that even in my most trying times, I should write about my experiences. It gives me a more concrete reason of why something unpleasant might have happened, and more life experience. It also brings more of a purpose to this illness by helping spread awareness for other people suffering with Dysautonomia or invisible illnesses. My writing and ability to connect with others are the two things that keep me positive throughout all of this.
A lot of my writing about chronic illness is to educate people who maybe haven’t had to deal with anything like this before. It’s so weird looking like a completely normal, healthy twenty-something when your body isn’t working properly. I think there are a lot of people who mean well, but maybe just don’t understand that there is such a thing as invisible illness and you wouldn’t know someone was feeling terrible unless you talked to them.
It’s crazy thinking about all the time I’ve spent in the life of having a chronic illness. When I first got POTS I was terrified hearing that I would have it for the rest of my life. Then, I was optimistic that I would be better within 5 years because of some studies I had read about the condition. I reached the 5 year mark this August, and have felt frustrated at times that things still aren’t where I want them to be, but I am going to keep fighting to get a more normal life back, and I so appreciate how much I have improved since August 2013. It hasn’t been easy turning my everything upside down and learning to be positive though pain, but I have more faith that God has a plan for my life and will make something beautiful out of even unpleasant circumstances. After all, if I hadn’t gotten sick with POTS there is no way I would have met Robert, so I trust that God knows what He’s doing, even when it doesn’t always feel like it. I just might not know why everything is happening the way it is right now, but maybe one day I will.
Thanks for reading if you made it this far! I know this was a much longer and more informal blog post, but the old versus the new me is something that I think about often because it is just so freaking weird having this as my life. I still feel weird sometimes telling people I have a chronic illness, and it isn’t anything I ever imagined would happen to me — especially at such a young age. I just think it’s important to remind people that I have had a really normal life up until getting sick with POTS, and despite being different now, I still can relate to so much to normal people as well as the “new” community I’m a part of.
Social media has been around for a long time now, but something that feels like it’s more recently become popular are the little subgroups on Facebook where you can interact with complete strangers about some sort of common interest. For example, when I got engaged, I joined some of the wedding planning groups to get advice from other people who were in the same boat as me. I am also in several fan groups for pop culture topics — such as entertainment podcasts or groups that talk primarily about The Bachelor.
Something I’ve noticed most of these groups all of a sudden have in common, though, is that mean girls are running rampant in these little corners of the Internet. At first, it was really cool to have a place to talk to people from all around the country — or even the world — about something we all had in common. It was fun finding common ground discussing movies and new television shows and how excited we were about Taylor’s next concert. It was entertaining debating whether or not we were excited about having Colton as the next bachelor and listening to each other’s well-thought-out points. This part of the world just felt light and carefree, and was a nice little escape from the more difficult and depressing headlines in the news.
These groups were a safe space to ask for advice on boyfriends, bridal parties, friendship, school, work, and everything in between — until they weren’t. I have read horror stories of people screenshotting pictures of brides’ dresses and sending them to the fiancé that could easily be found by searching her Facebook. The girl who was asking for our opinion on which dress to wear on her wedding day suddenly had her fun surprise ruined, and trust completely violated for absolutely no reason other than someone intentionally being cruel. One girl asked for advice about some issues she had been having with her husband, and a girl from the group screenshotted it and sent it to him. Another girl was going through a breakup and asked for some support, only to find out that a day later one of the girls in the group slid into her ex’s DMs because she thought he was cute. The ex was turned off by the behavior and notified his the original poster, but it’s still so messed up when women do not support other women.
Mean girls apparently exist in our twenties and thirties too, and some people just refuse to grow up. I don’t understand the joy some humans get in hurting other people. It’s twisted, sick, and really really immature. Your brain keeps growing up until you turn 25, and maybe some of that is the empathy part, but these people I see being inexcusably cruel are often fully-developed adults. When you’re a kid and people are mean to you, you figure at least one day you’ll be grown up and all of that will be behind you. Then you go to college and might have a bad roommate or something, but overall have a wonderful experience with the people there. There always seem to be a few people who are just downright mean for sport, though, and the Internet is a place they absolutely thrive. Anonymity is a perfect Cloak of Invisibility for the mean girl, and she wears it everywhere she goes. Whether trolls use fake profiles or merely hide behind their keyboards, they don’t care or even consider the feelings of others.
I have seen girls get attacked for having different opinions or life experiences than others. People fight to the death defending or attacking celebrities that they don’t even know, and then blame others for being unkind or insensitive. People who claim to be trying to make the world a better place by “educating others” are just being flat-out mean, and those who preach tolerance can ironically be some of the least tolerant people because they won’t accept people who think differently than they do. The biggest way to change someone’s mind is to respectfully disagree but still show the person love, even if you don’t agree with their opinion. By having calm discussions and connecting to someone’s heart, it is so much easier to help them realize how they might be wrong. It’s also a great way for you to learn and grow too.
We know how hard life is already without any unnecessary drama, and yet there are still people who think it’s their job to ruin other people’s days. These groups are filled with moms, nurses, teachers, and everything in between. It’s mind-blowing to me to see people who are this inappropriately mean, and it definitely makes trusting strangers far more difficult. After feeling safe and happily trusting people I didn’t know on the Internet, I no longer have that luxury, thanks to the little groups of mean girls that have ruined it for the rest of us who just wanted to have friends from all around the world. I think the majority of people in these Facebook groups are kind and good people, but the ones who are brutally cruel make it too much of a risk to even post anything in them anymore.
One of the most interesting parts about the Internet bullies on Facebook is that you can see what their personal pages look like. One girl who was using name-calling as a tactic had a profile picture that was captioned with one of Martin Luther King Junior’s most famous quotes about love. Another had a profile picture with her two toddlers. People post inspirational quotes about loving your neighbor, but then go and bully others like it isn’t being hypocritical. It makes absolutely no sense, and I am so tired of people resorting to cruelty instead of just loving one another despite our differences. I also think we are at a time where people do not know how to handle being bored. Instead of doing something productive or creative, people decide to entertain themselves at the expense of others. We not only need to learn how to sit with our thoughts, but it is also more important now than ever to practice self control and think twice about how our words and actions make others feel. Posting an opinion online is easier than ever, which means we can have an enormous impact on others through what we choose to write. I hope that everything takes another turn for the better, but I have a feeling that this is just the beginning of the trolling in what are supposed to be safe spaces on the Internet. All we can do right now is hope for moderators to keep things kind, and be picky about who they accept into these little groups.
Do you think the good that comes from social media outweighs the bad? Have you noticed that things have gotten progressively worse, or is this just something I hadn’t experienced very much until more recently?
Today happens to be a very POTSie day. Luckily, dizzy spells are much fewer and further between, but I hate when they decide to come around with a vengeance. I have been doing a new exercise protocol lately that is supposed to make me feel worse before I feel better, but I am optimistic about how much it could help me in the long run.*
Anyway, I am currently working on a post about what my POTS timeline has looked like, and the improvements I’ve made, as well as the things that are still different in my life post getting sick. It’s been so interesting for me to look back at different things I wrote throughout the years, but is great to have something tangible to look at regarding my life.
Certain things are becoming more normal, and I am pulling off looking like a normal human being like a pro. I have looked pretty normal since getting sick with POTS, since it’s an invisible illness, but I used to have to ask for help much more often. Now I think people around me often forget completely that anything is wrong with me! I hope one day this will be true. Despite being sick for over five years now, I will never stop hoping to get back to complete normalcy. I have a million different things I’m working on for the blog, so today I wanted to just touch on a few things that have been different for me the past half-decade.
1. I can’t enjoy taking showers. Sometimes I hop in a hot shower just because I am in pain and want something to release the tension in my muscles, but for the most part they’re just exhausting. I usually choose between washing my hair or shaving if I’m going to stand the whole time, and have to alternate between the two or rest quite a bit longer after I’m done. Does anyone actually find showers enjoyable? I can’t remember anymore; now they’re just exhausting.
2. I’m not very extroverted anymore. Before I got POTS, I was super extroverted. I was always around people and had an enormous circle of friends. Mentally, I still want to be doing a million things, but my body isn’t up to that. I feel tired and drained from doing too much, so I don’t go out nearly as much as I used to. When I do, it’s usually dinner or dessert with just one or a few friends, rather than hanging out in a giant group. When I first got sick I really couldn’t do anything other than try to stay optimistic, rest, and work as hard as possible to take care of my body so I could hopefully get better one day. I think some of my friends who weren’t around might have felt like I was neglecting our friendship, but in reality I just couldn’t function. I have lost touch with people I sometimes still miss. Getting sick really does show you who is going to be around for the long haul, and makes you see who has unconditional love for your friendship.
3. I miss writing for hours on end. My favorite thing in the world has always been writing, even back in elementary school or high school when writing wasn’t supposed to be fun. I always said English was my favorite subject, even when other kids would say “lunch,” “recess,” or “gym.” I loved learning more about our language and how to write things that people would enjoy reading. It’s difficult for me to sit at a computer and type for hours without feeling it after, and then being in a lot of pain for days after. I am very slowly working on endurance, and hope to be writing more and more.
4. I miss being a helper. Before I got POTS I was independent and strong. I loved helping other people in any way I could, and was always there to do acts of service. There is nothing I hate more than having to swallow my pride and ask others for help. I’ve had to do that a lot the past few years, and it honestly doesn’t get much easier. I hate inconveniencing others, and I have a really hard time telling people I need something. I am still working on communicating better, but in the meantime I use my writing as an outlet.
5. I wish I could have my old dreams back. I dreamt of living in New York City as a magazine editor, and thought about how many lives I would change through my writing. I wanted to be able to support myself, pay my parents back for school, and afford my own life. I wanted to keep pushing myself and training for another half marathon, and I wanted to collect a million new skills from the new people I’d meet.
I have set new and more realistic goals, and am focusing on getting my body in shape so I can reach higher. Despite my life being much more complicated now, it’s also somehow become more simple. I realize how much I value the people who are in my life, and how important they are compared to everything else in the world. I’ve learned to appreciate the many blessings I do have, and how to live in the moment better. I still feel like I’m looking to find my purpose in the world, but I also trust God now more than ever to have better plans for me than I ever did for myself. I’m just trying to figure out what that is now.
*For any POTSies who are curious, I am doing the Levine protocol.
This is the question of the week in our household. I strongly believe they’re cookies — they’re sweet and more dessert-like than they are savory — and Robert thinks they’re crackers. Who knows his reasoning, other than the fact that there is the word “cracker” in the name. All other evidence points to cookie, but I digress.
We like to talk about our differing opinions, and sometimes we can even change each other’s minds. I used to think Poptarts were better than Toaster Strudels. I do stand by that for the strawberry flavor, but a cinnamon Strudel is literally one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. It’s basically a mix of a warm, perfectly crispy fried donut with a gooey cinnamon roll filling. How can anything beat that?!
I think it’s so important for people to keep an open mind and continue to grow throughout every stage in life. I have changed a lot in the matter of a few short years, and it’s crazy to think that some of the opinions I have now will be different after I gather even more information and experiences. I look back at my old social media sometimes and think it’s strange to see how much has changed over time. Sure, I have had some big life-altering events like getting sick with POTS, but I’ve also just grown up and matured as an adult human being. My thoughts at even just 22 years old were very different than they are now, six years later.
The thing with humans is that we are dynamic and ever-changing. We meet new people who challenge us, we collect different experiences, and any sort of trauma often drastically alters our view of the world. This is why I think it’s so important that we change the “cancel culture” we live in. Far too often, we see someone’s rise to fame or notoriety completely trashed because of something they tweeted or posted on Facebook nearly a decade ago. I could list dozens of examples of people who have fallen in the public eye, and I’m sure you can think of several too. One of the scariest things about being a human being is that we all make mistakes. Sometimes we make little ones that won’t matter in the grand scheme of things, other times we make huge life-altering mistakes that we wish every day we hadn’t. We make mistakes we can’t take back, and realize we’ve done something wrong by the lump in our throat and pit in our stomach.
Ultimately, the greatest gift we can give other people is love, and sometimes this is in the form of forgiveness. Our cancel culture is a lot more harmful than people really seem to recognize. It is based on hate, rather than understanding or trying to gently teach someone how they can grow. This is ironic when the person at fault is being completely ripped apart by people who are trying to preach tolerance because the truth is, we don’t have to agree with someone to still show them love and forgiveness. Love is often the most powerful way to change people’s minds and help them see that maybe they still have some growing to do. Martin Luther King Junior said it best,
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
There is a reason he is one of the most quoted people in American history. He was incredibly wise and someone who changed countless lives through exhibitinglove in all that he did. He made peaceful protesting an art, and made an absolutely enormous impact on the world through his kindness and controlling his emotions well. He is someone who had every right to feel angry and frustrated and lash out, but he taught us that you can really get through to people by showing patience and love in your arguments.
By living in a society based on canceling people who have made mistakes, we are essentially saying that unless someone is absolutely perfect, we will not accept them as worthy of having an opinion to share. This is problematic in so many ways. Not only does the cancel culture hurt people who have messed up, but it is ultimately scaring beautifully creative minds from sharing their talents and ideas with the world. Bright minds are now afraid to speak up because they know at one point or another that they don’t have a perfect past and have been wrong about something. In reality we all have, but it’s often a whole lot easier being critical of someone else than it is judging ourselves. It’s often merely a matter of who has unintentionally documented their mistakes on whether their career will thrive or completely tank before it even begins. There’s a difference between the past and present, and there is a difference between a one-time isolated incident, and being consistent in acting some kind of way. At the end of the day if we choose to hate every person for their uninformed past, we are going to miss out on some really amazing human beings. I hope we can move to a point where we can gently correct people, rather than tear them down with the insults and hatred that is so easily accessed with the invisibility of the Internet.
My favorite holiday is this week! I am so excited that we only have two days until Valentine’s Day, but I am well aware that a lot of people are either dreading the day or just not looking forward to it. Valentine’s Day has always been one of my favorite days of the year — despite being single for many of them. It’s great having a holiday that’s just meant to show how much you love the people in your life.
Here are an few fun ideas of things to do if you are single this Valentine’s Day:
1. Treat yourself to a massage. Couples massages are great, but you don’t need a date to have a relaxing day. If anything going alone just means you can take your time and enjoy the sauna and other amenities a spa has to offer before your treatment.
2. Binge watch a show and order delivery. This was one of my favorite things to do to relax when I was living on my own in New York. I loved watching Gossip Girl with a pizza from Joe’s and top it all off with a cupcake from Sprinkles. Now, there are a million different murder mysteries on Netflix,The Office and Parks and Rec both have great Valentine’s Day episodes, or there’s always The Hallmark Channel for hopeless romantics.
3. Splurge on expensive truffles. One of the best things I’ve gotten for Valentine’s Day was an enormous box of Godiva truffles. I used to think they were overpriced (And I mean, they totally are), but it’s worth it for a one-time thing.
4. Go dessert hopping by yourself or with a friend. Check out Yelp for the highest-rated places and taste a few things from each of them. Bring a box to keep the leftovers for the next day!
5. Deliver Valentines to your friends and family. Valentine’s Day has always been a day to celebrate the ladies in my life. My mom and I have always gone all-out for this pink and red holiday, and several of my friends like celebrating it with me, too! I usually celebrate a few different days to get all of my Galentines in, but it’s also a lot of fun to see friends’ faces when you deliver something on February 14th.
So whether or not you have a date this Thursday, make it a day to just love yourself and splurge a little. It’s always so much fun to have things to look forward to in life, and Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to just be excited about all of the love you have in your life. I hope you all have a fantastic day, and feel free to tell me what you’re going to be doing in the comments!