Celebrating My POTS Diagnosis

Check out my article that was published for “The Mighty”:

“I still have a long way to regaining my health back and am making small steps forward, but I am grateful for doctors who listen, research and treat patients the way they should be. Maybe all the doctor visits aren’t so bad after all. Sometimes they even end up with a celebration!”

watercolor painting of woman with long colorful hair

“Celebrating My POTS Diagnosis”

https://themighty.com/2017/07/celebrating-postural-orthostatic-tachycardia-syndrome-pots-diagnosis/

 

 

Fear Teaches Me, It Doesn’t Define Me

It started on a late Friday evening in 2011. Although I was consumed with complete happiness with the joy of my first born child, I had deep fears. I never mentioned these fears to anybody, including my husband, for FEAR of being crazy.

If my husband dies, “they” will take my baby away. The government will see that “they” are more capable of taking care of this child. I will never be good enough to raise this child. I know nothing. My actions towards other people were becoming increasingly irrational and it led to constant frustrations between my husband and I.

Fortunately, I never let these thoughts linger for long and within a year, they had all but faded (partly because in all honesty I don’t remember anything, or at least it feels that way). Having my son was the most joyful experience. I loved seeing all his firsts and I found that I really could take care of my child. That I was capable and most importantly, that I was really happy.

Fast forward to August 2012, and after nine months of trying to get pregnant for the second time, I found myself surprised to see that I wasn’t excited to be pregnant. I tried to convince myself that I should be grateful to be expecting. This is what I wanted all along. But, I couldn’t help but question if this is really what I did want. Though I functioned at an exceptional level during the next eight months, I found it difficult to be excited for the birth of my new baby girl. The confusion proved to be rather difficult.

Finally, the long awaited day arrived and my darling baby girl was born. She was beautiful beyond all description. Her head was full of blonde and shiny hair. Her eyelashes were long and beautiful. She IS what I considered to be perfection. And again, I was in love. I find that my fears and rationalizations seemed ridiculous. I was SO happy; I couldn’t imagine ever feeling any different.

Two months postpartum I felt I was experiencing a HUGE shift in my mental state. What I was capable of doing during my pregnancy I found hard, exhausting, and overwhelming. My friend FEAR came back. And I was afraid of him (Ironic, now I think about it). I was scared and felt alone. I didn’t want to tell my husband for FEAR he would think I was crazy.  I used the things I learned in counseling and I tried to rewire my brain by telling myself the truth. I am strong and capable. I am successful, loving, kind, and beautiful. I knew this deep down, but I wasn’t feeling it. I knew that I loved my husband and my two children whom I adore more than anything in this world, but I didn’t feel it. I was really confused and scared. My husband walked out the door to go to work and I felt it would be the last time I would see him. I was scared to raise my children by myself. I never wanted him to leave. My imagination ran wild and I had unrealistic fears. Everything around me seemed scary and fear seemed to have had a  tight grip on me. Unfortunately, postpartum depression is a real and scary condition and often help in many different forms is the best way to help pull you out.

An apple is what started my path into healing. I laugh now, but was pretty upset then. My sweet husband was eating an apple. I had HAD it. Everything from the way he was holding the apple, to the way he chewed it, to the sound he made while eating it got to me. I was so angry with him  and let him have a piece of my mind. All he could say is, “You are so ornery.” Though he was COMPLETELY right, the statement made me even more angry. I felt the need to run away. But I was scared (and am truly grateful for fear) because the only place I could think that was reasonable to run away to was my closet. Yes, the closet that holds my clothes, shoes, and dirty laundry. Peaceful, not sure, but that is where I spent the next two hours in what I now see as a panic attack.

My Friend, Fear

My Friend, Fear

My husband is the most patient and loving man I have ever met and over the course of the next couple of years he helped me tread through rough water. I tried everything to have peace restored in my life.  Meditation. Gratitude journals. Constant service. Dancing at the gym. Counseling. Life coaching.  Dietary changes such as drinking almond milk (unsweetened) in the name of getting my health back. You name it, I probably tried it. It took longer than expected but I began experiencing peace in my life. All of these little things added up and started healing me in ways that were unreal. I started opening myself up more to people, to life, play, and enjoyment. I knew, from the beginning that hard as this might be, I would walk out a better person. I would walk out as the person I so earnestly prayed to become: Real. I noticed it. My husband noticed it. I was a new person and I liked it.

I have always felt a desire to make a difference in the world by helping others feel loved and valued. Byron Katie, a motivational speaker and author, said:

“A teacher of fear can’t bring peace on Earth. We have been trying to do it that way for thousands of years. The person who turns inner violence around, the person who finds peace inside and lives it, is the one who teaches what true peace is. We are waiting for just one teacher. You’re the one.”

After reading this quote and pondering my life experiences-the stories I have told myself-I realized feeling fear so deeply, rather than ignoring it and trying to make it go away, helped me to be a teacher of peace. One who finds peace and lives it inside and out. Does this mean I never experience fear? No. But I choose to trust that my experiences and feelings teach me what I need to know. I trust that all experiences happen for reasons most the time beyond what we can scientifically reason. I choose to love my family, my friends, and most importantly myself in ways I had never allowed myself to do because I know I’m worth it and I now know that FEAR teaches me, it doesn’t define me.

I believe in you. I believe you can make miracles happen. And I believe that peace (true inner peace) is the answer.

Picking Up Your Life With Healthy Striving

“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.”

-Brene Brown

(Gifts of Imperfection  is an exceptional book of Brene’s to read).

Healthy Striving

Healthy Striving

Why I Decided To Eat Healthier

Healthy Eating

We Follow Harvard’s “Healthy Eating Plate”

 

Since 2014 I have had on and off bouts of some intense symptoms of fibromyalgia, POTS, and/or chronic fatigue syndrome, along with a few other health issues with my heart and skin that made me feel as if I was entering into a geriatric state. With three young kids at home and a husband whose career was growing quickly requiring overtime and occasional 1-2 week long business trips, it became difficult to manage even some of the basic household tasks. I was overwhelmed and desperate to find answers. Part of my personality is one to look for answers to everything! Obviously I researched and listened and asked a lot of people about these health conditions and tried to learn as much as I could. A main theme that came up was with food. Everyone had different ideas as to what would heal me. Doctors gave medicine, business men and women sold supplements, health nuts offered nutritional advice and diets, and anyone who had ever even heard of the disease knew exactly what would make me feel better. It seemed as time went on the overwhelm and confusion became more.  I prayed and read my scriptures desperately and diligently to find answers.

In one weeks period, several people had mentioned how going gluten free had healed them. For whatever reason I still felt confused, though I was beginning to question whether diet really had any part on how I was feeling. I talked to my husband incessantly about this and he said he wanted to support me, that he wanted to help me feel better and was willing to try a new diet, but his stipulation was that it had to be one that was conducive to our whole family. A few days later he came back with a “plan” from Harvard University that made so much sense to me. It seemed so simple. It seemed easier. It seemed like a light had went on in my head. I knew this was our answer, and I was grateful.

I asked Scott to describe me in one word. His response was proactive. So obviously when I found this answer, the next day I spent cleaning out  my pantry with anything that wasn’t on this list. I also made a plan, a theme, so to speak of how we would carry out and be consistent with this diet. I included alternative ways to some of our traditions. My husband was so scared. He takes things a lot more slowly, so just in case I kept a few extra “old foods” downstairs in my cold storage without telling anyone. Just in case we wanted to revert to our old ways. That night, on Thursday February 23 2017, to be exact we started our journey to regaining our health back.

Did it completely heal me? No. But in one weeks time, I went from NEEDING 1-2 naps a day, to having one nap the whole week on Sunday. I went from hardly being able to stand longer than 20 minutes without wanting to pass out or feeling extremely flu-like, to being able to cook every single meal. I would say I want from 30% of functioning to 60%. The improvement was huge. I definitely saw an improvement in my energy. I was able to do not all, but some of the things I had loved to do before I had my last flare. My plans for the future seemed brighter again. And the best part of it all for me, was seeing my families health problems mostly disappear, and teaching them by example what healthy eating habits are. My 4-year-old daughter who had been on laxatives for chronic constipation her whole life and was always bloated, for the first time without any added effort, pooped on her own, diarrhea even (which is a celebration for her for sure). Her stomach bloating was even noticeably reduced. My son, who almost daily was complaining of stomach and neck pain due to stomach migraines, hadn’t complained the whole week. the interesting thing was the Friday after we started we had pizza and game night at our friends home. Since our rule is we eat healthy at home, but we eat whatever people feed us at theirs, we had carry out pizza. That night, my son was complaining of stomach and neck pain. My daughter would be backed up, until a few days later after eating healthy food. This was consistent, as the next weekend we had cake and ice cream for a birthday. That night, they were complaining of not feeling well again. My husband had a lot of energy was waking up early to work out. He likes his sleep, so this was a huge step for him.

There has to be something to eating healthy. There has to be something to getting enough sleep and drinking enough water. And there has to be something to being active. I still can’t work out like I would like to. But I can do gentle yoga in the morning for 15 minutes. I can go on walks to my mailbox (which is down a big hill and a block away) without my lymph node swelling and feeling like I have the flu.  This has been the biggest blessing and I can’t wait to learn more so I can further help my family.

*As a side-note, an added bonus has been in a months period of using this diet, my husband got off his heartburn medication AND we both lost weight without feeling restricted or hungry or like we were on a diet. My husband lost almost 10 pounds in one month and I lost 6. Definitely a bonus that we hadn’t planned on.

What plan we follow: Harvard’s “Healthy Eating Plate and Healthy Eating Pyramid”. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-eating-plate/

https://cdn1.sph.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/30/2012/09/Healthy-Eating-Pyramid-handout.pdf

Copyright © 2011, Harvard University. For more information about The Healthy Eating Plate, please see The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, http://www.thenutritionsource.org, and Harvard Health Publications, http://www.health.harvard.edu.

* We have also tried to eliminate any additives, preservatives, or processed foods. This means I make our bread, tortillas, pancake mix, dressings, etc., but the extra work is more than worth it, and really hasn’t been too hard as long as I have planned.

Homemade

Friday Pizza Night

UPDATE: Now almost six months later we for the most part still follow this plan. We have found sauces at the store that are “homemade” without any additives and preservatives and we sometimes use these. We sometimes go out to eat and I feel like I have consequences after. Sometimes it has to happen. Sometimes, especially with the summer heat, which worsens my conditions, I have to survive, so we don’t always follow our rules. The key point though is that we are still following this plan and trying to be consistent and we have seen huge improvements. This HAS NOT healed me, but it has helped tame some of my symptoms. Following a well-rounded diet has been a huge blessing for our family.